Offcut Caps: From trash to treasure
We had a chat to Offcut Caps co-founder Adrien Taylor about remnant fabrics and the desperate need to eliminate what is known as 'waste'
Reigning from Christchurch, New Zealand, Adrien Taylor is one half of Offcut Caps who have set out to close the loop in textile manufacturing. What one producer might see as useless fabric, Adrien sees as potential. We discussed with Adrien this idea of resourcefulness, and how it will be imperative to the future of our planet.
You guys are making caps from offcut pieces of fabric, which is a very resourceful approach, how did this idea come about?
I went to my dad’s curtain warehouse last year (he’s retired now) and walked past the room of offcut, end of line fabrics and unused samples, basically the rejects, and asked my dad what he did with all of these pieces that were too small to be made into curtains. He told me they pay for someone to come pick them up twice a year and throw them out to landfill. I looked at a lot of the fabrics and thought, though these aren’t really my cup of tea for curtains, some of these would make some really dope caps. I asked my dad if I could buy the fabrics off him instead of throwing them away. He said I couldn’t buy them, but that I could have them for free, so it all kind of started from there.
Since then we’ve been working with a few fashion brands and some textile printers to source fabrics. Someone who’s been massively supportive of us is Published Textiles in Sydney—they’re really good people and make some awesome fabrics, so we love their offcuts.
There’s an enormous amount of fabric out there, we’ll never be short of fabric, and there’s an enormous amount that goes to landfill every year. In the garment manufacturing industry 10-20% of all fabric is generally wasted just as offcuts, because they’re just too small to use. When you’re cutting a shirt, for example, there’s all these little bits left over around the sides, and the idea behind making caps is that we can use those offcut pieces to make the small panels on our caps. In turn this significantly increases the efficiency of the fabric yield, which is what we’re trying to do.
What is the design process in selecting what fabrics will work? Are you fussy at all?
It’s a combination of us actively contacting brands that we really like or people contacting us—Instagram is the main way that people discover us. I’ll see what they’ve got and if there are bits of fabric that I like and I think it will make a cool cap I’ll request offcuts to be sent through.
Who came up with the original cap design?
It’s pretty much your standard 5 panel cap that’s been around for decades—it’s just a timeless, classic design. We made a few adjustments to the peak, but the main point of difference for us is about the fabrics we use and how we arrange them.
We work with some really great guys in Auckland who make all of our caps by hand. It’s a small factory who make a bunch of hats for a whole bunch of brands, so they’re really talented in making what we need. We haven’t had a single cap returned since we launched, the quality is just rock solid.
How are you finding the response to recycled fabrics?
It’s definitely one of our key selling points; obviously our name is Offcut—that’s what we do and it’s our main point of existence to reduce fabric waste. The response from people varies massively from person to person, which makes things really interesting. Some people are really into the fact that we are using offcut fabrics, that it’s environmentally friendly and reducing fabric waste. People also like this because we only produce in super limited runs. Obviously we can only do as many caps as offcut fabric as we’ve got, and sometimes that’s only 10-15 caps per run. Once they’re gone, they’re gone; we’ll never make them again, and it’s that exclusivity that people love. A lot of people also love our tree planting partnership with Trees for the Future, knowing that with every cap you buy there’s a tree planted on your behalf.
Can you talk about your partnership with Trees for the Future, and how this came about?
I was inspired by the Toms’ shoes model, the ‘one for one’—I think what they do is great. I thought about building that model into our business right from the start and to account for it in our pricing. We thought we’d do something for the environment, because the planet needs more trees, we can’t get enough trees. I did a bit of googling around and found Trees for the Future, which is a US based charity who have been around for decades and are really highly regarded. Since contacting them, they’ve been super supportive—a portion of every cap sale is sent to Trees for the Future and they organise the tree planting for us. Their projects are in African countries, so its mainly fruit trees for farmers, which is really cool.
What has fuelled you personally to be this passionate about environmental issues? The fashion industry is undoubtedly unsustainable as it is, and you’ve chosen to make a stance on that, where’s your motivation coming from in that respect?
I guess growing up in New Zealand! In Christchurch we’ve got this incredible playground around us; anywhere you go, within an hour, you’re in the most beautiful great outdoors, and I think I’ve been incredibly lucky to grow up with that. My parents have always taught us about the vulnerability of the environment, and to never take that for granted.
A climate campaigner once told me: “as a species we’re making ourselves extinct”. It’s a bit extreme but we’re certainly on our way there by not taking good care of the planet. The great outdoors is where I like to hang out, and a lot of the stuff we take for granted today might not be here in a few decades. People here in New Zealand love snow skiing, but one day soon they’ll realise that ski seasons are getting shorter and potentially might be gone completely. Coastal properties are under threat with warnings of sea levels rising too, and in our day to day people don’t think about it, but we really need to.
Do you have any advice for people who are wishing to make more conscious lifestyle choices?
Making small changes is really important and relatively easy. Stop using plastic bags at the supermarket—bring your own bag. Get on your bike, or walk places instead of taking the car. Wear your clothes longer—you don’t need new clothes every couple of months, just wear your clothes until they’re unwearable. It’s this small day to day stuff that makes a difference en masse.
With a bigger picture perspective, we really need to start demanding proper actions from our politicians and businesses—I’m a firm believer that that’s where the big changes can come. Fundamentally, politicians and businesses react to what people want. Politicians need peoples vote to get into power. Businesses need people to keep buying their products, and if people stop buying because they’re unhappy with how the products are made, then business will change. I think you need to be really considered in who you vote for and who you give your money to.
It’s fantastic to see people are becoming more conscious consumers, in fashion, food, everything! As a business if you don’t start catering for that you will struggle in this century. We are starting to see a change in how people think about consumption, because ultimately we need to consume less and consume more efficiently.
I think we need to get rid of the word ‘waste’ from our dictionary—there is no such thing as waste, there’s only wasted opportunities. At Offcut we’re not changing the world making caps and never claim to. There are people much smarter than we are doing much more important stuff around solar panels and electric vehicles and all that kind of stuff, but we are proof that you can make a whole business out of a resource that other people are needlessly classifying as waste. If that can inspire people that are much smarter than me to do something on a much more meaningly scale then that’s a fantastic thing. There’s definitely more room for that kind of business in every single industry there is. I think we can tie a lot more things together and make things are a lot more efficient in every industry, which is something I’m really passionate about.