Direct-to-consumer brand Everlane has committed to be completely free of virgin plastics by 2021.
To announce the launch, founder Michael Preysman, as well as Natalie Massenet and Nick Brown, who invested in the brand through their fund Imaginary Ventures, hosted a dinner in NYC on Tuesday (October 16), where guests were introduced to the brand’s new ReNew fleece, which is made from recycled plastic bottles.
“For me, whenever I see product that comes out that’s virgin [plastic], I think, these companies are actively choosing [to not recycle], to say money and profit is more important to us than doing the right thing for the environment,” Preysman told Vogue. “I think that has to change; I think that time is over.”
By 2021, all materials, including polyester and nylon, which are made from virgin plastic, will be made out of plastic water bottles and renewed materials, the brand has announced.
Preysman estimates that in the next five years, Everlane expects to use about 100 million water bottles through its system. He admits this is merely a humble contribution, as there are currently 500 billion water bottles produced every year.
This pledge furthers the brand’s commitment to the idea of “radical transparency” that has been at the heart of its business model since inception, from pricing to production practices. The overarching industry focus on reducing the use of plastics, however, comes with staggering numbers: according to Preysman, there are eight billion tons of plastic on the planet, which is roughly one ton per person.
Before embarking on a sustainable plastics strategy, Preysman says the brand had to come to terms with the scale of how much it engages with the material across the supply chain: “We’re producing millions of units and every unit that goes out is wrapped in plastic. At the beginning, it was like, ‘Hey, let’s just take off all these plastic bags’. There are a lot of complications to that. Everything you buy in the world comes wrapped in plastic when it comes out of the factory.”
Realizing the impact of using plastics is also part of this journey too, he adds. “It’s a really convenient thing, but it’s actually incredibly damaging because once plastic is made, we use it for a second but it lasts forever.”
As the fight against plastic continues to pick up speed, brands across the spectrum – from smaller, DTC names to sportswear giants – are investigating different material innovations as replacements. Earlier this year at SXSW, adidas announced that by 2024, it will use only recycled ocean plastics; Reebok has recently launched a biodegradable shoe made with a cotton top and a bioplastic sole; and DTC sneaker brand Allbirds has launched a pair of flip flops made with a new material made out of sugar cane – of which the recipe is open source for other brands to tap into.
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