Upcycling + Recycling

Nobody needs new clothes right now. But everyone needs the right clothes. So we make them.

The initiatives on this page speak to our love of clothes and our efforts to reduce waste in our creative process. Whenever possible we aim to increase the life of a garment. We treasure everything we make, and we want our customers to do the same. Here’s how we are tackling textile waste in our supply chain, from upcycling to recycling to everything in between.

On this page, you will learn:

  • What we are doing:
    How we tackle pre-consumer waste, from recycling textile scraps to upcycling unsold inventory
  • What you can do:
    How you can extend the life of your Alex Mill goods
  • How we can work together:
    What we can do to keep clothing out of landfills

What We Are Doing:

Remaking Unsold Inventory

As part of our ongoing project to extend the life of clothing, we find ways to bring our unsold inventory back into the creative process. To date, we’ve upcycled 982 garments into one-of-a-kind designs.
  • Of that 982…
  • 547 garments have been transformed into one-of-a-kind pieces with botanical dyes. Since Spring 2019, we’ve worked with local artist Maddie Provost to overdye medium- to light-colored clothing from our overstock using colors from nature.
  • 222 garments have been overdyed with plant-based indigo by Green Matters Natural Dye Company. Shop the collection here.
  • 123 garments have been tie dyed into one-of-a-kind wearable works of art in collaboration with an NYC-based artist. Shop the collection here.
  • 90 garments have been stamped with original block print designs in collaboration with IXV Coffee and Studio Bagru.
  • We’ve used 54 t-shirts from our overstock for our in-store workshops, which range from block printing to botanical dyeing. These are given to workshop participants to be transformed into unique designs with botanical dyes and block prints.
  • We do not incinerate or landfill unsold inventory. Each season, we inevitably have leftover garments that are not suitable for reworking. These are sold to off-price retailers or are held in our archives for sample sale.

Reusing Excess Fabric From Our Factories

At the factory level, we are always looking for ways to reuse our leftover sampling yardage. During the fabric ordering process, brands have to meet minimum quantities for sampling yardage which is typically 50 yards. So much fabric is wasted at this stage, but there is no available data on the scope of pre-consumer textile waste at an industrial level.
  • Since Spring 2019 we’ve used almost all of our leftover shirting sample yardage to make reusable travel-size laundry bags which we include free with purchase for our customers. To date, we’ve made 2,350 bags with this project.
  • We make masks with our leftover fabric in partnership with IXV Coffee. To date, we’ve made 284 masks.
  • We save all prototypes from the design development process. 115 of those proto samples are currently in development to be re-worked.
  • In an effort to meet fabric minimums and reduce waste, we garment dye our clothes. This means that instead of ordering 50 yards of fabric per color, we order 50 yards total of undyed fabric and then choose our colors after the garments are sewn.

Recycling + Reusing Textile Scraps Locally

We partner with FABSCRAP to collect, recycle, and track our pre-consumer textile scraps from our office in NYC. This includes all textiles from the design process that would otherwise end up in the trash.
  • Since July 2018, Alex Mill has saved an estimated 768lbs of fabric from landfill by working with FABSCRAP.
  • This saved 5.64 tons of CO2 and is the equivalent of planting about 85 trees.
  • FABSCRAP is a 501(c)3 non-profit, and part of their mission is to collect and publish data on pre-consumer textile waste. They are the first in the world to measure this category of waste.
  • Textiles that don’t go to FABSCRAP are used as swatches for dye techniques and for our in-store workshops.

Rethinking Our Fabrics

In Fall 2020 we launched a partnership with The New Denim Project to use their beautiful 100% upcycled cotton fabrics from their zero-waste textile facility in Guatemala. Please read more about their innovative and important work here.
Additional Resources
Here are some great resources to learn more about the scope of the waste problem in our industry: Books:
  • Waste and Want: A Social History of Trash by Susan Strasser
  • Wardrobe Crisis: How We Went From Sunday Best to Fast Fashion by Clare Press
  • Clothing Poverty: The Hidden World of Fast Fashion and Second-hand Clothes by Andrew Brooks
Why Are Our Numbers Small?
You may notice that our statistics on this page are relatively small. Here’s why:
  • We don’t make that much to begin with.
  • Our goal is not to increase the amount of textile scraps recycled or the number of leftover garments reworked. Our goal is to make less waste in the first place. If our numbers increase, it means we’ve generated more waste.

What You Can Do:

Make it Last

To support our mission of extending the life of clothes, we aim to educate our customers on how to care for our products in the most environmentally friendly way.
  • Wear + love it for a long time: We don’t have a take back program for this very reason.
  • Wash only when necessary!
  • Use non-toxic detergents to protect your fabrics—chemicals break down natural fibers over time and contribute to visible wear.
  • Avoid fabric softeners as they contribute to fabric deterioration and are comprised of chemicals that do some pretty nasty things to the environment.
  • Almost all of our goods can be hand or machine washed. If dry cleaning is absolutely necessary, we recommend working with a dry cleaner that doesn’t use the toxic chemical PERC. (Note: companies often recommend “dry clean only” to items that can really be washed in order to avoid liability.)
  • You can always reach out to us for advice on care and repair. In some cases we will even mend an item and send it back to you! Reach out to our Help Team: help@alexmill.com.
  • For more information on care, please visit our page here.

Shop Vintage

We are constantly inspired by vintage clothing—we frequently mix in our favorite pieces when styling our photoshoots.
  • We rework vintage clothing to become one-of-a-kind designs sold in limited edition collections. Watch our Instagram for special sales on reworked vintage pieces.
  • We also collect and re-sell vintage pieces we love in our Soho store.
  • See below for our favorite clothing resellers.
Other Resources
  • Our favorite vintage store: Front General Store in Brooklyn, NY @frontgeneralstore
  • Our favorite online reseller: Object Limited @object.limited
  • For thoughtful laundering, we love the gentle detergents made by Celsious @celsious.social, microfiber catchers like the Cora Ball @thecoraball, and wool dryer balls.

We Want to Hear from You!

We are at the beginning of our sustainability journey and we would love to hear from you. Comments, questions, suggestions? Please reach out to our sustainability director Brittany: brittany@alexmill.com