It’s not enough.
There are great options for better apparel today. Gone are the days of counterposing highly technical apparel with sustainable apparel. That’s a false choice. Since our launch in 2014, we’ve looked at how we can continue to push forward our product offering to reduce our impact on our planet. We all need clothing, but what we choose to buy has a profound impact on not only its longevity, but the environmental cost in creating it.
You hear a lot from the industry around sustainability like “we’re thinking about doing this or we’re working on it or we’re researching it or whatever. That’s a cop out, frankly. - Brad Sheehan, CEO and designer of Velocio apparel.
Here’s what we do differently. Today.
Of all industries, apparel is among the most wasteful. 80% of all clothing ends up in a landfill or is incinerated within 3 years. 551,155 tons of plastic microfibers are estimated to pollute the ocean each year from washing clothes -- equivalent to the plastic pollution of more than 50 billion bottles. Addressing the waste created by the apparel industry is key to improving its lifecycle and sustainability.
Velocio Apparel is made in facilities using sustainable renewable energy (primarily solar) as a source for energy. Our focus today is on improving supply chain and raw materials. Through careful planning, we produce our apparel in small-batch quantities to conserve energy, to limit overstock and to reduce liquidation. (Hence we have less old or unused product waste as well.)
The choices we make are aimed to slow down the process, to push back against fast fashion and disposable kit. Each of our designs is aimed at longevity and sustained performance. Likewise, we strive for timeless visual designs since a great kit is a great kit whether new out-of-the-bag or in five years. Then there are the material choices that comprise our clothing.
Today, we’re using sustainable fabrics and resources. Our collection of apparel using recycled or natural fiber materials now comprises 100% of our Spring/Summer jersey line. Every jersey is either made primarily from recycled polyester (ocean trash from the EU - turned into new yarn in the EU) or natural fibers. We are pushing to expand these materials into our complete collection of bibs, tights and Fall/Winter line, though our Signature and Foundation collections already using recycled fabrics. Each of our suppliers is BlueSign and/or Oeko-tex certified.
Transportation and packaging is considered at every stage. We source yarns and fabrics proximate to the manufacturers of our finished goods to reduce transportation waste. Our distribution centers and their position is aimed at reducing time in the air for the most product efficiency to the end customer.
Using ocean freight and truck service whenever possible, versus air shipments, has a profound impact on carbon footprint and as a small brand, we’re pushing back on the get it now mentality that demands higher transportation waste.
A Better Package
We’ve reduced the amount of packaging we use and what it’s made out of - it’s the biggest driver in packages arriving to our customers in biodegradable bags and compostable mailers. We don’t do fancy elaborate packaging because we are willing to forego the unboxing experience to reduce the amount of waste. We’d rather the experience with our apparel be outside exploring the world around us.
As a part of my job, there’s a lot of gear that shows up on my door. When I started a few years ago actually just collecting all the plastic bags that apparel arrives in...a lot of the supermarkets will take plastic bags, I was amazed at how much there was. I’d fill a garbage bag in a month. The more I thought about it, the more disgusted I was with doing it. I think people don’t think about it a lot because maybe they only buy a couple of kits a year, they use only a handful of plastic bags but it’s overwhelming. - James Huang, CyclingTips Editor
There are often two of the same identical fabrics available for a piece of apparel: one recycled and one not. If you put them side by side, it makes no difference in the performance of the fabric, though there’s a false dichotomy between performance and sustainability. They last the same time. They work as well. The big difference is price. Recycled materials are often 20 to 30% more than virgin materials, which is why you’ve seen a slow transition. - Brad Sheehan
Our apparel costs more because it takes into account the total costs, the resources to make the item and yet, it’s a common point of contention with press reviews and customer reviews alike. Yet the carbon footprint of an inexpensive bib is the higher out of the gate due to the raw materials and they don’t last, resulting in more waste, more turnover
Velocio Apparel is made by manufacturing partners in Italy and central Europe owned by Stamperia Alicese, a family-owned sport apparel manufacturer with generations of experience. With EU labor regulations focused on four main tenets including individual labour rights, anti-discrimination regulations, rights to information, consultation, and participation at work, and rights to job security, Stamperia Alicese guarantees maternity and paternity leave, a paid day off weekly, four weeks of paid vacation, holiday and sick leave.
Furthermore, Stamperia has aimed to improve its own carbon footprint, introducing a solar panel array to supply energy to the factory in 2007 and solar hot water heaters the same year.
Every new machine we acquire is evaluated for energy savings and material waste reduction. We’re seeing a growing demand for a more sustainable product, not just in the factory but an increase in the textiles available. We’re seeing an increase in recycled materials but also on biodegradable materials. - Graziella Salussolia, Stamperia Alicese, Velocio’s manufacturing partner.
There is a better way. As a consumer you have the power to effect demand, to affect the supply chain with more biodegradable and thoughtful materials and, perhaps most importantly, to affect the rise of a circular industry for apparel. Demand and buy high quality products that last, and ways of recycling and repurposing what we do use. We need apparel, but we don’t need to produce apparel the way that we do.
The average consumer in the global north buys 60% more clothing than we bought 20 years ago. - Aja Barber, Fashion and Sustainability consultant, Activist, Writer.
Furthermore, demand a manufacturing “cost” label system that goes on every product you buy. Much like a nutritional or energystar label, having a system to inform the customer of the true cost (meaning the resources required, as well as the expense) to produce that product will give light to how to reduce waste, carbon footprints and excess material. A system to include several categories: materials, transportation, ethics/social responsibility and energy consumption need to be reflected in a score. This would allow consumers a more transparent look at what they are buying - not just the cost to them when they make their purchase.
I’ve found that if you’re willing to strip away what’s considered the norm, there’s a lot of room for innovation and better product. It’s what motivates me and why we’ve been able to produce some really unique products over the years. For sure as the collection grows, this makes my job more challenging, but the fundamentals remain, and that’s rider-focused design-- making that design as category leading in sustainable sourcing is as crucial to making it as category leading in performance. - Brad Sheehan