Textile waste isn’t something you normally think about. But according to the Environmental Protection Agency, you should. The U.S. produces about 15 million tons of textile waste per year, with each American throwing out an average of 80 lbs. of used clothing. The answer, as far as Kristy Caylor saw it, was recycling. So she started For Days, a startup that both sells and recycles clothes.
The idea was this: When it comes to your wardrobe, there are certain items you have to replace over and over again. Socks, T-shirts and underwear have a much shorter lifespan than, say, jackets and pants. For Days treats clothing as a subscription–when you buy one T-shirt you have access to a year’s worth of renewals for a fraction of the price. Not to mention your old items are recycled, which is a win-win for not just the company but the world.
Textile waste is rampant but most clothing is hard to recycle. That’s because textiles tend to be made from blended fabrics – A cotton item usually will be mixed with polyester, making it difficult to turn into something new. Organic cotton, while recyclable, is more expensive, and thus most companies opt for these cheaper blends. A used T-shirt, therefore, will most likely end up in a landfill, while the process of creating polyester fabrics leads to excess water waste and CO2.
Even when clothing is sustainable, however, it’s the responsibility of the consumer to recycle it. When recycling is inconvenient, people tend to not do it at all. That means a sustainable clothing company has to provide and easy recycling program if it truly wants to be sustainable. Otherwise, you’re just making nicer trash.
The Closed-loop System
CEO Kristy Caylor describes For Days as a “closed loop system,” meaning the company takes responsibility for the entire life cycle of any given item. The clothes are first produced in a Los Angeles factory out of 100% organic U.S. cotton using environmentally responsible dyes. The company pays for shipping and returning used items. In other words, producing and recycling is entirely the responsibility of the company itself.
The system is simple: One T-shirt costs $38 which covers one year of renewals. Each replaced item costs $8, with shipping free of charge. You can also buy three T-shirts for $108, six for $210, and $340 for ten. The company is starting with T-shirts alone, “because they are one of the most historically iconic items of clothing and span generation, gender, and culture,” according to Caylor. Caylor plans to expand to other basics once the company has grown, such as socks and underwear.
This is not Kristy Caylor’s first foray into sustainable clothing. Before working at Gap and Band of Outsiders she helped launch the sustainable clothing brand Maiyet. Since then she has worked with the United Nations, Nest, the CFDA+Lexus Fashion Initiative and the World Economic Forum. She co-founded For Days along with Mary Saunders, who also worked at Gap and Maiyet.
So far For Days has had three rounds of funding, collecting a total of $2.5M. The last round was led by venture capitalist groups Rosecliff Ventures and Collaborative Fund, with additional investments coming from Congruent Ventures, Third Prime Capital, and other mostly New York based groups.
For Days and Days to come?
The vision is ambitious: Caylor wants to change the way we think about clothes, even property, seeing an item as borrowed rather than owned. According to the company about 1,500 lbs. of clothing has moved through its closed-loop system, saving 2,400 lbs of CO2 and 235,000 gallons of water in the process. If all goes well, For Days will expand into other basics, such as socks and underwear. All in all Caylor wants to “shift what consumers expect from products and the companies that make them.” That means creating a world where recycling is the responsibility of the producer, not the consumer.
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