How Two Companies Founded by NC State Students are Helping to Reduce Textile Waste (Student Blog)

By Caleb White, SCRC Marketing and Communications Intern

In a world becoming more focused on creating a better tomorrow, there has been a great shift towards creating more sustainable products. Many industries have adapted, but it seems that the fashion industry has yet to fully adopt the trend. A recent article from Supply Chain Dive stated that while consumer textile waste is also a big problem, rather “the pre-consumer supply chain has its own wasteful practices built in to the way garments are designed and produced.” I wondered why this was the case, and decided to ask some experts about the topic. Luckily, NC State’s campus is brimming with young entrepreneurs (the university is ranked 10th in the nation for undergraduate entrepreneurship, after all), and I was able to identify two local companies founded by NC State students that focus on reducing textile waste.

I was first blessed with the opportunity to speak with Dianna Hughes, director of PR and social media at Reborn Clothing Co., a company founded in 2017 by recent NC State graduate Emily Neville that repurposes customers’ used clothing into useful, new items. Dianna shared with me her company’s take on the subject:

Caleb: Why do you think fashion supply chains are so wasteful?

Dianna: We live in a world where fast-fashion reigns, and supply chains must keep people buying. Much of the time, that means they’re continuously churning out more and more material, and what doesn’t sell usually gets dumped in a storage closet, an incinerator or a landfill. In fashion and textiles, billions of pounds of material go to waste every year.

Caleb: How is Reborn Clothing, Co. aiming to fix this problem?

Dianna: We’re doing all we can to reduce the amount of material that’s abandoned. We partner with universities across the country and brands like Red Bull and Sunbrella Fabrics to tackle this issue. By transforming surplus branded apparel and dead stock material into new products like tote bags, scrunchies and laptop sleeves, we get materials that would otherwise go to waste into the hands of people who will use them for years to come.

I also had the opportunity to speak with Arlo Estill, an NC State senior and co-founder of Hempsmith, Co., a clothing company based in Pittsboro, NC that uses hemp for its products due to its various sustainability benefits:

Caleb: Why do you think fashion supply chains are so wasteful?

Arlo: The production of clothing often relies on exploitation and shortcuts to lower the cost of goods sold. In developed countries like America, consumers pride themselves on their savvy shopping; getting the most from every dollar. There’s a race to the bottom, where the brand that can cut the most cost wins. Whoever brings the cheapest product to market is rewarded with the highest demand. The reality is that cost can’t be cut.

Caleb: And why is this?

Arlo: [Cost] can be externalized and not paid by the brand or producer, but in the end something or someone will pay the price. [For example] how does Wal-Mart sell a tee shirt for $3.00? They place the cost elsewhere. The price is paid by the workers in developing countries that receive little to no compensation. The natural environment pays the price when chemicals are not disposed of properly. Taxpayers pay the price when government subsidies create artificial prices for raw materials such as oil. The petroleum industry is heavily subsidized by the US government and military, driving down the price of oil. When fuel is cheap, it makes sense to ship materials all over the planet to circumvent environmental and social regulation. When petroleum is cheap, synthetic fibers become an attractive material for clothing production. Natural fibers are no competition to the strength, consistency and profit that plastic fibers can provide. Never mind the microfibers, carbon, and toxic chemicals that come along with the production of manmade fibers.

Caleb: How is Hempsmith, Co. aiming to fix this problem?

Arlo: Our mission at Hempsmith is to create and inspire a restorative economy by providing hemp-derived merchandise. The nature of our product is sustainable. Hemp is a plant, providing a renewable source of a durable fiber. Industrial hemp grows quickly and produces a tall stalk, resulting in high yields from less land. The deep roots of the plant sink carbon back into the land, increasing the life and fertility of the soil.

Caleb: How does this affect the clothing?

Arlo: [Our clothes] last a long time. And at the end of its life it can decompose into the soil from which it came. This natural cycle is at the foundation of our brand. We contribute to a restorative economy by paying well, and sourcing from local vendors. We focus on natural dyes and low impact materials to lessen our ecological footprint and educate the consumer. Our prices reflect the true cost of our products. A dollar spent at Hempsmith circulates around the local economy, enriching many before it heads out to the carbon intensive global economy.

Special thanks to Dianna and Arlo for taking the time to share their thoughts on this important issue! I encourage you to visit their respective websites to learn more about their missions and what they’re doing to address the problem of textile waste:

Reborn Clothing Co.
Hempsmith, Co.

To learn more about entrepreneurship opportunities at North Carolina State University, visit https://entrepreneurship.ncsu.edu/.

Leave a Response

Your email address will not be published. All fields are required.