This statistic may not have the shock value it did prior to Marie Kondo mania, but on average, Americans throw away 80 pounds of clothes each year. Rather than tossing garments–especially those that can still be worn–in the trash, people often bring them to donation sites like Goodwill. But even accounting for donated clothes, 85% of all garments still end up in landfills.
The men’s clothing company Taylor Stitch, which launched in San Francisco in 2008, now offers its customers another option. Any worn-out or gently used Taylor Stitch clothes can now get a second life as a retail product through the brand’s new platform, Restitch, which sells repaired garments at a fairly steep discount from their original, premium prices.
Restitch, says Taylor Stitch founder and CEO Michael Maher, sets up an example of how brands can start to mitigate the enormous amount of waste generated by the fashion industry. Less than 1% of materials generated for use in garments are reused. Making those garments in the first place accounts for around 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Because producing fabric requires significant amounts of energy and water, sourcing already-existing materials from recycled clothes has the potential to dramatically reduce those footprints.
To launch its clothing recycling effort, Taylor Stitch partnered with the San Francisco-based company Yerdle, which builds clothing resale programs for brands. Yerdle’s system underlies well-known refurbishment and resale programs like those run by Patagonia and REI (The North Face runs a similar program through the Renewal Workshop). Taylor Stitch’s relatively small size compared to those companies posed a hurdle. “These platforms make more business sense for larger companies,” Maher says. “We’ve basically been begging Yerdle to work with us for the past two years.” But a few months ago, Yerdle agreed to support Taylor Stitch’s program, recognizing the value of expanding its platform both to smaller businesses and those with a less overt sustainability focus. “You talk to REI and this type of platform is such a natural fit for its consumer–it’s like it’s helping protect their playground,” Maher says. “We’re trying to shift that into the fashion space for the more everyday person, because we have a strong belief that this is something that needs to happen.”
For now, only Taylor Stitch clothes can be sent in to be refurbished and resold through Restitch. Customers get a credit of up to $25 for every used garment sent in. Yerdle manages the repairs, and then the garments are resold on the Restitch site. Before the formal launch, Taylor Stitch did something of a pilot run of the concept, in which it collected over 600 pairs of pants and 600 button-down shirts to be resold, with a collective savings of more 1.5 million gallons of water. The plan, Maher says, is to launch new capsule collections of refurbished clothes on Restitch every two months, which will give Taylor Stitch enough time to source clothes to be refurbished. Eventually, the brand may consider collecting and reselling non-Taylor Stitch clothes, and may also explore a program, like The North Face’s, to allow customers to use Restitch for repairs to their clothes that they want to keep. Right now, Taylor Stitch recommends partner repair businesses to customers looking to do so.
Even as Taylor Stitch launches this resale platform, Maher emphasizes that the mission of the brand is to make clothes from sustainable materials that last as long as possible even without repairs. Durability, combined with the ability to repair and resell used clothes, should be the direction the fashion industry moves in, Maher says. “We have a running joke around the office that if we do our job well enough, we’ll put ourselves out of business.”