You will be redirected back to your article in seconds
Skip to main content

Apiece Apart Turns Sustainable Eye Toward Packaging

New York womenswear label Apiece Apart is taking its preference for sustainable materials a step further, adopting fully compostable packaging to minimize its environmental impact.

The direct-to-consumer brand, which deals in premium women’s basics and seasonal trends made from preferred fibers, has committed to using TIPA’s biodegradable plastic polybags across its business, deepening a relationship that began in 2019.

“Our sustainability story is a journey,” Apiece Apart director of product and sustainability Carlisle Kaiser told Sourcing Journal. “We have always prioritized organic, ethically sourced and biodegradable fabrics and natural fibers like organic cotton, linen and silk, and replacing our packaging with a sustainable alternative was a natural progression.”

Currently, 96 percent of the brand’s collection is produced with preferred materials including natural fibers, Tencel and Global Recycled Standard (GRS) certified textiles and yarns. “These fabrics last longer and require less water and energy to produce,” Kaiser said, noting that the brand also eschews plastic buttons, “opting instead for natural shell or corozo buttons and recyclable, reusable copper shanks on garment closures.”

Related Stories

“A vast majority of our printed garments are made by digitally printing colors and patterns onto fabric with specialty inks, as opposed to the synthetic dyes often used in traditional screen printing,” he added. Digital printing can reduce water waste during the production process, as it requires that garments go through fewer rinse cycles.

Attention to product composition was a foundational principle for Apiece Apart, and the brand has been working to shrink its operational footprint as well. A sizable portion of digitally-native operators’ carbon impact results from shipping products to customers’ doorsteps. According to TIPA CEO Daphna Nissenbaum, the brand sought an eco-friendly plastic polybag that fit two requirements—providing “the same level of protection from water, dust and transportation that polybags traditionally made of Polyethylene (PE) could provide,” and offering custom branding “that would elevate their customers’ packaging experience.”

Compostable polybags developed by TIPA.
Compostable polybags developed by TIPA. Courtesy

Apiece Apart opted for TIPA302—”a home compostable, highly transparent film” that provides a circular solution to traditional plastic packaging, which languishes in landfills for decades, Nissenbaum said. By contrast, the Israel material science company’s products are made with polymers derived from both biological sources and fossil fuels. These elements decompose within 180 days in home or industrial composting conditions, reaching a compost state within six to 12 months.

“The secret is in the ratio of the compostable polymers used to reach a product that looks and feels like conventional plastic, while also being fully compostable,” the executive explained. Unlike some other solutions on the market, “TIPA does not add enzymes or other additives to help with product compostability,” she added, “our packaging decomposes thanks to the unique formula that enables it to decompose in an oxygen, heat and moisture-rich environment.”

In addition to switching over to compostable polybags, Apiece Apart has transitioned to new labeling and packaging materials. “Our clothing is never shipped on plastic hangers for more efficient shipping and minimized carbon emissions,” Kaiser said. Meanwhile, the brand’s sew-in labels are made from 100-percent organic cotton and its hangtags are made with 80-percent post-consumer content that is fully recyclable. “The boxes for our e-commerce packages are made of 100-percent recycled material, curbside recyclable, and are also industrial and home compostable,” he added.

Nissenbaum said that the packaging evolution is well underway across the fashion space. “Brands are becoming more sustainable due to increased general awareness and customer demand, she added. TIPA customers range from boutique luxury brands like Gabriela Hearst to medium retail chains like Scotch & Soda.

The brand deals in women's basics and seasonal apparel.
Apiece Apart

While the company has seen an about-even split between brick-and-mortar and web-based players interested in its products, the online ordering boom seen during the pandemic exacerbated already severe issues with packaging waste. “In the past couple of years, there has been a significant increase in e-commerce purchasing, which adds an extensive amount of packaging to each product,” Nissenbaum said. “We receive a lot of requests from e-commerce brands who obviously want to sell, but more sustainably, and are looking for packaging alternatives for polybags,” which are essential to the safe and clean transport and shipping of garments.

Brand interest in these solutions is on the upswing, though Kaiser believes “consumers would benefit from more education” about why transitioning away from pure plastic is essential. “We plan to share more about our packaging on our website and more frequently on Instagram, where we can share quick sound bites about how to dispose of the TIPA polybags,” he said. Shoppers unfamiliar with the product may not be aware that they can use the bags for home composting, for example.

It has also been “challenging to adopt sustainable packaging from a cost standpoint,” he said. “TIPA polybags are significantly more expensive than conventional polybags, and it’s also more expensive for us to ship TIPA polybags from Germany to our Asian suppliers,” he explained. Still, the brand is unwavering in its desire to mitigate its output, and has opted to absorb the expense associated with a guilt-free packaging solution. “We are committed to sustainable packaging, and for that reason the cost is worth it,” Kaiser said.