RALEIGH — Every piece of clothing has a story. Maybe it’s the old New Kids on the Block concert T-shirt from 1988, the jersey from a Little League sports team, the denim jacket that took two months to save for, or grandfather’s flannel shirt.
These clothes tell your story, and now there’s a unique way to turn them into something new while still holding close to your memories. There’s a way to help them be reborn.
“Many people own clothing of personal and nostalgic value,” said Emily Neville. “Instead of sitting in the back of a closet, there are ways to turn them into something new, that can be used in a sustainable way,”
Neville, 19, of Linden, is a sophomore at NC State University. She’s a Park Scholar majoring in political science with a double minor in entrepreneurship and French. She’s also the CEO of Reborn Clothing Co.
The company, run by Neville and fellow NC State students, is geared toward reducing textile waste by taking your favorite clothing items and repurposing them into items such as laptop sleeves or tote bags, updates to your blue jeans and roll-up pencil or makeup brush cases.
“Before I launched Reborn Clothing Co., I started having a real interest in sustainable and ethical fashion,” said Neville. “I wondered how clothes were made and had a shift in attitude toward sustainability.
“The thing that I had been doing in my own closet for years — updating items and transforming them into something else I could use — there was nothing like that on the market,” she added. “I think, because of my entrepreneurial spirit, I realized there was a need to reduce textile waste, get into the sustainable textile market and really make sustainability personable.”
Sustainable textiles may be a new concept for many. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that textile waste occupies nearly 5 percent of all landfill space. While the textile recycling industry recycles approximately 3.8 billion pounds of post-consumer textile waste each year, this only accounts for 15 percent of all post-consumer textile waste, leaving 85 percent in the landfills. Another staggering statistic: the average individual throws away 70 pounds of clothing and other textile waste annually.
“The fashion industry is lagging behind other industries, such as the food industry, in sustainability,” said Neville. “We are really paying attention to what we are putting into our bodies, and now grocery stores are offering organic products. Consumers wanted it and so it was added. Consumers really push the market. I don’t think we’re there yet in the fashion industry.
“When people hear I am majoring in political science and starting a fashion company, they think it really doesn’t line up. I think it does,” she continued. “We vote with our wallets. If everyone cared as much about clothing as they did food, you could see a shift in sustainable, ethical and fair-trade fashion. As a society, we have to shift away from the ‘buy, throw away, buy, throw away,’ mentality.”
It’s the reuse and recycle mentality that helped launch Reborn Clothing. Instead of shopping for something new and buying randomly, consumers have the option to select, design and see the value in something they already have.
Neville brought students from the NCSU College of Textiles to join her team to complete patterns, sewing designs and product development. The consumer provides the garment, selects the product of choice and the team takes care of the rest. The team completes the redesign in two weeks.
Reborn Clothing Co. officially launched earlier this month, however, they’ve been around since earlier this year crowdfunding, spreading the word through social media, running DIY workshops on campus, and participating as a vendor at the NCSU Campus Farmer’s Market.
“We try to make every product custom,” said Neville. “As a brand-new company, Reborn will continue to evolve.”
As of Jan. 1, 2018, consumers will be able to place orders online, ship their garment to the company and have it shipped back reborn.
When you’ve received your new garment in return, Neville said, “You can tell people the story behind what you are wearing.”