AFTERLIFE 1 – DISASSEMBLE
We design with the end in mind. Read on for part 1 of our Afterlife Mini-Series.
Afterlife 1 – Disassemble
It's no secret that we create garments ON purpose, FOR a purpose. This purpose extends way past the sell and use phase and into the end of life phase. The “afterlife”, if you will.
I staunchly believe that no garment should be created without an afterlife plan. It's idealistic, sure. But this would be circular fashion in the truest sense, a garment living through several lives and uses, which is then closed-loop recycled into something just a good and useful for another round, repeated over and over again.
It's kind of a wild concept to wrap your head around, given clothes are sold, worn and discarded more rapidly than ever before in history. Though, I truly believe it is possible. So in the spirit of new possibilities, here is a five part mini-education-series where I'll break down five different garment "afterlives" via case study.
It's not going to be too technical, just something short and sweet to get you thinking the next time you click 'add to bag' on that cute little mixed blend something-something, and hey, maybe it'll give you some ideas for questions to ask the brand before doing so. Or maybe you'll only ever buy A.BCH from now on. Kidding.
Afterlife Case Study 1 – Disassemble
Preamble: While disassembly is not exactly a final destination, I felt it was an important place to start in order to understand how a garment should be considered before being made (or designed really) and that whatever decisions are made, are fit for purpose. Sometimes, the purest of pure intentions cannot be achieved, and design for disassembly is a perfectly good way to work with materials that are not mono-material or that require different functionality at different parts of the garment.
In the case of the 2R Woollen Coat, we began with a material that was given to us to make use of. Deadstock, anyone? I mean it was already pretty cool, having already been mechanically recycled and re-woven from used blankets, I wouldn't blame most designers for stopping here, thinking it is a wonderfully sustainable material already. Here is where circularity concepts sometimes fall short, because we should never be swept up by the fact something is "recycled" or "insert latest buzzy eco-word here". We still need to ask the question, what will happen to this when it is finally no longer useful? Where will it go down the track, especially once it has further been messed with or added to with new components of differing makeup. See why recycled nylon swimwear that's then blended with spandex might not be the solution?
Also important to note, the blanket was not pure wool - it had been blended with rPET for strength and then, by fault of a loom error, was rendered a bit useless. We effectively received it in its third life, but we still didn't stop there. Disassembly gives us a way to work with these kinds of materials in an interesting way without compromising on circular principals. And at the very end of it all, because it was made FOR a disassemble, each part can easily go back into becoming a similar fabric or component to the one it is today.
To go into greater detail on mechanical recycling, check out our post Can Clothes Really be Recycled?
Birth ➝ The 2R (twice recycled) Woollen coat is a collab with Waverley Mills, one of Australia’s last standing weaving mills, who provided us with blankets deemed unusable due to a weaving flaw. The blanket yarns were created by the mill from wool that’d been mechanically recycled and blended with recycled PET (for strength). Using this as our base fabric, we turned a lush piece of scrap material into the one-of-a-kind wool coat that is both durable and lovely.
Life ➝ To prolong the life of this coat and keep potential micro-plastics locked up, plus everything else out of landfill, we created a lining made entirely out of Lenzing Tencel Lyocell (a biodegradable badass) that can easily detach from the coat for seperate laundering. Think of it like undies for your outerwear. The lining will wear out quicker than the woollen blend shell and can therefore be swapped out with a new one any time. It also doubles as a shirt when turned inside-out. Tencel is silk-like and sexy like that.
Afterlife ➝ When it’s time to move on, the coat shell and lining will go their separate ways. The lining can be composted or bio-chemically recycled due to its cellulose makeup (right down to the threads and buttons), while the shell can live on for a few more decades. Eventually, it can return to the mill it came from for shredding and mechanical recycling. See how we close the loop there? I just hope I'm alive to see it. If not, I'll rest easy knowing I didn't make yet another garment destined for landfill. Sorry to get a bit morbid.