Winsome ZERO: Our Mission for Zero Waste

As the title of this post may suggest, we are launching something brand new here at Winsome Goods and it is incredibly exciting. Next week, we will officially launch Winsome ZERO to the public, a product line made entirely from (what would have been) textile waste. This project marks another major step for us in creating an entirely sustainable brand; the launch of ZERO means that we have achieved a zero waste fabric system, 100% of the fabric we receive at the studio will be used in goods without any portion ending up as waste. Unlike Winsome products you may know and love already, these new products cannot be worn as clothes. You’ll have to keep reading for the grand reveal.

When we founded Winsome Goods in 2014, we did so with the commitment to always prioritize sustainable and ethical practices. Every year since, we find new ways to stay true to our mission and develop it even more. Winsome ZERO was fueled by the desire to move closer to a zero waste, closed loop system for everything that we produce. A closed loop system is, in short, the practice of manufacturing products that are created from renewable resources and/or existing materials that can then be completely reused and repurposed at the end of their life cycles. A full closed loop system takes into account every detail of production, like what kind of energy powers the tools we use to create products. So while we figure out how to power our sewing machines without an electrical socket, we are incredibly proud to say that Winsome ZERO is all about zero fabric waste products.

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So where do all the scraps/would-be-waste come from? We knew we were creating textile waste in production, and became much more aware of just how much waste we had when we started saving it during production of our Spring 2018 line. Unless we are working with zero waste patterns (which are typically one-size-fits-all garments with relaxed, but limited, silhouettes), there are cutaway scraps in all clothing production. Before a garment ever becomes the beautiful thing that you see hanging on a rack, it has produced fabric waste. Once patterns for a garment are cut, the scraps left over are traditionally discarded. Sometimes, the cost of a garment is not only driven by the fabric it uses, but also by the fabric is wastes. 

When we make a garment, we lay patterns (essentially the outline of the garment) out on fabric yardage and cut around them in the least wasteful way possible. Metaphor time: think of cookie dough rolled out flat - if you place cookie cutters far apart from each other or don’t use the dough-space wisely, you get a lot of wasted cookie dough that you can’t make into a shapely cookie in the end. We don’t want to do that with our fabric because then we would make more fabric waste than necessary. Any waste we have we save in big buckets so that we can reuse and repurpose them in the future, and that’s what our ZERO products are made of.

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But wait, there’s more. In addition to cut-away scraps there are other kinds of textile waste created in the studio: test garments that didn’t work out, defective fabric that cannot be used, and garments that are accidentally damaged in production are all considered production waste. All of this material that would otherwise be thrown away is included in our new product, too.

When we had accumulated all that textile waste, we wanted to find a solution for how to use it. We partnered with design educator Lindsey Strange and her students at the University of Minnesota Apparel Design program. Students were given the task of researching and developing solutions for repurposing or recycling all of our scrap. They were given several parameters in which to work, such as: using as wide of a variety of scrap as possible, finding a cost effective model, and ensuring the product felt appropriate for Winsome as a brand. What Strange’s students came up with is the heart of Winsome ZERO—this fascinating craft method of making one-of-a-kind rugs from a vast array of textile waste.

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Our method of producing these rugs is non-toxic and able to incorporate all sizes and shapes of scraps, leaving zero waste behind. The process demands a great amount of manual labor, which means that this project provides more hours of well-paid work for our small team of employees. 

Over the course of the last year we have been experimenting, refining and developing this method. We’ve been practicing with styles, colors, shapes, patterns and uses. We’ve been figuring out what works and what doesn’t, what’s beautiful and what is useful. Now, we are finally ready to launch Winsome ZERO.

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For this first launch, we have six, one-of-a-kind styles available for your enjoyment. Both Welcome Mats and Area Rugs are available in three colors—blues, oranges, and mixed blue/orange. Welcome Mats measure 3 feet in width by 2 feet in height and save approximately 2 pounds of fabric scrap each. Mats retail for $190, which includes shipping.

Area Rugs measure 7 feet in width by 5 feet in height and save 11-14 pounds of fabric scrap each. Rugs retail for $1100, which includes shipping. A photo of our Blues area rug is featured below.

All Winsome ZERO products will be available to the public on June 18th. We will be celebrating that night with a Happy Hour from 5-8pm in our studio in Northeast Minneapolis - please come join us! There will be a pre-sale for long-time Winsome customers on June 15th. If you have known and loved us and want to shop the pre-sale, please email us at info@winsomegoods.com and we will send you the online code.

Thank you for being on this journey with us. We couldn’t do this without you. More to come, so stay tuned.

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