You won’t find any corporate-bro fleeces here–at least, not in their natural state. Frankie Collective has hacked, slashed and restitched some of the outdoor-wear retailer’s most iconic pieces into navel-exposing cropped windbreakers, roomy patchworked joggers and skin-tight jersey bustiers.
The company, which started in 2014, says it rescues 65,000 pounds of clothing from landfills annually by upcycling them into “1-of-1” garments. Each year, it creates roughly 12,000 of these unique pieces locally in Vancouver, where it employs a team of designers, patternmakers and seamstresses who are “paid a living wage to design, create and rework daily,” it notes on its website.
Every purchase of a secondhand garment creates less demand for a “new high-polluting garment to enter the marketplace,” Frankie Collective says. Extending the life of a garment by just three months, for instance, can lead to a 5 percent to 10 percent reduction in each of its carbon, waste and water footprints, according to the Waste & Resources Action Program, a U.K. environmental nonprofit.
“We consider the impacts the garment industry has on the environment and make effort to reduce waste in all steps of our production process,” it adds. “Our designs center on salvaging vintage garments that would otherwise and up in a landfill, and all of our textile scraps are recycled and repurposed to eliminate textile waste.”
Patagonia itself is no slouch in the repurposing department. At the tail end of 2019, the company launched ReCrafted, a program that salvages from from old garments that are damaged beyond repair. An expansion of Patagonia’s secondhand Worn Wear initiative, ReCrafted takes fabric waste from one of its facilities in Reno, Nev., and then transforms into brand-new goods at Suay, a sewing workshop “tucked away on a quiet dead-end street on the bank of the Los Angeles River.”
“Keeping gear in play as long as possible has been part of Patagonia’s business model since the 1970s,” the brand said in a statement at the time. “ReCrafted is one answer to the question of what to do with those items that cannot be repaired, resold or recycled.”
Roughly 53 million metric tons of fibers are employed by the fashion industry to produce clothes every year, estimates the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. Some 73 percent is landfilled or incinerated, and just 1 percent is turned back into new clothes.
The process of upcycling garments, from sorting old clothes to finding new uses for them, can be laborious and time-consuming. But some brands have found it rewarding as well. Other companies embracing this tack include Eileen Fisher, whose Resewn collection deconstructs landfill-bound items and pieces them back into one-of-a-kind designs, and The North Face, whose Remade program sells “creatively repaired” items that bring new life to damaged products and fabrics.