When Dissolvable Thread Meets Customized Jeans: One Step Closer to Closing the Loop
The Mills Fabrica’s incubatee, unspun, launched its collaboration with the Belgian innovative startup Resortecs last year, using Resortecs’ dissolvable stitching threads to sew jeans crafted specifically for each customer using unspun’s proprietary 3D scanning technology. The collaboration between these two startups combines two cutting-edge technologies and introduces an option for buying jeans that is one step closer to closing the loop. But how does this contribute to the circular economy? We interviewed the founders to talk us through the impact of this disruptive collaboration.
WHAT MADE RESORTECS AND UNSPUN COLLABORATE WITH EACH OTHER?
C: Resortecs saw that the most difficult part of disassembling jeans is removing the seams, buttons, or labels from garments for reuse. Removing seams from garments must be done manually. This is time and cost consuming, a big bump in the road when trying to remake garments so that materials aren’t wasted. Resortecs solves this problem with a remarkable innovation: a sewing thread that can be sewn on with traditional machinery but dissolves at 200 degrees Celsius. Unspun is in business to flip the fashion paradigm through automated and intentional manufacturing. With Resortecs’ dissolvable stitching thread, unspun is one step closer to closing the fashion gap.
W: We do not want to produce products that end up in landfills. Instead, we both tend to intentionally produce on-demand products, and this has always been the strategy of unspun. We realized that our customers would ask us about the post-consumption treatment every time we launch a new product, making us contemplate the recycling process. Like Resortecs says, we cannot recycle fabrics and garment accessories without extra steps to break them down. Therefore, we adopted Resortecs’ threads in our jeans.
“Running a sustainable fashion business is not only about environmental impact – we also need to design flattering products to please our customers.”
WHAT IS THE IMPACT OF THIS COLLABORATION ON THE ENVIRONMENT?
W: Normally, we need to put jeans through a chemical recycling process before shredding them into small pieces and turning them into new yarn. However, by using Resortecs’ dissolvable threads, we can leave out the chemical recycling process and do not need to consume water and chemicals during the entire course of recycling . We can simply use the entire piece of recycled fabric to produce new products. As a startup, we have very limited resources to measure environmental impact. Resortecs is based in Europe, where environmental regulation is far more progressive than in Hong Kong. The talent pool for sustainability in Europe is deeper as well. This collaboration made us reflect and assess how our product’s lifecycle creates a positive impact on the environment.
C: The dissolvable stitching thread will help reduce water consumption, land transformation, use of fertilizer and the release of hazardous waste by simply saving more raw material sourced from recycled clothing. When adopted at a larger scale and in cooperation with recycling companies, this solution will have an even bigger positive socio-economic impact on local communities worldwide – especially those affected by overproduction. The production and disposal of a pair of jeans can emit 28 kg of CO2. With unspun’s 3D weaving technology and on-demand production, paired with Resortecs’ dissolvable stitching thread, we can reduce that number to 13 kg of CO2. Cyclical production that considers the entire lifecycle of a garment is the way of the future. For a more detailed report on the environmental impact achieved together with unspun, I invite you to check our white paper available at https://resortecs.com/lca-rebirth/.
WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES IF AN INNOVATIVE STARTUP WANTS TO COMMERCIALIZE ITS SOLUTIONS?
C: The challenge for an innovative startup to commercialize its solutions is two-fold: the production and the sales. It can be quite challenging to manage production quality issues during scaling and to organize your business around minimum order/production quantities while still closing the first sales.
With regards to brands and manufacturers, there is still a lot of education required in order to prove the potential of a circular supply chain model. We also need to manage our own and customers’ expectations. We are only able to solve part of the problem; we are not recyclers and our threads are not compatible with all production processes, materials and/or applications. Nevertheless, the goal is still to work towards full industrial adoption and to build a long-term relationship with our customers. By only setting up a small capsule collection with new technology, we will not be able to unlock the full potential of the method and process. Medium and long-term visions are required to go beyond the fascination of the newness of our offering.
“Medium and long-term visions are required to go beyong the fascination of the newness of our offerings.”
HOW ABOUT THIS COLLABORATION? WHAT PROBLEMS HAVE RESORTECS AND UNSPUN SOLVED TOGETHER?
W: Most of the time, we tested the usability of the products, ensuring the threads do not come off after stitching. Other than that, we also needed to make sure that the jeans will still be durable after our customers wash them repeatedly. Additionally, we need to consider the aesthetics of the jeans. We found that the threads untwisted when we produced the sample, but it did not stop us from testing it iteratively. We also made sure that the product was ready to sell by the launch date, while considering whether our supply chain would be overwhelmed by the iterative prototyping.
When two startups collaborate, it is important to compromise and accommodate each other. Since Resortecs only produces white threads, we needed to match the right color fabric for it to look appealing to our customers. Running a sustainable fashion business is not only about environmental impact – we also need to design flattering products to please our customers.
WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM THE COLLABORATION?
C: Collaborating with small innovative brands with a shared vision help us to validate the potential and relevance of our offering. Moreover, it helps bigger companies devise possible ways of implementing, communicating and valorizing the innovative Resortecs process of assembly and disassembly.
W: In the collaboration, we do not only see customers of unspun but also those of our partners who we can apply the user-centric approach to. For instance, our customers can see their scanned avatar when they use our 3D scanning technology. Some people are more confident about their body figure, while a few of our partners told us that others do not feel comfortable when they see their body shape. It makes us realize that our business’ proposition only covers a part of our prospective customer-base.
“The Collaboration made us reflect and assess how our product’s lifecycle creates a positive impact on the environment.”
Resortecs produces a dissolvable stitching thread for easy repair and recycling of garments. Used in attaching trimmings, such as zippers, buttons and fasteners, the threads are aimed at garment repair, recycling and reusing materials from unsold stock and dissolve when exposed to heat.
Unspun is an on-demand apparel company that uses 3D scanning and fit algorithms to generate digital consumer sizing. Using the 3D information, they create a pair of customised jeans that fit perfectly through 3D weaving.
Image Courtesy: Resortecs, unspun