Can you create comfortable and stylish clothing made from recyclable items?
Whether you are 8 years old or 80 years old we are all taught to recycle, but many people are confused about what happens to that recycled material after you put it in the recycling bin. The Charlotte based company Recover Brands uses their clothing business to spread their knowledge on sustainability to people all over the Carolinas. CLT tales caught up with co-founder Bill Johnston to discuss his journey and passion for growing Recover Brands and where he believes the current market for sustainable products will bring his company and the expansion of sustainable fashion.
How it began
In the fall of 2009, Bill Johnston needed a road bike. John Riddle had one to sell. Bill, an outdoor educator and John, a veteran textile manufacturer began riding together. On their rides, the two discussed their passions about taking care of the planet and sustainability.
The two decided to create high-quality, comfortable clothing using recycled materials. Polyester from plastic soda bottles. Cotton from cutting floor scraps. They also decided to develop a 360° process of creating this apparel that would minimize dyes; significantly reduce the use of chemicals, water and energy; and completely eliminate plastic packaging. 6 years later, Recover Brands remains just as passionate about their mission of sustainability and providing high-quality product.
The good and the not so good
One of the best parts of starting Recover Brands for Bill is watching his business grow. The progress that Recover brands has made over time is one of the things that excites Bill the most. In addition, Bill feels that the potential for where his company will grow in the future is also one of the best parts of having a business. “I’m really excited to take the next steps. Being so personally invested in something you are working on is really exciting, and it makes your day to day work not feel like work,” says Bill.
Although starting Recover Brands has been mostly positive, Bill has experienced quite a few obstacles while growing his business. To him, the biggest challenge he experienced in the beginning was a lack of interest in sustainable products from the public. Today, there is a much greater following for sustainable clothing. “I think it has a lot to do with the general public understanding what climate change is and understanding the impacts that it is having on natural disasters and their everyday lives,” says Bill. Even though the lack of understanding from many people had been an obstacle, Bill believes that people are continuing to grow their understanding on this and realize that they can have an impact on these issues when they buy responsibly sourced products.
When it comes to sustainability, it is said that millennials are the most engaged. This remains true for the consumers of Recover Brands and sustainable apparel. “Millennials are the most engaged in sustainable products and purchasing from responsible sources,” explains Bill. Due to the lack of knowledge that some previous generations before have on sustainability, there is a learning curve for older individuals. As bill explains, “Although more people are aware of recycling, many are not aware of how you can live sustainability in other ways, like buying sustainable products.”
One of the main goals Recover Brand has for their consumers is to educate them on living sustainably to help themselves and the planet. “Whether you are looking at it from an environmental standpoint or a personal health standpoint,” says Bill, “there is a lot of benefit to buying products where you are informed on where and how it was made. Whether you are purchasing food or buying a product that will be sitting on your skin, being an educated consumer will benefit a person’s health. “I think it is really important for people to be engaged and to know where those products are sourced. It’s important to know if the company you are purchasing clothes from is supporting cheap labor and other harmful initiatives,” says Bill.
Branding Recover Brands
For Recover Brands, sustainability and supporting environmental initiatives is their back bone and why they started the company in the first place. “We tend to focus our branding around supporting initiatives that matter to us. We do brand to promote and support our clothing, but we also do it to teach others about living a healthy lifestyle. We approach our branding with a very grassroots and authentic style,” says Bill. A lot of the photos used on their website and in their other branded materials are photos they have taken themselves. “We brand Recover Brands in a way that is very personal to us, which reflects our closeness to the brand. We chose to narrow our market to markets that we care about and know a lot about. We want to really be a part of the brand,” Bill responded proudly.
Clothes and more
Recover Brands has apparel for men, women and youth. There are long sleeve and short sleeve options as well as multiple collections to browse and choose from. Looking for something other than clothing? Check out Recover Brands accessories!
Since there are many people who are not yet involved in this market, Recover Brands made sure to create a product that would appeal to everyone. “Even for people who aren’t aware of the sustainability benefit, this clothing line will attract people looking for a good quality piece of clothing,” says Bill. The clothes are Recover Brands are durable, comfortable and soft, which is what attracts many people to the brand. Then consumers will also learn about the facts of the shirt, that it is 100% recycled out of plastic bottled and saves both water and energy. Combining high-quality clothes with sustainable materials is the method Recover Brands uses to make any consumer an environmental steward.
Recover Brands also focuses on having competitively priced products. Bill explained that having inaccessible products that people cannot afford is something they have worked hard to avoid. The way they achieve lower prices is by using a vertical supply chain. In addition, Recover Brands also makes a lot of their materials in-house. By buying the raw supplies and materials and erasing the middle men, they are able to control their prices a lot more than they would be able to with other supply tactics.
This sustainable technology in textiles was relatively new when Recover Brands started. What inspired the company to launch was the fact that there weren’t other brands like this on the market. The desire to create a product in this area that made a difference to the environment was what drove the company.
Sustainability in Charlotte
Recover Brands believes that Charlotte has great growth happening overall and is continuing to attract smaller business owners. “Charlotte used to be known for being a more corporate business area, but that appears to be changing,” says Bill. “Even in the past 5 or 6 years, there has been a big surge of small businesses here in CLT.” Bill is confident that there is a lot of potential for Recover Brands and other sustainable products here in the Queen City!
We asked Bill what advice he may have for an individual trying to get into the field of sustainable products or environmentally friendly business. “Try to find a concept that is unique and that works with a variety of people,” responded Bill. “You have to look at the direction you want to go with whatever idea you are trying to promote.” Bill also believes that doing research on the field you want to go into is key. “Do research on the market and try to find out where the product you have in mind can fit in and have some success. Just do your homework and network, and if your business is smaller, collaborate. Typically, you are stronger together than you are by yourself,” Bill explained.
Excited about Recover Brands? Well, the company isn’t stopping here! Recover Brands plans to continue to expand and build on what they have already created in sustainable products. “We hope to expand our focus on products made locally in the Carolinas. We are doing a lot of programming on that now and creating different styles. As someone who grew up here in the Carolinas, it is really exciting to be able to bring a part of the textile industry back here,” says Bill. So, keep an eye out on RecoverBrands.com to check out their Carolina products when they arrive.
Connect with Recover Brands
You can also connect with Recover Brands on social media: