We’ve all heard it said: “The clothes make the man.”

Whether you believe that clothes reveal to us a person’s identity or not, you can certainly learn something about a person by the clothes that they wear.

What is their favorite team? Do they like to work out? What kind of job do they have?

Our clothes tell a story about our preferences to the world.

At SustainU, we want the stories are garments are telling to reflect the core values of our company, by the things that go into our garments as well as by the embellishments on them. We are proud that every SustainU product is made from 100% recycled material, that is, things that would have otherwise ended up in a landfill. And the people who knit, cut, sew and print our garments are Americans whose names we know.

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We now have crew neck sweatshirts, made from 100% recycled materials! For our photo shoot last fall we were lucky enough to visit Footprints Farm, a local sustainably designed, family farm that grows premium quality meats, vegetables, and herbs using natural and traditional farming systems. If you’re close to Fayette County, PA, check them out!

For us, it’s not just a business, it’s personal. And, to us, that is a story worth telling.

So, next time you pull your shirt over your head, think about what you’re saying to the world. If that story is not one you’re excited about, change it. Join us in heralding the revitalization of American manufacturing by using recycled products to make high quality, comfortable clothing. Once you start doing that, it will never be “just a t-shirt” again.

Let’s be honest. We can afford it.

Instead of trying to sell our products at a higher margin because it is 100% recycled and made in the USA, we would rather sell them as low as we can afford, while still being financially sustainable. This may be a very different approach than many apparel companies, but that is exactly why SustainU was founded. We want to be radically different so that more people can become part of a more sustainable solution.  If the sustainable product movement is only relying on the purchases of the elite, it is not going to be a reality.

What does it cost to make a tee?
Cost for a tee varies of course from company to company, but for us the cost is around $5 for a finished garment. This final costs is a combination of what we pay for fabric, transportation, cutting and sewing, embellishment and packaging. Our highest costs are for the actual sewing of the garment as we only employ American companies. Companies that manufacture overseas have even lower production costs.

What other costs are there?
Obviously, there are other costs besides what it directly takes to make a shirt: overhead costs such as rent, utilities, insurance, salaries for sales, administrative and marketing staff and other associated costs all have to be covered by the sale of garments. Different companies have different overhead costs, but for companies that sell more garments the amount of overhead costs per garment goes down.

So why are some sustainable clothes so expensive?
We can’t speak for every company, but we sell our basic tees for just $12. That means that just $7 per shirt is left to cover our overhead. Compare that other “sustainable” clothing companies that charge anywhere from $25 to $100 for an eco-shirt. They may have slightly higher costs, but the reality is that most of that is going towards owner profit.

We want everyone to be able to afford sustainable clothing, so we keep our margins and profits as low as possible, making our garments accessible for everyone. When it comes to conserving what we have for future generations, we can afford it.

 

 

Keep it close, keep it affordable.

One of our goals has always to be a company that makes great, sustainable clothing affordable for everyone. One of the ways we do this is to reduce transportation costs by making things as locally as possible. We can manufacture and distribute our products more effectively in the USA than companies that source materials and labor from tens of thousands of miles away in other countries. The savings are not only economic; local manufacturing also greatly reduces CO2 emissions which greatly impacts the environment.

Some examples of how this works:

Consolidating shipments
When we have various colors coming out of our knitter, we wait for desired weight in fabric until we ship to save on transportation costs. reducing the number of shipments we make saves money and enables us to pass savings on to our customers.

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Localized production
We keep all processes required to make a garment as close as possible to each other to cut down on shipping and the time to get products in-house. The textile regions of the West Virginia, North and South Carolina and Tennessee are well equipped and in close proximity making it a super-efficient region in which to make clothing.

Centralized distribution
We distribute all of our products out of a centrally located facility in the mid-Atlantic Region. Located within a 500 mile radius of half of the nation’s population, our DC is equipped to where we label, sew hem-tags, and print clothing and ship with very quick turnaround time, allowing us to react to markets more quickly than most companies.

If you make something, make it simple and for everyone.

When we started SustainU, we want to be a company that made quality, sustainable clothing affordable for everyone. This seems to fly in the face of common perceptions that ethically-made apparel is of necessity, expensive, and only accessible by those with deep pockets and large bank accounts. We didn’t think you should have to be rich, to be more sustainable.

In honing our business over the past four years, we have found that it is possible to make high quality clothing in America from more sustainable material for a price that is affordable for everyone. One of the ways to do that is focus on simple, basic styles that everyone wears.

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Broader appeal means higher volumes means less manufacturing costs means lower price
Everyone owns a t-shirt, probably more than one. We started with the classic tee because its broad appeal enabled us to manufacture more garments at a time. And the more you can make of anything at one time, the more efficient and less-expensive each shirt becomes. And we pass on those savings to people who like to wear t-shirts. Which is just about everyone.

Timeless designs are sellable longer, reducing turnover waste, which reduce costs
When we make a garment, our hope is that we would sell every last piece. We have to pay for each shirt we make, so we would love to sell it if we can. With basic, timeless styles that don’t go out of style, we have more time to sell the inventory, which reduces our costs. Remember parachute pants? Popular for about a week in 1987. And any they had left over aren’t moving today. Whoever made those passed on the cost of those unsold pants to you (and me, I admit it) by increasing the prices of what they did sell.

Simple clothing is easier, and therefore less expensive, to make
Basic, timeless styles tend to be simple and straightforward to make. It doesn’t get much more simple than a t-shirt. Simplicity not only eliminates the cost of adds-ons and extras, they are more efficient to make, because of their familiarity and long history of production.

Simple, basic designs are just one of the ways SustainU is making great, conscientious, more sustainable clothing affordable for everyone. Our dream is that one day, everyone will consider what they wear and the positive impact clothing can have on our lives and in our world.

 

Mother Nature Network: Would you buy a T-shirt from this guy?

A football player turned fashion model has a new role: Eco-entrepreneur.

Chris Yura
Chris Yura is helping bring fashion jobs back to America. (Photo: Benyamin Cohen)

 

Chris Yura is every bit the millennial entrepreneur. He’s a Notre Dame football player turned fashion model. He has met with President Obama, and talks about the ethos of the American job market with the ease of someone chatting about what he had for breakfast. He’s got chiseled good looks and a plucky personality. He’s a whiz kid ready with a sound bite. He’s a Ted Talk waiting to happen.

On any given day, you can find the 32-year-old in a small West Virginia town at the offices of SustainU, the company he founded when he was 28. The company mantra is simple: to be a clothing company with a conscience.

That mission starts with location. Adjacent to the Morgantown Chamber of Commerce, SustainU’s headquarters serves as a beacon that, yes, an eco-minded, forward-thinking, sustainable company can exist — and thrive — in a depressed economy in one of the poorest states in the nation.

For Yura, this is personal. His family has roots in West Virginia that go back nearly 200 years. “In Appalachia, showing how a green company can create jobs is very important to me,” he says. “We’re known as just the coal state, but what can we do here that’s different and outside the box?”

Read more at: Mother Nature Network