Truth to Materials honors the purest form of a material possible, be it minimally processed cashmere and wool, or going beyond organic by reusing cutting room scrap that might otherwise be discarded. It's about discovering the origin of a material and staying as true to that as possible during every step of design and manufacturing.
The clothes in this collection represent a deeper dive into the progress we've already made-with materials like organic cotton and recycled polyester-but with less dyeing and processing, fewer virgin resources and an even greater focus on craftsmanship. We call this work "responsible manufacturing" and it's sure to bleed into what's yet to come. You have to do it every day and eventually, maybe, you will get better. Failure comes the moment you say, "I've got this wired, nothing more to discover here."
Mongolian nomads have long known that the key to keeping their grasslands healthy is moving their herds and maintaining a proper ratio of goats to sheep. Goats eat grass roots, sheep do not. In order to keep native grasses on the plus side of regeneration, they have, for millennia, raised more sheep than goats. But it's the goats that produce cashmere.
In recent decades, Mongolia has expanded its global trade connections and the world's love of cashmere has put pressure on herders and their traditions. Fewer sheep and more cashmere-producing goats are being introduced into herds. The result is overgrazing; Mongolia Plateau grasslands are in danger of desertification.
In hopes of turning the tide on this trend, we are in the first stages of a partnership with NOYA Fibers, a small group of passionate people working with The Nature Conservancy to improve the future of the Mongolia Plateau region. Building on the work done by existing herder cooperatives, NOYA is raising awareness about the importance of sustainable grazing and developing quality standards and supply chain traceability.
Our undyed cashmere is hand-harvested by goat herders who brush their flocks as they shift grazing grounds according to the seasons. The colors of the yarns-whites, browns and tans-are as nature intended. The end result is a material untouched by the process of fiber dyeing which gives the material an even softer hand and lessens the use of water, chemicals and energy. Patagonia makes a Men's Undyed Cashmere Snap-T® Pullover and a Women's Undyed Cashmere Cardigan.
Too often, the life of a cotton garment, whether it's conventional or organic, ends at the landfill. Growing, spinning and weaving leads to cutting and construction and that leads to consumer use which eventually can lead to the dump. Factoring organic farming practices into the equation is certainly preferable to industrial agriculture, but farming still uses a lot of water and leaves a carbon footprint from preparing the soil, cultivation and harvest.
Thanks to a partnership with the TAL Group, one of the larger garment manufacturers in the world, we have been able to take cotton consumption and twist it closer to the elusive closed-loop. Since 2011, the TAL Group has been saving their cotton scraps by sweeping the floors of their factories in China and Malaysia—saving hundreds of tons of useable cotton in the process.
This cutting-room scrap is then spun into fully functional fabrics. Basically, the leftovers from 16 virgin cotton shirts can be turned into one reclaimed cotton shirt. When you consider the volume of work being done at the TAL Group's facilities, it adds up to a lot of saved resources.
Reclaimed cotton is neither bleached nor dyed and is traceable from raw material to retail store. We blend this unique fiber with virgin organic cotton in the Men's Reclaimed Cotton Hoody and Women's Reclaimed Cotton Crew.
Figli di Michelangelo Calamai was founded in 1878, roughly 100 years before the birth of the environmental movement. Calamai is dedicated to producing reclaimed wool. The finished product uses garments and manufacturing scrap and blends them into a variety of knits, weaves and weights as well as textures. Bernardo Calamai, great-grandson of the founders, manages the Calamai Tech Fabrics line today.
Bernardo's family first started producing reclaimed wool fabrics in a small warehouse in Prato, Italy. Two brothers (one was 15 years old and the other 18) selected used garments and shredded and cut them into reclaimed fibers before they were sent to be spun into yarns. It was a different time back then, a poorer world. They wanted to make fabrics that were less expensive and more affordable to a greater number of people.
Today, the labor costs and market demands behind a product like reclaimed wool are not as they were before. For Calamai, the motivator is no longer economics; it is the ecology of this world. They don't want to waste and throw away used garments or second-choice fabric or scrap material because it will just end up in the landfill. "I am glad to work with a team like Patagonia," says Bernardo. "Patagonia has always had a special open mind to what you can do with reclaimed and recycled fibers. We truly care about the products we make, and it has always been my personal pleasure to work alongside a company with a philosophy so similar to our own."
The reclaimed wool used by Patagonia is made from discarded wool sweaters that are shred into usable fiber-just like the early days-and mixed with polyester and nylon for strength. From this material we made the Women's Reclaimed Wool Parka and the Men's Reclaimed Wool Jacket.
Patagonia has partnered with designer and artisan Natalie Chanin, of Alabama Chanin, for a one-of-a-kind reclaimed down project. Damaged, returned down jackets (that cannot be repaired) have been collected in bales in Patagonia's shipping warehouse for years through our Common Threads Partnership recycling program. Together with the artisan quilters of Alabama Chanin, we have developed a warm and wearable work of art that masquerades as a scarf.
"Creating these scarves is powerful in that we are giving new life to something old, something with history-and maybe passing on to the next user some of the energy or experiences in those old Patagonia coats," says Natalie. "The scarves are, in their own way, already heirlooms because they are being passed down from one person
Unlike the Worn Wear™ stories we receive from our customers, we will never know who owned the jackets, if they loved them, how much they wore them or what happened in their lives when they did. The new owner has license to imagine that their scarf has (in its prior incarnation) summited a mountain or sailed around the world. And she will add value to the scarf with each wear, writing new chapters in the object's life. "Imagine if these scarves could talk," Natalie says, "the stories they could tell."
Made from recycled polyester and insulated with goose down, Patagonia® Reclaimed Down Scarves are as warm and long-lasting as the garments from which they were made. Each scarf is a numbered, limited edition.
Let the materials shine in their own light. Don't fight them; let them do what they naturally want to do.
Claire Chouinard Co-designer of the Truth to Materials collection