Navigating sustainable apparel production is a work in progress for most brands.
Outerknown, the sustainable brand founded by surfer Kelly Slater, scales its sustainable footprint by joining forces with likeminded partners that have their own area of expertise in responsible manufacturing. It invested in R&D for Econyl to bring its wares to market in 2015. In 2019, it teamed with Levi’s Wellthread division to introduce cottonized hemp denim.
This spring, to help close their loop, Outerknown is working with The New Denim Project by Iris Textiles, a family-run sustainable design lab based in Guatemala with a circular manufacturing process, on a collection made with discarded denim scraps and garments.
Outerknown’s work with The New Denim Project is another step forward in converting its knit and woven styles to circular products, and eventually, to becoming a fully circular brand by 2030.
The New Denim Project collects and sorts post-industrial waste from local garment factories, ginds the scraps back into fiber form, and spins them into new yarns that are woven into a collection of upcycled fabrics. The lab takes the leftover byproduct from the recycling process—like cottonseed and cotton lint—and passes it on to coffee growers in Guatemala to be used as compost, as part of its mission to help create a shared economy.
The New Denim Project fabrics have been used in circular denim collections by Atelier Delphine, Mara Hoffman, Converse and more.
Outerknown’s collection features dresses, tops and face masks made with the project’s fabrics, which have 30-80 percent recycled cotton content. No chemicals, dyes, or synthetic materials are used to make the garments, and production requires minimal water and energy.
The collection encapsulates Outerknown’s coastal vibe. Subtle irregularities in the texture and coloring bring a homespun feel, and the patterns and stripes are achieved through the actual recycled denim scraps, versus dyes.
The women’s line includes boatneck dresses, tees, chambray shirts and flannel shirts. The men’s line offers knit shirts, Henley tops, flannel button-down shirts and Outerknown’s best-selling Blanket shirt. The collection retails for $68-$148. Packs of three face masks retail for $30.