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Public School’s New Venture Provides ‘Sustainable Blanks’ for Merch Gear

Public School’s newest initiative is set to bring sustainability to the “merch” trend.

As the winner of this year’s CFDA + Lexus Fashion Initiative, Public School designers Maxwell Osborne and Dao-Yi Chow took home $100,000 in grant money to turn their long-term sustainability plan into a reality—one that leans on the participation of other designers and retailers.

Named V-to, Public School’s sustainability project involves ethically creating basics such as T-shirts and sweatshirts for other brands to then use to create their own designs. In an interview with Vogue, Public School co-Founder Chow referred to the plan as a “sustainable blanks program” that can help them make a bigger contribution to sustainability than they would working in a silo.

“When we started this project [for the Initiative], we knew we wanted to create something that didn’t just impact our own business,” Chow told Vogue. “It’s one thing to create a green collection for ourselves and sell it through our own channels, but it’s another to come up with an idea that can be adopted by our peers.”

Using 60 percent recycled cotton and 40 percent organic cotton, V-to pieces are sustainably produced outside of Toronto, Canada. A number of designers and retailers have already bought into the project, signaling to the rest of the world that the project’s success relies on the adoption by others. The goal, Chow noted, is to transform the merch shirt from being disposable fashion into a garment with value.

The next step, designers said, is to develop a plan for closing the loop and collecting the items when consumers are no longer wearing them so they can be used to make other V-to pieces.

The CFDA + Lexus Fashion Initiative provides education and mentorship to five apparel and accessories brands with the goal to further sustainability in the U.S. fashion industry. The grant is awarded to the brand with “the most visionary, viable and impactful strategic blueprint” for the industry.