Sustainability is baked into every project and partnership we pursue at Diamond Brand. So building sustainable partnerships to address fabric waste is one way we’re working to be a more sustainable company.
In 2018, 17 million tons of textiles went to landfills in the U.S. alone. That’s 5.8% of the waste generated that year. Meanwhile, a mere 2.5 million tons were recycled (EPA). First of all, clothing production results in 92 million tons of waste a year. And less than 1% of material used to produce clothing is recycled into new clothing. So this represents a loss of more than $100 billion. One way to combat all that wasted fabric is to keep it in use as long as possible. Our conclusion: repurpose it into new products!
This spring, Diamond Brand Gear partnered with a group of Masters of Environmental Management students from Duke University. They put together a partnership proposal for a large outdoor clothing brand. Mary-Margaret Allen, Madeleine Llonch, Sara Diamond, Patrice Barnett, David Bluestein, Andrew Dreis, Jack McCabe, and Shivani Kuckreja worked with CEO John Delaloye to create a partnership strategy with the goal of reducing fabric waste.
What would a sustainable partnership look like?
Through this project, the brand would send Diamond Brand their deadstock or waste fabric. Then, Diamond Brand would create new products with the waste fabric. Next, those products would sell through Diamond Brand’s website. Finally, profits would be shared with the partner brand.
Diamond Brand has its own goal of creating zero fabric waste by 2023. This has been a part of our own sustainability initiatives. But we also want to make this more available to other brands in the industry. Through these partnerships, Diamond Brand hopes to find innovative ways to help partners reach their own specific waste reduction goals. Accordingly, Diamond Brand will work with those partners to create products that match their design styles, goals, or specific waste materials.
Working toward zero fabric waste with sustainable partnerships
Diamond Brand currently finds new life for waste fabric from its own manufacturing process. We do this through the Moonrise Project. This is a line of lifestyle gear made completely with scrap fabric. Moonrise incorporates patchwork and stitching design inspired by Japanese Boro. It’s practice of mending garments out of necessity. Diamond Brand’s take on this process, “American” Boro, uses even the smallest scrap pieces from the factory cutting room. These scraps are elevated into one-of-a-kind artistic, functional products. Diamond Brand’s Tent Rescue program takes retired tents and gives them new life. It turns them into new functional bags, packs, and other accessories. We have the expertise in making and marketing outdoor gear that braves the elements. And we’ve got 140 years of experience in treating fabrics with care. So these projects make sense to our way of thinking about sustainability.
What are the challenges in a sustainable partnership?
There are a few challenges putting together a partnership strategy. First, fabric waste tends to be all or nothing. Brands usually want us to be ready to take whatever they have. That can mean whatever colors, fabrics, or quantities they have. This is why Diamond Brand’s “American” Boro process is perfect! Diamond Brand prefers randomness. It’s an essential part of the boro process and aesthetic. Second, it’s sometimes challenging to meet the design needs of the partner. They may have quality or aesthetic requirements to meet in order to attach their brand name to a product. Luckily, high-quality design is the number one priority for Diamond Brand. We only make products we are proud of and would use ourselves!
Why forge partnerships with other brands?
“Partnerships are a way for us to problem solve some of the challenges of sustainability collaboratively. We will always try to take the opportunity to partner with brands who share our commitment to the triple bottom line: People, Planet, and Prosperity. We cannot solve climate change alone. Building community with other outdoor brands is a way for us to expand the reach of our impact!”– John Delaloye
Diamond Brand is facing many of the same sustainability challenges as these large brand partners. So we can understand where they are coming from. This understanding will allow us to problem-solve issues like fabric waste collaboratively. Partnerships are also an opportunity for increased community engagement. For example, this partnership could contribute to community development initiatives. Diamond Brand already has such initiatives in place. For example, our industrial sewing program teaches basic sewing skills and techniques to local sewers.
smartwool’s second cut project — a sustainable partnership success story
Diamond Brand has forged similar partnerships before. In 2021, Diamond Brand partnered with Colorado-based sock and apparel company, Smartwool, on their Second Cut Project. To date, the project has found a new use for more than 900,000 worn-out, mismatched socks in the form of dog beds. The dog beds were stuffed with filling made from used and shredded socks. Then, Diamond Brand sewed recycled-fabric covers. This project helped Smartwool meet its goal of making 100 percent of the products it manufactures circular by 2030.
Smartwool invited folks to send in their used socks. They could either mail them to Smartwool directly or drop them off at participating U.S. retailers. As a result, together we’ve been able to help keep 7,000 pounds (and counting) of socks out of landfills.
Why work with duke university?
Working with Duke students allowed Diamond Brand to dive deeper into the conversation with potential partners around circularity. They provided valuable research and guidance. How can we best build the story and share the opportunity with the potential sustainability partner? Diamond Brand and the team created a memo and presentation to share with the brand. This included recommending a design direction based on both companies’ aesthetics, missions, and capabilities. It also contained a financial breakdown of the potential agreement.
Diamond Brand Gear has been partnering with classes in Life Cycle Analysis and Sustainability at Duke and UNC Chapel Hill for years. “Partnering with students helps us think outside the box,” says CEO John Delaloye. “The students get an opportunity to learn from us. And we benefit from their unique perspectives and problem solving. Collaborative innovation is essential to solving the challenge of climate change. We think partnering with our local North Carolina community is the best way for us to make an impactful change.”