Fabric trashing …or stashing?

Definitely OT but too funny not to share, I got a PR piece this morning from Shani Wright who says in part:

The average American purchases approximately 70 pounds of fabric per year, with 85 percent ending up in landfills, according to the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.

Albeit out of context, I bust a gut every time I read that line. Throw out my stash? What sane person throws out their stash? Some of us have collections we’ve gone to great pains, distance and considerable expense to have amassed for years. Like wine, fabric must be properly aged before use. Heh. I don’t know that I’ve thrown out 70 pounds of fabric -in my lifetime– and I have the storage containers, boxes, shelving and plastic bags to prove it (she squeaks).

To recompense Shani for the hearty belly laugh, I’ve included her entire press piece below the fold. It’s a pitch for the new Project Runway home sewing machine series manufactured by Brother (if you want to save yourself a click). Maybe they’re good? I don’t know. Brother does have an excellent reputation in industrial sewing machines. It’s a fairly prestigious brand among industrials so with rare exception (mostly badly used equipment), you can buy them with confidence. Parts are widely available and they’re readily modified and repaired so (in my experience) total cost of ownership constitutes good value. Marguerite reminds me to tell you to spring for the servo motor. You’ll never go back.

Good Morning –

In an era where “I want more” is a cultural mantra, levels of over-consumption has risen to alarmingly high new levels. The average American purchases approximately 70 pounds of fabric per year, with 85 percent ending up in landfills, according to the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. In protest, a new generation of eco-friendly fashion-lovers are finding ways to fight against “waste couture” – disposable, inexpensive apparel designed to satisfy one’s quick fashion needs. Eco-friendly trendsetters are modifying old t-shirts into a tote or refashioning worn-out denim into a miniskirt, and re-interpreting classic, would-be-throwaways into the hottest looks to stay eco-fashionable.

Brother International, a leading supplier of home sewing and embroidery machines is providing a “Project Runway” series of machines that empowers the environmentally-conscious to stay on trend. Thanks to these easy-to-use sewing and embroidery machines, fashion doesn’t have to come at the cost of Mother Earth. Taking home-sewing to a new, fashion-forward level, Brother’s “Project Runway” series makes it fun and easy to reconstruct, embellish and refurbish clothing that would have once gone to waste.

Please see below for additional information surrounding Brother International’s “Project Runway” series of sewing and embroidery machines. Let me know if you would like further information or high-resolution images.

Thanks and best,
Shani Wright


Brother International Corporation Celebrates Official Project Runway License with Limited Edition Sewing Machines

BRIDGEWATER, NJ—Brother International Corporation is an official licensee of the Emmy-nominated fashion reality television show Project Runway. To highlight this achievement, Brother is introducing an exclusive, limited edition series of Project Runway sewing machines to its extensive line of sewing, embroidery and quilting products. These new Project Runway Limited Edition machines—the limited edition versions of the Innov-ís 40 and the Innov-ís 80—are branded with the Project Runway logo and are available to consumers at Authorized Brother Innov-ís dealers, just in time for the anticipated season premiere broadcast of Project Runway Season 5.

One of the first to create a little fashion magic on a limited edition Project Runway machine was Project Runway Season One alum Austin Scarlett. “The Project Runway sewing machines from Brother are perfect tools for creating your own holiday magic at home. What a wonderful gift for any aspiring fashion designer, any home decorator or anyone with a creative streak. The machines are so easy to use—they are perfect for a beginner yet specialized enough for the most ambitious design project,” said Scarlett. Having gained recognition and praise for his sophisticated and striking designs on Bravo’s Project Runway, Scarlett now wields his creative talents at the helm of bridal house KENNETH POOL.

“Brother has aligned itself with this fashion-oriented, hip brand to appeal to a new generation of designers who are inspired to create and design like those on Project Runway,” says Dean F. Shulman, senior vice president of Brother and head of the company’s Home Appliance Division. “The Limited Edition Innov-ís 40 and Innov-ís 80 computerized sewing machines are perfect to carry the Project Runway mark; they are affordable, easy to use and feature-packed for both the beginning designer and the advanced sewer,” he says.

Stay tuned this season to see where these new Project Runway Limited Edition sewing machines take the fashion, sewing and embroidery world. Prices start around $300. These new, inspiring sewing machines have just hit the runway at participating Authorized Brother Innov-is Dealers, timed perfectly for the gift-giving season.

About Brother International Corporation

Brother International Corporation has earned its reputation as a leading supplier of innovative products for the home sewing enthusiast. Through a growing network of sewing machine dealers and retail outlets nationwide, Brother offers a full line of home sewing machines, from basic to top-of-the-line sewing and embroidery machines. The company is recognized for its high-quality, state-of-the-art machines and accessories, offering ease of use and flexibility at affordable prices.

Brother is a wholly owned subsidiary of Brother Industries Ltd. With worldwide sales approaching $5 billion, this global manufacturer was started almost 100 years ago by sewing fanatics.

Brother offers a diversified product line that includes fax machines, Multi-Function Center® machines, P-touch® Labeling Systems and both color and mono laser printers for home, office and industry.

Bridgewater, New Jersey is the corporate headquarters for Brother in the Americas, from Canada to South America. It has fully integrated sales, marketing services, manufacturing, research and development capabilities located in the U.S. In addition to its headquarters in Bridgewater, New Jersey, Brother has facilities in California, Illinois, Massachusetts and Tennessee, as well as subsidiaries in Ohio, Canada, Brazil, Chile, Argentina and Mexico. For more information you can visit the website at www.brother.com.

About Project Runway

It’s “sew” time. Project Runway, the seven-time Emmy-nominated series including three for outstanding competitive reality series, provides budding designers with an opportunity to launch their careers in fashion. The wildly successful competition reality series has proven to be one of television’s most talked about shows. Each season, a group of talented fashion designers selected from thousands of hopefuls compete in creative challenges for the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to show at New York’s Fashion Week. Supermodel Heidi Klum heads a panel of industry luminaries, including top women’s and menswear designer Michael Kors and Elle Magazine fashion director Nina Garcia, who will serve as judges and industry mentors charged with selecting and molding the budding designers. Tim Gunn, chief creative officer at Liz Claiborne, Inc., will act as mentor to the contestants through each of their challenges.

The Weinstein Company and Miramax are co-producing the show through their co-financing agreement. The Weinstein Company is the lead studio and is handling worldwide distribution. Project Runway is executive produced by Dan Cutforth, Jane Lipsitz and Rich Bye of Magical Elves (Project Greenlight, Last Comic Standing, Top Chef). Heidi Klum, Desiree Gruber and Jane Cha of NYC-based Full Picture also executive produce the series. Barbara Schneeweiss oversees the production on behalf of The Weinstein Company. For more information, please visit www.projectrunway.com.

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  1. I think the annual 70 lbs of fabric in question is assumed to be in the form of garments, not yardage. Hence the use of sewing machines to “reconstruct, embellish and refurbish.”

    I don’t usually throw out my clothes: I use them as rags, or to make dog clothes out of, or donate them. I never throw out my stash.

    Question: I’ve always assumed that when I donate torn or stained clothes to an organisation that takes in a lot of donated garments, that they have a way of selling them off to be shredded and used for padding or something. Is this correct? Or do they go to landfill?

  2. Gigi says:

    “Throw out my stash? What sane person throws out their stash?”

    Indeed! That would just be nuts considering how much time I spend collecting it all! I do purge periodically but I find a use for what I no longer want. Linens always become dish towels (nothing better!), cotton knits become dust rags (as do all my old t-shirts), fleeces become purr pads or blankets, heavy cottons and wools are used when I recover my pressing board and fancier stuff gets sold on Ebay or given to friends.

  3. Anita says:

    I get heart palpitations just at the thought of “getting rid of” any part of my stash. There’s that lovely Harris tweed bought in London 8 years ago, the beautiful wool coating from the remnant table at a local fabric store, the Chinese silks from the little Asian shop downtown, and the gorgeous cotton knit I got in New Zealand. Not to mention the tubs and rolls of polar fleece from the Malden Mills remnant sales (alas, no longer being done now that the company has been sold). Sometimes I take some of it out just to admire it. Now, I just have to find the time to actually use it :-)

  4. And the truth comes out… I regularly forget what’s in my stash, until I rummage, and it’s like Christmas as a kid. What sane person would throw fabric away?! That figure, as Alison points out, must refer to all textile waste produced per person per year (those figures are huge). At worst, I’ve given things to charity or friends, which is how I’ve come to be with some of my things as well. And let’s not get started on the shirt I started making for myself 18 months ago, from fabric I got six years ago… I should finish it, even if I know that due to excessive gym visits, the shirt wouldn’t even fit any more. I’m happy to report that a check wool I bought in 2000 made it to the collection I made for my project. As did a double wool a friend bought “10 or so years ago”. A half roll of poly-cotton interlock was donated by a company that no longer wanted it, and I also used leftover cotton jersey (100 or so yards…) from my entrepreneur days. The latter I could easily sell on, but keep it “just in case”. Yep, a hundred yards just in case.

    Btw, any takers for 100% cotton jersey scrap? Have held onto for five+ years, can’t bring myself to throw, no quilting association in Australia is interested. I’m happy to pay for international postage if it goes to a good home and/or cause. Black and white, I think. Now, where was it again… Email at my blog.

    Alison, not sure about other countries, but I know the main ones here (St Vincent de Paul, The Smith Family and The Salvation Army) have huge landfilling costs for things they can’t sell (torn and dirty clothes among them). The Smith Family, does, however, have it’s own textile recycling plant where blanketing, wipe rags, etc are made: http://www.thesmithfamily.com.au/site/page.cfm?u=107

    Can’t wait to read further confessions!

  5. Sandra B says:

    Timo, an unfinished shirt that’s only been on the go for 18 months is easy to beat. I have a jacket that I started in order to teach myself hand tailoring. The body is made and it just needs the sleeves. I started it in about 1993, and have moved 4 times since then (including abroad). I’ve gained weight, lost weight, had two kids, and realised that bright orange boiled wool was an edgy choice for a 26 year old and probably all wrong for a 41 year old. The style went out of fashion. And then… I saw almost exactly the same jacket in a recent Vogue spread, also in bright orange, and thought hmm, maybe this has aged just enough. Mum will be so surprised to see the fabric she bought in 1964 finally being worn.

  6. Sarah Bellos says:

    For those of you looking for more information on what happens with your clothing once it is donated, this article in Environmental Health Perspectives is a good summary. From Sept 07, “Waste Couture: Environmental Impact of the Clothing Industry.” You can download it free here: http://www.ehponline.org/members/2007/115-9/EHP115pa449PDF.PDF

    According to the article, “Once bought, an estimated 21% of annual clothing purchases stay in the home, increasing the stocks of clothing and other textiles held by consumers, according to Recycling of Low Grade Clothing Waste, a September 2006 report by consultant Oakdene Hollins. The report calls this stockpiling an increase in the “national wardrobe,” which is considered to represent a potentially large quantity of latent waste that will eventually enter the solid waste stream. According to the EPA Office of Solid Waste, Americans throw away more than 68 pounds of clothing and textiles per person per year, and clothing and other textiles represent about 4% of the municipal solid waste. But this figure is rapidly growing.” The article follows some other shirts do a second hand market in Tanzania. “…charities find another way to fund their programs using the clothing and other textiles that can’t be sold at their thrift shops: they sell it to textile recyclers at 5–7 cents per pound. Since 1942, the Stubin family of Brooklyn, New York, has owned and operated Trans-America Trading Company, where they process more than 12 million pounds of postconsumer textiles per year. Trans-America is one of the biggest of about 3,000 textile recyclers in the United States. At its 80,000-square-foot sorting facility, workers separate used clothing into 300 different categories by type of item, size, and fiber content. According to figures from Trans-America, about 30% of these textiles are turned into absorbent wiping rags for industrial uses, and another 25–30% are recycled into fiber for use as stuffing for upholstery, insulation, and the manufacture of paper products.

    “About 45% of these textiles continue their life as clothing, just not domestically. Certain brands and rare collectible items are imported by Japan, the largest buyer in terms of dollars of vintage or American high-end fashion. Clothing that is not considered vintage or high-end is baled for export to developing nations. Data from the International Trade Commission indicate that between 1989 and 2003, American exports of used clothing more than tripled, to nearly 7 billion pounds per year. Used clothing is sold in more than 100 countries. For Tanzania, where used clothing is sold at the mitumba markets that dot the country, these items are the number one import from the United States.”

    If you are interested in this subject, I would highly recommend “The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy,” a book by Pietra Rivoli, a professor of international business at Georgetown University, from 2005.

    I would love to hear from other D-Es on how they have incorporated reused clothing into their lines and/or whether you all think there is a market for small scale services such as natural dyeing on piece goods. We have done some “refresh” natural dyeing for local customers and have found the response really positive. Just wondering whether any of you have any experience on the logistical issues in rolling out a bigger program for this. Do you think there would be a tremendous amount of liability in dyeing someone’s worn out favorite shirt and what kind of protection on the production/dyeing end do you think we would need to ensure to cover our bases before folks start mailing us their faded gear?

    Any suggestions are much appreciated,thanks for a great book and a great blog.
    Nashville, TN

  7. Kathleen says:

    This morning’s Apparel News had an article saying “Remnant fabrics and used clothing in Los Angeles account for up to 10 percent of trash clogging up landfills, according to city estimates.” Ouch! A German company called Soex is planning to open operations in LA to process the waste in a variety of ways. First by collecting used clothes for donation to less advantaged people. Second, they process textile remnants into other products. Their largest plant outside of Hamburg runs on solar power.

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