Australian leader in circular fashion, MANRAGS, a brand manufacturing socks and underwear, has secured its position in the fashion textile industry by preventing one million textiles – in the form of items such as clothing, bed linen and shoes – from ending up in landfill.
Established in 2016 as a side hustle startup by husband and wife team Michael and Tina Elias, MANRAGS initially offered men’s basics and essentials in fun prints and vibrant colours but expanded to producing them for women and children too. “When we launched MANRAGS our purpose was to deliver standout essentials to men and we achieved great success having our product distributed to over 70 countries globally and building a community of advocates whilst pioneering the subscription industry,” co-founder Michael Elias explains to EWP via email.
But the exposure to the fashion industry also came with some epiphanies, one of which was how the business could tackle the growing textile waste problem caused by mass production and disposable fashion trends. According to the Australian television show War On Waste, Australians throw out 6,000 kilograms of clothing and textiles every 10 minutes.
On a mission to reduce textile waste as well as take some responsibility for the end life of their products, the couple launched the MANRAGS sock recycling program in September 2019, encouraging and rewarding customers who recycled their odd socks. During COVID-19, they expanded the program to include clothing and other textiles. As of October 14 2020, Australia’s first digital textile recycling program had successfully diverted roughly 100,000kgs of textile from landfill; with the textiles being upcycled into other useful items such as t-shirts, underwear and beanies.
It is clear that MANRAGS has created a blueprint for the circular subscription economy, transforming fashion circularity from a sustainability concept to a viable business model. In July, amidst the pandemic lockdown, the business was able to successfully raise $750,000 in capital funding; $400,000 of which was raised in the first 24 hours alone. As a result, the business has been able to expand its operations.
“Our team has grown from four to 12, we have outgrown two warehouses and moved into our third HQ facility,” explains the co-founder.
“We have [also] seen 400% customer growth and 220% sales growth and last week we celebrated three enormous milestones; over one million textiles diverted from landfill, a complete rebrand and being crowned Australia’s Sustainability Champions for 2020 by the National Retail Association.”
To coincide with its upward trajectory MANRAGS has also rebranded and now goes by the name ‘UPPAREL’.
“We outgrew our name and it was important to rebrand with a name that accurately reflects who we are today and sets us up to continue to make an impact and for continued success in the future,” Michael Elias explains.
In just four years the business has achieved what most fashion businesses can only wish for, but like most businesses, the journey hasn’t been without a few bumps. “We have achieved a lot and we are very proud but to say this hasn’t been challenging is an understatement.
“Not only has everything COVID-related driven this but the fact that we are Melbourne-based has made everything even more challenging. For example, we were unable to utilise any services for our relocations!”
In addition to its focus on textile upcycling, UPPAREL has also prevented 400,000kgs of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.
“Circularity is a journey and we’ve always said that we need to make small changes that will lead to big impacts,” says Michael.
“We’re seeing more and more initiatives from brands towards a more circular approach and towards more sustainable practices and our view is that we should be celebrating every single action as this will only encourage further actions and greater positive impacts.”
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Cover image via UPPAREL.