Eight years ago, and three months after Maggie was born, I stood in the wings on a stage in New York City, waiting to go on and tell the story of Alabama Chanin. I was nervous and jittery, waiting my turn while a woman named Jill Dumain talked about the sustainability work of the company she had worked with for over a decade. It was an unexpected life-changing moment. Instead of thinking and preparing for my own talk, I got carried away by the story of Patagonia and their mission. I had always been a fan, but that day I became a devotee.
My own talk on that massive stage paled in comparison to the sharp wit and factual detail that Jill Dumain offered—the same determination that she brings daily to the job she loves. Jill and I became friends over the course of that weekend, and we stayed in touch over the following years. Two years ago, she emailed me about the possibility of collaborating on a project using Patagonia down jackets that had reached their end-of-life. The “dogs” she called them: jackets that really couldn’t be recycled as usable garments. They were garments with beautiful stories, jackets that may have been down and/or up mountains, weathered many a winter with their wearer, and come to a final resting place in a warehouse. You see, Patagonia takes responsibility for every garment they make—from design to discard method, they are involved.
Any garment you purchase from Patagonia can be returned to Patagonia—at the beginning of its life or at the end of its life. Over the years, the company goal is to extend the life of a garment through good design and great materials, as detailed in their Worn Wear stories. At the same time, Patagonia has implemented buy-back programs for used garments in good condition and have offered initiatives that repair garments, extending their lives beyond one user. Their Truth to Materials initiative is the culmination of this work towards circular design and manufacturing. The ultimate goal is for every product to reflect sustainability from the beginning of life as a raw material, through design, manufacturing, active life, and end-of-life processes. Garments that have reached the end of their lives become an active part of the environment through composting or upcycling into a new form, like our reclaimed down scarves.
“Truth to Materials honors the purest form of a material possible, be it minimally processed cashmere and wool, or going beyond organic by reusing cutting room scrap that was otherwise destined for the landfill. It’s about discovering the origin of a material and staying as true to that as possible during every step of design and manufacturing.
The clothes in this collection represent a deeper dive into the progress we’ve already made—with materials like organic cotton and recycled polyester—but with less dyeing and processing, fewer virgin resources, and an even greater focus on craftsmanship. We call this work ‘responsible manufacturing,’ and it’s sure to bleed into what’s yet to come. You have to do it every day and eventually, maybe, you will get better. Failure comes the moment you say, ‘I’ve got this wired, nothing more to discover here.’”
Lead image credit: The talented Jeff Johnson
Thanks to you Natalie! Your willingness to embark on such a project was phenomenal. Olivia was a pleasure to work with on all the details and all of your colleagues did an amazing job during this “out of the box” project. Can’t wait to see what our next collaboration could be!
I ordered one of the multi-color style last week and now that I have it in hand, it’s clear that the Reclaimed Down Scarves are quite special. From the homely (NOT in the unattractive sense of the word) hand stitching and patches to the rescued Patagonia label complete with locker loop, my scarf is an aesthetically pleasing and thought-provoking piece.
One thing that should be shared with the world, though, is how many of each scarf were made. Then people can appreciate the limited edition nature of the project even more.
In any case, I’m looking forward to wearing my scarf and hope that Alabama Chanin and Patagonia collaborate again!
San Francisco, California
Two of my favorite companies working together – tracking my package as we speak…
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