At Lois Hazel, we are always looking for ways to reuse and recycle our textile waste. We know the huge impact textile waste has on the planet, so when we met Michael, co-founder of Manrags, a few weeks ago we jumped at the chance to partner with them. We spoke to Michael about how they went from being a men's premium subscription service to taking on the mammoth task of tackling textile waste in Australia.
What inspired you to start MANRAGS and is there a story behind the name?
We founded MANRAGS in 2016 after noticing a gap in the market for premium quality socks that didn’t fall apart after a few wears. My socks had become a talking point in meetings but Tina had noticed that after putting them through a couple of washes they always looked a little worse for wear. So we decided to launch Australia’s first premium sock subscription club for men, sending out a fresh pair to our subscribers every month! This also partly inspired the name — a monthly arrival for men = MANRAGS
How did you go from being a premium sock subscription service to recycling textiles? What motivated you to tackle this huge issue?
Since launching a sock subscription back in 2016 we’ve sent hundreds of thousands of socks to men and women all around the world. One day last year I was going through my sock drawer (I probably have one of the largest sock collections in the country) thinking “what do we do with socks once they’re holey and well loved?”. And the answer was nothing! Op Shops can’t resell your old shoddy socks and spend $13 million AUD annually on discarding unsaleable donations into landfill. So I sat down with Tina and our team and we started brainstorming potential solutions to this problem and how we could reduce our impact after sending so many socks out over the last 4 years.
What are some of the ways you guys are trying to tackle textile waste here in Australia?
Australians send half a billion kilograms of textiles to landfill annually and if we continue at this rate, we will have discarded enough textiles to cover the entire surface of Australia by the year 2030.
So we pioneered a textile recycling program to reduce this number and our own impact! Environmentally it is best to keep clothing in circulation for as long as possible, so our preference is always to reuse items wherever possible. Approximately 80% of the items we’ve received so far are in new or fit-for-wear condition — meaning that we can pass them onto our epic Australian charity partners (Ready Set Australia, Good360 Australia, St Kilda Mums and Sacred Heart Mission). Remaining items are assessed for their suitability to be repurposed (we’re in talks with a sustainable Australian brand to create a reconstituted denim line!) or recycled into new materials. This ensures we don’t have to send anything to landfill!
Do you think there is a future for textile recycling in Australia, and more specifically about MANRAGS?
The textile recycling industry is in its infancy here, so our hope is that through continued awareness and education we can bring elements (or the entire process!) here to Australia. We’ve been researching textile recycling technology and whether we can bring elements of it to Australia once we’ve completed our Series A Capital raise, which is currently running through Birchal.
Why do you think the circular economy is so important and what are some of the things you would recommend people to start doing to become a part of it?
The average consumer is now purchasing 60% more items of clothing compared to 2000, but each garment is kept half as long and on average 40% of clothes in our wardrobes are never worn. If consumption continues at its current rate there will be 3x as many natural resources needed by 2050 compared to what was used in 2000.
The traditional retail model of take—make—dispose encourages overconsumption and puts a huge strain on our planet’s natural resources. This is why the circular economy is so important, as it reduces waste, keeps materials in use and reduces strain on our planet’s precious natural resources. What is your favourite sustainability hack? Something simple that you think everyone can easily adopt in their day to day life?
It’s not quite a hack, but we’re big believers in supporting businesses that are doing good things for the planet. Major chains and global conglomerates are not going to change unless we (as consumers) change the way we shop — so make sure you’re mindfully purchasing from brands who support circularity or sustainable practices and if you can, advocate for them on social media or within your community.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” — Margaret Mead
What is something you would love to see change in the fashion industry and why?
We’d love to see more brands incorporating circularity into their production and promoting “take back” programs to keep their garments out of landfill once their customers are done with them.
How can people get involved with MANRAGS?
It’s actually a very exciting time to join us on our journey as we’ve just launched our equity crowdfunding campaign through Birchal. You can express interest here and join us in pioneering textile recycling solutions to create a better planet and a brighter future for the next generation! #thetimeisnow
At Lois Hazel, we are proud to be partnering with Manrags who are taking our textile waste and giving it another life. Another way we are combatting textile waste is through our hair accessories collaboration with Gliese 504, which you can shop here