Sustainability and Redhound
Sustainability - ‘the ability to continue or be continued for a long time’ (OED)
What does this mean to a business like ours? How are WE being sustainable?
It’s no secret that the clothing industry is a global polluter, a massive consumer of water and often responsible for working conditions that fall far short of acceptable in the 21st century.
I've always been passionate about British manufacture. I started my career in the clothing industry more than three decades ago, and I’ve seen a lot in that time. Working conditions so appalling that I've walked out, blatant copying of garments, and loads of waste fabric to name a few.
When we started Redhound in 2010 I made everything. I didn’t really have a plan, didn’t know what would happen, how it would grow, IF it would grow. But grow it did and the need to expand has happened at a pace we've managed, but with growth comes more challenges with sustainability.
I've always hated waste. Old enough to remember milk in glass bottles that were reused, and the days when the only place you could recycle paper, glass and cans was in a public car park. I've always been a supporter of second hand clothing and most purchases I make are considered for quality and longevity. Sustainability matters to me. So, here's what we are doing.
What do we do with the fabric scraps?
It is inevitable that there will be fabric waste. We minimise this waste as much as we can by:
- Using the bits too small for blankets or maybe damaged at the end of the roll, to create unique blankets that we auction for charity.
- The bits we can't use are incinerated by our local authority producing energy.
- Laying up the fabric in very tight lays and bulk cutting. This reduces the bits of fabric we can't use.
What about the fabrics we use?
We make many products from fleece. Yes, it's made from polyester, the fibre is made from petroleum derivates and then knitted into a durable, long lasting fabric. We balance this by using it to make garments of high quality that are long lasting if well cared for, and repairable if needed. If washed in a bag there is a significant reduction in the amount of micro-fibres that end up being flushed out into the drain. Try to brush off dirt when dry, to avoid washing too often.
Why can’t we find alternatives to this fabric?
For many years I've been searching for an alternative to fleece. Recently I thought I'd found it. Organic Cotton Fleece. I was so excited. BUT, having sampled it we found it’s not a viable alternative. The fibres shed, it does not make up as well and most importantly it shrinks when washed. The shrinkage itself could possibly be overcome if we could be sure it only shrank on the first wash, but, the fabric doesn't wear well and after one wash looks like it's many years old. Not the quality of garment that would be loved and used for many years.
Our products are high quality. Durability is a priority, and the cotton fleece simply is not an alternative to the one we currently use. If it continued shrinking in the wash it wouldn't be fit for purpose. This shrinkage issue also gives us a problem with use as a coat lining as it would put the coat out of shape after just one wash.
Fleece is incredibly effective at keeping out the chills on cold days and if your dog manages to rip their jumper, we do offer a repair service to prolong it's life.
We have been getting our waxed cotton from the same supplier for 13 years. They have a traditional way of fabric manufacture, going back 6 generations. Although the process of waxing the cotton takes a lot of energy it is still a natural fabric and the coats we make from it will last for many years, with potential to pass onto others if no longer needed. A well worn wax coat can be brought back to life with some elbow grease and the application of some wax cotton dressing.
Whip-it-Away Mac Fabric:
This cotton fabric is supplied by the same company we get the wax cotton from. They have developed this lightweight water resistant finish through skill and knowledge. When cutting our macs there is very little waste, the pattern pieces slot so neatly together. What we do throw away is incinerated.
Tee shirt Fabric:
We use Cotton Jersey, 95% premium cotton, 5% spandex which is necessary to allow the garment to stretch and keep its shape. It is Oeko-Tex certified.
“Oeko-Tex certifies non-hazardous end-products and all of their components. Products that carry the Standard 100 label have been tested and proven free of harmful levels of toxic substances.”
All our tee shirt fabrics carry this level of certification.
We moved away from imported quilted fabric, to have the fabric quilted in the UK, supporting another business as well as our fabric supplier. The quality is superior and we make clothes that are long lasting as well as washable, providing a very practical choice to whippet owners.
Do we use end of line fabric?
Fabric that might otherwise be wasted by large companies is passed onto fabric suppliers who offer it to businesses like ours. This fabric is referred to as ‘Dead Stock’
We use a lot of ‘Dead Stock’ fabric. By making it into practical clothing that will last, we minimise wastage. This is why certain items are made in limited runs – the Whitby Coat is a good example of this, we had one roll, when it was gone, it was gone! Currently the Whitstable Coats are made from fabric that would otherwise of been wasted, so, that too will be going soon.
And the packaging we use?
Most of our packaging is now compostable bags, and we are looking for alternatives to the plastic ones we do use for the bigger coats – these items have to be protected in transit and hopefully a new use for them can be found on delivery.
Your parcel is sent out in either: a compostable bag, a paper bag or a box. Should you need to return an item, please re-use the packaging.
So, if we go back to the definition of ‘sustainability’ we are continuing the life of fabrics by making garments that will last a long time. We have a repair services should your dog damage an item. We don’t make ‘throw away’ items, our prices reflect this, our products are not mass produced we just hold manageable amounts of stock. We sale off items that don’t sell well and everything is made within 20 miles of our studio.
In our Redhounders Facebook page we do twice monthly Swap it or Sell it posts where you can sell on items that no longer fit or aren't being worn. There is a healthy market in second hand Redhound clothing now, reducing waste.
We're not 100% but always looking at areas for improvement. Our biggest contribution is making quality items that can be worn on many whippet adventures then passed on when no longer needed.