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The humble beanie gets a makeover–with ocean plastic

Love Your Melon improves on the humble beanie by making them out of affordable cashmere and diverted ocean plastic.

The humble beanie gets a makeover–with ocean plastic
[Photo: Love Your Melon]

It’s freezing out there, and your head is cold. So you dig through your drawers in search of a warm hat. The beanie, a staple in our winter wardrobe, might seem like a fairly basic accessory. It’s a head-shaped swatch of fabric made of warm fibers, like wool or finely woven polyester.

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Zachary Quinn, however, thinks the humble beanie has room for improvement. He would know. He’s spent a large part of the last six years observing this simple garment as the cofounder of the $40 million beanie brand Love Your Melon.

Quinn launched Love Your Melon with his friend Brian Keller in October 2012, while he was still in college. Their goal was to donate one beanie to a child with cancer for every beanie sold. “Kids lose their hair when they go through chemotherapy, so their heads get cold,” Quinn says. “A nice, warm, colorful hat actually means something to them.”

[Photo: Love Your Melon]

The beanies are made in the United States, and the classic version is affordably priced at $30, which has contributed to the brand’s popularity. Love Your Melon became something of a viral success. Soon after launching the business the brand blew past its goal of giving 45,000 hats for every child battling cancer in America. So now, the brand is focused on donating 50% of all profits to support charities and research focused on pediatric cancer.

And over the past year, Quinn has focused on sourcing innovative materials. The new products have just dropped, timed for the shopping frenzy in the days after Thanksgiving.

First, there’s one made from cashmere sourced from a well-known luxury Italian cashmere brand, which has a reputation for creating some of the finest–and most expensive–cashmere in the world. Love Your Melon has found a way to sell them for $95. (For comparison, a Loro Piana beanie costs between $395 and $725). Customers had been asking for a premium version of the beanie, and Quinn wanted to find the highest-quality cashmere possible. “I knew luxury brands marked up their products, but I was baffled by exactly how much,” Quinn says. “We’re a direct-to-consumer brand, and we don’t take enormous margins, so we were able to price these products affordably.”

[Photo: Love Your Melon]

Launching today, for Giving Tuesday, Love Your Melon also drops $35 beanies made from old plastic bottles. The collection, called Revitalize, features the most sustainable beanies the brand has launched to date. The timing couldn’t be more auspicious. Over the last few weeks, reports by the United Nations and the Trump administration have documented how quickly climate change will impact our daily lives. Quinn is counting on the fact that the brand’s target audience of young consumers will be looking for products that help conserve energy and natural resources.

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This has prompted Quinn to think about the waste that Love Your Melon creates throughout its business. Recently, Quinn has found a way to convert the brand’s outdoor advertising into new products. Love Your Melon recently started plastering major cities with large billboard ads featuring a simple beanie on a black background next to the words “Buy Beanies Fight Cancer.”

These billboards are made from vinyl and polyester engineered to be resistant to rain and snow. The vast majority of the half a million billboard ads sitting over highways get thrown into landfills after they are no longer in use. Quinn found a way to repurpose them. He located a recycling company in California called Rareform that can transform these materials into bags, which will be sold on the Love Your Melon website in December. “So many of society’s problems are intertwined,” says Quinn. “You can’t really focus on one issue, like cancer, without also thinking about other issues, like sustainability.”

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About the author

Elizabeth Segran, Ph.D., is a staff writer at Fast Company. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts

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