“We truly believe that companies who participate early in the development of a circular economy are going to have a competitive advantage.”-Jeff Denby, co-founder of The Renewal Workshop
With over a decade of combined experience in the apparel supply chain business, Jeff Denby and Nicole Bassett were used to visiting factories, not owning one. This all changed when the duo pivoted their career tracks and opened The Renewal Workshop (TRW), a business designed to improve the sustainability of the garment industry, particularly with the brands whose ethos and products exist for outdoor application.
Get to know Jeff’s story in this quick interview; at Ibex we are thrilled to have TRW as a pillar of our sustainability portfolio.
How did The Renewal Workshop come to exist?
Both Nicole and I have worked in apparel supply chains for the better part of our careers. We specifically have been focused on improving the sustainability of how clothing is made – from organic materials to fair trade labor.
We have seen the enormous amount of value that gets embedded in a single garment – from raw materials to labor to design to water, energy, and chemicals.
We then realized that so much of this value was getting wasted here in the U.S. because there’s no system to deal with products that are unsellable.
Having worked inside brands, we knew that they had huge operational challenges around dealing with clothing that was unsellable. And this unsellable clothing was hardly damaged at all – missing buttons, small tears, stains, dirt, etc. Brands need an external partner with the expertise to responsibly manage unsellable clothing in an efficient way. We created The Renewal Workshop to do just that. But we knew that in order to work with marquee brands we would need a facility, process, and system that would give the brands the confidence that we could repair and clean their unsellable clothing to a quality that they would feel proud of.
So after years of working around the world with factories, we became factory owners ourselves.
How did you come to work with Ibex?
Ibex was one of our Founding Brand Partners and that credit really goes to Ted (Manning; CEO) and Keith (Anderson; VP Marketing) who, as leaders of Ibex, championed the partnership as both a business opportunity, a way to reduce waste, and contribute to the development of a circular economy for the apparel industry.
Ibex signed on before we had an operating factory and before we had even begun to develop a market for renewed apparel.
Our Founding Brand Partners are brave leaders and that’s what it takes to make a difference and create positive change. They took a risk, they trusted us, and now it’s paying off. We truly believe that companies who participate early in the development of a circular economy are going to have a competitive advantage, as the new industrial revolution of the 21st century is going to be about resource efficiency, renewable energy, and circular ingenuity. Ibex is leading the way for the apparel industry.
What is a circular economy?
The apparel industry is what’s called a linear system. We take natural resources, we make clothing from those resources, we use that clothing, and then when we are done with that clothing, we dump it. In this model we use everything invested in the product only once – all the raw materials, water, energy, creativity, ingenuity, and labor. Everything embedded in the clothing we wear are wasted because there is no system to recover that value and use it more than once. In a circular economy, products have multiple life cycles because there are systems that exist to recover that value that is embedded in them. In the case of apparel, when a customer is “done” with a product, it may be sold again to a new consumer, or if it is defective, it might be fixed. If it is too damaged to wear, then perhaps some of the material can be used to create an entirely new product. And if the product is truly unusable, then the system exists to recycle that product by breaking it down into the raw materials that can be used to manufacture the same product again. In a circular system, there is no waste. In our society, some circular systems do exist, such as renewable energy, recycling of glass, and composting food waste, but the majority of our systems are still linear and produce massive amounts of waste. The Renewal Workshop is on a journey to lead the apparel industry to a circular economy.
How can people aim to live a circular lifestyle?
Even if the system isn’t there to live a completely circular life, there are steps people can take. Every time you buy something, ask yourself: “where will this go when I am done with it? Can someone else use it? Can it be recycled? Can you borrow, lease or rent an item? What is the method where it will be used to its fullest value?”
Ask the companies from which you love to buy to help make the products you love be part of a circular system. It’s always best to do with less. Bring your own bag, buy in bulk – the less we have to manage, the less we throw away.