In the apparel industry business model, the creation of new product equals economic growth. Yet there is an astounding divergence between the number of new items produced and the number of items that are used. Each year, we throw away 10.5 million tons of textiles in the United States alone. That’s 68 pounds of clothing per person.
Changing the existing take-make-waste system is a hard and necessary challenge. There is another way to make change though. One that we whole-heartedly support: Founding companies that start with circular principles from the very beginning. Brands that recognize the considerable damage the industry makes. Brands that use design, sourcing, and distribution in order to chart a healthy path that respects economic growth and environmental impact. Brands like our newest partner, Myles Apparel.
I had a chance to sit down with CEO Adam Sidney to talk about what it means to take the first steps in creating a brand focused on the long-term alignment of the health of people and planet.
When we started The Renewal Workshop, we wanted to work with brands who saw where the industry needs to go, given a resource-constrained world. And when we first met and you shared your inspirations of what kind of brand Myles Apparel could be, we talked about Natural Capitalism. Can you share what you think that means for an apparel brand, and about how it influences you?
Natural Capitalism to me simply means that business must operate within the realities of the natural world, or that natural world will stop working for us. A lot of the history of capitalism is about ignoring those realities. The notion that there are endless resources, and that disposing of whatever we don’t want any more has no negative consequences, is very silly to me, and I think a lot of consumers and brands are coming to feel the same way. It’s not as simple as just changing accounting practices or something like that, but rather taking into consideration the real effect of industries on the environment and human wellbeing, I think that would lead to a very different view of what “economic growth” is. Economic growth has to come from somewhere, I just would like to be part of the solution for how we can pull it off without creating so much waste. So, in that sense, Natural Capitalism means figuring out how to make “green” policies a part of the economic growth story, and not an impediment or reversing growth. That could mean redefining how we do a lot of things in the industry, and I frankly find that exciting.
Circular, or the idea of a zero-waste supply chain, is at the core of The Renewal Workshop’s mission and how we serve our brand partners. We think a lot about where products come from and all of the phases those clothes will go through throughout their entire lifecycle. How does this align with Myles Apparel?
I like to say, “we're in this for the long run.” So when I think about our product [primarily activewear] and brand and relationship with our customers, the foundation is in the idea that fitness is a lifetime journey, and Myles wants to be with you for it every step of the way. We just want to think about what we can do to help both the customer and the planet stay healthy and happy for as long as possible. Tangibly, that means we try hard to build durable activewear meant to last for decades, and we try to use recycled, reusable, or organic materials. We do other things, like offset carbon for our shipments, but I think offering high-quality gear that lasts longer is the most impactful thing we can do.
You just recently launched a new program called Extra Myles, can you share a bit more about what this program is and what it means for your customers?
With the Extra Myles program (#ExtraMyles), we'll take back used Myles items for the life of the garment. This is where our partnership with The Renewal Workshop fits in. If a customer has a well-worn pair of shorts, for example, doesn’t really wear them anymore and is cleaning out his closet, we’ll pay for their return to The Renewal Workshop because we think there’s probably a lot more life in them if we just get creative. We may offer that customer an incentive for a next order with Myles to replace that garment, or offer to make a donation in his name to a relevant charity. What I love about The Renewal Workshop is that you’ll find the best next use for those shorts, either as a “renewed” garment we can resell at a lower price, or as materials for upcycling or recycling feedstock. What we’re really trying to avoid is any Myles making it into landfill or ocean. We are making a real attempt to shift towards a circular business.
As a CEO you are asking different questions about the role of a brand and its products in your customers’ lives. It feels that this is something deeply personal to you. What drives your desire to build a company that is on a journey with a desire to create a better planet?
It’s so hard to consume any media these days without seeing dire predictions about the planet. I am not a scientist or a politician or a lot of other things that could probably make a bigger impact on these problems, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t do what I can in my own purview. This is my first stint as a CEO. I’ve always looked for meaning outside of financial success in my previous roles, so now as the leader at Myles, it’s simply important to me and our team to have a purpose. And this idea of enjoying the outdoors and the natural world isn’t a new one here. You can see from our brand imagery and photography that we’re a group of people who love to be outside. So when we sat down together to talk about what we cared about, this was at the top of everyone’s list, along with mental and overall physical health. We boiled it down eventually to this notion of longevity. We as a company and as individuals want to be around a long time, we want our customers to be around a long time, and we want to enjoy a planet for a long time. And we can do a lot as a brand to authentically make progress on all those things while also, we hope, being prosperous.
Learn more about #ExtraMyles and all the great Myles options here.