Adidas is giving its worn-in activewear a new lease on life.
Through an upcycling partnership with Oregon’s The Renewal Workshop (TRW), the athletic brand aims to refresh and repair used and unsalable goods from its Terrex outdoor collection. Adidas will leverage TRW’s expertise in creating the “Nothing Left Behind” limited-edition line that extends the life of its products, similar to how Arc’teryx sold refurbished archival pieces on Grailed last year.
TRW, which works with The North Face, Tommy Hilfiger, Champion, H&M’s Cos and Coyuchi, revamps used apparel and creates upcycled materials and recycling feedstock from discarded apparel and textiles, on the premise that 82 percent of the items destined for the trash can actually be reused and re-sold. This week, the six-year-old company was purchased by U.K. supply chain management firm, Bleckmann, a sign of growing interest in sustainable fashion business models.
The Adidas collection aims to attract consumers with unique pieces created through innovative design. The partnership also represents a step toward discovering scalable solutions that keep Adidas goods out of landfills.
“We continually challenge ourselves to develop pieces that can extend the lifespan of Terrex products nearing the end of their lifecycle,” Michael Kadous, head of Adidas Terrex and Five Ten in North America, said in a statement. This goal was the “guiding inspiration” for the brand’s designers as they worked on the TRW capsule.
“The result is a reimagined collection sourced from athletes and employees,” he added. The one-of-a-kind, re-engineered outdoor pieces will enable athletes “to tell stories about all new adventures born from their repurposed pieces.”
Kadous said the used apparel was sourced from Adidas Terrex sponsored athletes like pro climbers Molly Mitchell and John Cardwell, as well as the company’s employees. Revamped pieces from the capsule collection will be given back to their original owners, and will not be available for sale, he said, but a successful proof of concept will drive the company’s future-facing strategy for upcycling and repurposing apparel.
“As a designer, it was such an eye opener of how can we set things up for a longer life at the beginning, at the start,” said Ashley Anson, Adidas senior design director. “That’s something that I never consider when designing, and something that I will continue to do going forward.”
Working through concepts on a smaller collection helped to highlight possibilities for the breadth of the brand’s product assortment. “We cut styles apart that we really weren’t able to repair, and we created this really fun collection that has a lot of visual to it,” she added.
“A lot of the design community is so passionate about the future of what Adidas can do when it comes to sustainability,” senior designer Kenna Smith said. “I think it would be really great if we took our partnership with The Renewal Workshop to the next level, and really built a program that is made to last.”
Smith said such an effort would bolster consumer confidence, “seeing that Adidas is really truly committed to sustainability beyond just recycled materials.”
An Adidas raffle will enable one AdiClub member to win a custom piece from the collection. In the near term, consumers interested in finding a responsible solution for their used Adidas apparel can return it through the brand’s Give Back program. In exchange for membership points or reward vouchers, AdiClub members can return their old garments to Adidas to be re-sold or reused.
Meanewhile, TRW co-CEO and co-founder Nicole Basset said the acquisition by Bleckmann will help the startup “scale renewal and re-commerce for the industry.”
“The potential for renewal to make a meaningful difference in the climate crisis is real,” she added, pointing to internal research finding that renewing existing products versus producing new ones can slash carbon emissions in half. Bleckmann’s clientele in fashion, lifestyles and electronics makes the company “the ideal partner to help every brand committed to sustainability achieve their goals,” Basset said.
The acquisition gives TRW greater exposure to Europe, where it opened an Amsterdam repair and reconditioning facility in two years ago. TRW co-founding co-CEO Jeff Denby said Bleckmann’s international reach makes it the “perfect” partner to innovate in renewal. “With their global footprint, they can build on what we started in Europe and the U.S.,” he said.
TRW’s operational framework for recycling, repair and e-commerce fulfillment will add to Bleckmann’s current returns management solutions and enhance the service portfolio to help fashion clients deal with the high volume of unsalable returns they receive each year.
“Returns management is a significant business issue for clients, both financially and environmentally,” Jurrie-Jan Tap, Bleckmann chief business development officer, said. Combining TRW’s services with Bleckmann’s expertise will give customers a “new, advanced way of managing returns, leading to higher added value for all parties involved, including the end-consumers.”
“By increasing the percentage of merchandise redirected to re-commerce channels or repurposed by upcycling and recycling, we all build towards a better circular tomorrow,” he added.