By Ellen Saville, Creative Director, The Endery
A large contributor to fashion's waste problem is the pre-consumer textile waste also known as fabric liability or deadstock fabric. Tons and tons of deadstock fabric is collecting dust in factories and ateliers around the world and if we start sourcing it, it could begin to reduce the amount of raw materials in demand and therefore the strain we put on the planet. One of the easiest categories to implement this strategy is knits, since deadstock yarn is still unspun and much easier to mold into the designs you need. "We see leftover production materials happen in real time, to the tune of at least 15+ tons of yarn per year in Peru alone," says Ellen, who has spent many years working production in Peru. This experience prompted her to create a solution with her newly launched deadstock sweater brand The Endery co-founded with Kelly Phenicie.
1 | What made you start this brand?
Well for starters we both have great relationships with the best yarn suppliers and factories in Peru (and as knitting manufacturers in own own right), we realized the problem of leftovers is both an issue in our own workshop and also much further afield. Peru, being a producer of high end luxury fibers, has some pretty great leftovers - a whopping 15+ tons of yarn per year in Peru alone. Warehouses full of wonderful material with nowhere to go! Faced with this mounting pile of discarded yarn (and as self-confessed experts of high-end fibers), we became more and more motivated to take the leftovers and give them meaning, creating something beautiful and lasting.
2 | How did you go about setting up your supply chain?
Green Design Link is the manufacturing part of the brand - in fact The Endery is the in-house brand of Green Design Link. Kelly, as the managing director of the company, has helped set up a network of passionate artisan entrepreneurs who have started their own workshops. Green Design Link is also certified Peru Fair Trade issued through PROMPERU - we work with over 1000 knitters who are majority women and work from their homes. We are currently involved with Nest to certify our supply chain.
3 | What has been hard about choosing an ethical/sustainable path?
Designing from leftovers is a pretty challenging. It means working backwards, using up what already exists and very limited quantities of each color. However, learning to see this in a new way meant that color and nuances of tone and shade and really creating something with ‘flexible and responsive color’ - we found that designs would have to be more conceptual and fluid. Punchy, bright graphic intarsia layouts lended well to the cause, and the design concept of pinwheels, movement and changing the system from the bottom up.
4 | What would you go back and do differently if you could?
We would have spoken to the designers in charge of their collections who inadvertently produced the leftovers for Alpaca Series I! It would have been great to have changed a shade here and there. However, this has been a part of the process which has been most illuminating and the most interesting part.
5 | What are some extra ways you seek to be more ethical and sustainable?
Using deadstock yarns and using manual machines, with fair trade knitters is a product we can really stand behind as being as sustainable as we could possibly make. However, we would also like to use material which is undyed so that no harmful chemical dyes have been used in the process at all.
6 | Where do you see the brand going in the future?
Given the magnitude of deadstock, we have our sights on bigger projects, like becoming a waste sourcing platform. With many brands now setting their sights on sustainability and a rising interest in using discarded, deadstock materials, we can provide both the sourcing of materials and expert suppliers to make high quality knitwear. We intend to create ‘series’ to use up what we can source, based on seasons and availability. We also want to collaborate with some cool brands and designers in the future. While the fashion industry continues to produce so much waste, there will be a need for The Endery!
If you are interested in exploring your manufacturing options in other countries like Peru, request to join the beta of our Ethical Manufacturing Platform.