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Wired: The Future of Fashion in One Word: Plastics

Wired: The Future of Fashion in One Word: Plastics


3 minute read

For a man who works in fashion, Michael Preysman thinks an awful lot about the world's oceans. He thinks about the stuff that runs off and pollutes the coastlines, the plastics that slide down the drains and choke fish. When he founded Everlane, the minimalist clothing brand that promises "radical transparency," Preysman didn't just want to make cashmere sweaters and wide-leg pants that would constitute a certain kind of Silicon Valley uniform. He wanted, in some small part, to make clothes that wouldn't destroy the ocean.

Preysman, now 33, brings this philosophy to everything at Everlane. When it introduced its first denim collection last year, the company focused on making jeans that lessened water pollution from the dye and chemicals. When it started selling silk shirts, Everlane branded its material as "clean silk," made without toxic dyes; someday soon, Preysman says, that silk will be made with 100 percent recycled water.

Head to Everlane's flagship store in San Francisco, push past the cocoon coats, and you'll find the brand's next initiative: clothes made from recycled plastic. It comes in the form of a new outwear collection called ReNew which has rescued some three million plastic water bottles (so far) from landfills and beaches, repurposing them as synthetic fabrics.

The line of plastic parkas and puffer jackets follows a trend from companies big (Adidas), small (Rothy's), niche (Girlfriend Collective), and mainstream (H&M), all of which have recently incorporated recycled plastic into their wares. Some, like Kelly Slater's Outerknown line, repurpose all kinds of shoreline waste as clothing. Others, like Timberland, focus just on water bottles.

"Plastics live forever," says Preysman "Once you create them, they never go away."

But water bottles—collected, chipped, melted, and spun into yarn—can have a second life as yoga pants, a puffy jacket, or a pair of sneakers. Brands like Patagonia have been doing it for years. Lately, though, more companies are turning to recycled materials as a way to reduce their environmental impact, or maybe just to earn kudos from their customers. In October, following a United Nations initiative, 250 major brands pledged to cut single-use plastics from their supply chains and replace them with natural or recycled ones.

For Everlane, the ReNew collection represents more than just a hop onto the bandwagon. The company has also made a commitment to remove virgin plastic from its supply chain completely within the next three years, replacing all of the plastic packaging, zipper pulls, and synthetic fabric in its clothes. Preysman sees it as a chance to take recycled plastic clothing mainstream—not just in workout clothes or outdoors gear, but in the kind of fashion basics people wear everyday. That starts with sewing the sustainability message into the product itself.

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