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These socks and underwear are made from 100% recycled yarn

This small Seattle-based company is trying to change the apparel supply chain, starting with the basics.

If you look closely at a pair of Arvin Goods socks, you notice that while they might be green or blue or yellow, it’s not all the same shade all the way through. The tightly knitted threads shift from slightly darker to slightly lighter, almost imperceptibly, throughout the sock.

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That’s because Arvin Goods doesn’t make its socks from manufactured, uniformly dyed threads. Rather, they compile them from scrap fabrics, sourced from factory cutting-room floors, sorted by colors, and ground up and woven into a new, 100% recycled fiber.

[Photo: Arvin Goods]

Launched in June 2017, the Seattle-based company, founded by Dustin Winegardner, an apparel-industry veteran, and Harry Fricker, a creative director, makes just the basics: socks and underwear. When business partner connected Winegardner and Fricker over their shared interest in branding, design, the outdoors, and sustainability, they decided they wanted to channel those shared interests into a company that would touch on all of them. Socks and underwear, Winegardner tells Fast Company, had the most potential for impact because everyone wears them. Through Arvin Goods, he and Fricker wanted to prove that such universal items could also be made in a way that leaves less of an environmental footprint than typical production methods.

The name “Arvin,” Fricker says, comes from an old English and Germanic word meaning “friend of the people,” which he stumbled upon in the process of poring over word lists, trying to come up with a name for the company. To him, it reflected the company’s mission of trying to make useful products for people, while minimizing harm to the planet we live on.

[Photo: Arvin]
The way they do so is by tapping into an underutilized part of the whole factory manufacturing process. At production facilities around the world, employees bag up scraps of fabric left over from cutting pieces for articles of clothing. Traditionally, these bags are shipped off and either turned into insulation, burned, or sent to landfill. But in recent years, a number of facilities, mostly across Europe, have begun collecting that fabric waste, color sorting it, and grinding it down into a fiber that can be reconstituted as colored yarn.

Arvin Goods has set up partnerships with several such facilities to source the material for their socks and standard underwear collections. “The yarn we use for our products does not need to be re-dyed, and there’s no chemicals or water used to produce it,” Winegardner says. The company estimates that in its first year of production, it’s saved around 4 million gallons of water in basics production. (They estimate that manufacturing one pair of socks from recycled yarn saves 50 gallons of water.) And Arvin Goods just debuted a new line of men’s boxers made from Econyl–a recycled nylon thread made by an Italian company from hard-to-reuse products like carpet liners and plastic bottles.

[Photo: Arvin Goods]
Soon, the company will begin a program that will allow people to send their used socks back to Arvin Goods to be recycled into new products, creating a closed-loop retail cycle.

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A pair of socks goes for around $10, and a pack of six boxer briefs goes for $69. While Arvin Goods is still small–it’s slowly growing its direct-to-consumer business, and expanding its retail partnerships–the founders think that their products and supply chain could act as a model for other companies looking to minimize their environmental footprint. “If you’ve got everybody wearing socks like this, your impact potential is huge,” Winegardner says.

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About the author

Eillie Anzilotti is an assistant editor for Fast Company's Ideas section, covering sustainability, social good, and alternative economies. Previously, she wrote for CityLab.

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