Would you pay a premium for a shirt that was made partly with old plastic bottles salvaged from the ocean? Clothing company Gant is betting yes, and introducing a new lineup of men’s and women’s technical shirts that will incorporate PET waste recovered from the seas and upcycled into fabrics.
The new shirts, part of its technical line of wickable and breathable shirts called Tech Prep, will include 10% upcycled plastics. They’ll be available for women and for men, at prices ranging from, roughly, $170 to $195, a premium to the price of its regular technical shirts. “I don’t care if it is 100% upcycled plastics in the shirt or 50%, I want it to be something people want to buy,” says Brian Grevy, Gant’s chief marketing officer.
In incorporating ocean waste into its product, Gant joins other companies, notably Adidas, which last year introduced running shoes made of upcycled plastics in conjunction with Parley for the Oceans. Adidas (where Grevy and Gant CEO Patrik Nilsson previously worked) has reportedly sold 1 million pairs of the shoes since its launch.
Gant, which is based in Stockholm and owned by the Swiss retail group Maus Freres, worked with Seaqual, a Madrid-based organization, that creates 100% recycled polyester filament by recycling rubbish made of polyethylene terephthalate, or PET, that fishermen on 165 boats pull from the sea. Seaqual, founded two years ago, is itself an alliance of the Ecoalf Foundation, textile group Santanderina and spinning mill Antex. Seaqual makes a polyester filament from the recovered plastic waste, which is then woven into the yarn to create the material for the shirt. As consumers increasingly buy clothes made of technical fabrics, which are made of petroleum-based textiles, and plastic waste has proliferated, such recycling and upcycling efforts have gained in importance.
Gant is Seaqual’s first external customer in its effort. “They are really looking to scale up this year, and they are offering their services to other brands. I welcome that. That is the only way we can clean up the seas,” Grevy says. The amount of plastics in the oceans is mindboggling, after all: Every year, 8 million tons of garbage end up in the oceans with an estimated 75% of it winding up down in the depths.
The concept took more than a year to go from idea to launch as Gant struggled with how to incorporate plastic into a shirt without making it feel like, well, plastic. “None of us wants to buy a shirt that feels like plastic,” Grevy says. So Gant’s designers fiddled with the formulations and the production till they got it right. “We had fibers that became too plastic. It was way too expensive at first,” he says. “We had a lot of rounds, and a lot of postponing the launch, and a lot of ‘no, not good enough,’ to get here.”
The shirts aren’t entirely sustainable. There are chemicals that go into the collar, for example, and the buttons are generally created by farming pearls. “What we are interested in now is how to take chemicals out of the neck, and what we can do with sustainable buttons,” he says. “You can have an extreme point of view, and then you do nothing. If all us want to make the world more clean it has to become scalable, otherwise it will not fly because if customers are not buying it then why will you create it?”
Grevy says that Gant intends to build off the shirt launch with a larger sustainability effort later this year. It is still working on a road map for that.
Word by Amy Feldman - original article here.