Stacy is a textile and apparel specialist with a BS in Textile Development and Marketing from the Fashion Institute of Technology and an MBA in Sustainable Systems from Bainbridge Graduate Institute at Pinchot University. She is actively reinventing the textile and apparel business model to preserve the future of apparel.
After a diverse background working with both start-ups and large multi-national corporations like DuPont, Target, Eddie Bauer, and Rethink Fabric, Stacy launched Future Resource Collective (FRC), a collaboration hub and incubator for sustainable innovations in the apparel and textile industry.
In 2014, FRC launched its first social purpose corporation, Evrnu, which uses a patent-pending technology that recycles cotton garment waste to create premium, renewable fiber.
From her years in the field, Stacy brings a strong understanding of customer needs, deep knowledge of the industry's supply chain, and the creativity necessary to build trust and develop relationships in order to collectively solve tough issues. She skillfully combines vision and specialization to make new initiatives successful, and uses these strengths to facilitate collaboration with diverse stakeholders and drive innovations to fruition.
Stacy has received the following recognitions for the Evrnu (formerly Loopool) technology: 2013 Regional Winner, Walmart Better Living Business Plan Challenge; 2014 Regional Winner, Walmart Better Living Business Plan Challenge; 2014 University of Washington Environmental Innovation Challenge, Honorable Mention; 2014 University of Washington Business Plan Challenge Investment Round Finalist; 2014 Schmidt-MacArthur Fellowship, Wildcard Candidate; Social Venture Partners 2014 Fast Pitch 1st Place; Social Venture Partners 2014 Audience Choice Award.
1. Tell us about Evrnu. How does it embody what sustainable fashion means to you?
Evrnu is a garment recycling technology. What’s different about this technology is that we are taking cotton garment waste and breaking it down to its most basic molecular size and rebuilding it to create an entirely new, pristine fiber. This allows the designer to have a really high-quality fiber, the luster, and the hand that they would normally have with premium fibers but without significant impact to the environment. When we talk about impact, we’re really just talking about air, water, and soil—for us it’s that simple. Air, water, and soil impacts how humans drink, eat, and breathe, so making that connection between humans and the environment through fashion is what we aspire to do. Right now, fashion typically does not speak the language of sustainability and we’re really trying to bridge that gap and translate the language of sustainability in a way that the designers can understand. To do that, we have to show them something that is premium, something that is actually making the garment look better and feel better, so they’re not giving up anything for sustainability.
2. How did you get involved in sustainable fashion? Where does your passion for it come from?
I’ve been working in the industry since the 1990s as a fabric and garment specialist. I started out on the textile engineering side and then moved into garment development later on. I began working in sustainability in 2010 with ReThink, specifically working with recycled PET. At that point, recycled PET had been used pretty widely in just fleece or heavier weight fabrics, so I got excited when we were able to achieve some finer denier, high-quality yarns for softer, more premium fabrics.
Where does my passion come from? I went to China in 2010 and saw the effects of my work on the environment and people, and I realized that I was in some ways responsible for the problem. After that 30-day trip, I decided that I would dedicate the balance of my career to trying to find a solution to the problem. I began to be guided by the question: if one person can do so much damage unintentionally, what can the same person do intentionally for good?
3. What do you feel is your impact on the industry?
Evrnu's impact on the industry demonstrates that resource extraction and waste are no longer necessary to achieve success in the apparel market. We have found a way to work within the dominant business model of style obsolescence by recycling garments on the back-end and giving brands a way to balance their overall fiber portfolio with resource availability. We do not live in an either/or world—all fibers are important and useful. Ultimately, our goal is to innovate around how waste can be used to create new, high-quality fiber resources that designers will love to work with and consumers will love to wear.
4. What do you see as the future of clothing? What do we need to do to get there?
I see sustainability preserving the future of textiles and apparel. Again, it really comes down to air, water, and soil impact and how humans are affected by the production of clothing, the wearing of it, and then the disposal and regeneration of these items.
I see clothing and people raising the bar on what’s possible in terms of upcycling. People understand what recycling means, but it’s sometimes a hard thing for them to understand what upcycling means. When I talk about upcycling, I mean taking something and turning it into another product that has higher value. I consider this to be the design challenge of the 21st century— breaking products down to their lowest usable building block and rebuilding them into any new product. This doesn’t have to be limited to just clothing to clothing, but can also be clothing to shoes, or shoes to playgrounds, or clothing to toys. It really doesn’t matter as long as that product is re-used and able to be broken down again or safely returned to the biosphere.
To get there, we need more support for entrepreneurs who are working in this space, especially for designers and materials researchers who are just starting out. Anyone who is working in a social purpose capacity should have access to mentoring and startup funding and support in those ways. Right now, these resources are very few and far between, and we do need a place to nurture innovation that is not necessarily under the umbrella of a large brand, but that is more broadly accessible.
5. Name 3 things the average person can do to lower their footprint as it relates to their clothes.
Donate everything. Even if you think it should be thrown away—like that one sock, or the shirt with a hole in it that someone can’t re-wear (or that you think someone can’t re-wear)—don’t make that decision. Send everything to Goodwill or Salvation Army, and let them sort and separate it because there is a market for resale on materials. The rag market is a very large industry in the US and they can use just about everything. They typically break things down and mechanically recycle them to go into rags and wiping clothes or woven into carpets and rugs. But, companies like Evrnu can also use these materials to create premium apparel grade fibers and yarns that designers can use for new, high-quality denim and active wear.
Support your sustainable designer. Look at your clothing budget and determine which clothing you want to make an investment in and really support the people who are living your values. It’s an important piece of the puzzle because it shows the industry what your values are, and that’s a really important message to send.
Washing. Consider how many times you can wear your garments before you wash them. A lot of times you don’t need to wash your clothing after just one wear. Wool is naturally anti-microbial and rarely needs to be washed. And, for denim, a lot of premium brands recommend putting denim in the freezer because it kills microbes so you don’t have to wash it and you can get that natural wear and tear.
6. What advice do you have for your fellow women trailblazers?
If you’re working in a social entrepreneurial capacity, one of the hardest things to get over is your fear of going the distance. It can be very difficult, and risky, to quit your job to follow your passion and your dream—especially when you have a family and a mortgage—but STICK WITH IT.
As an entrepreneur, you’ll find that you go through certain rites of passage, and that once you get over the fear (the layers of fear, really), these rites of passage make you more equipped to handle your business, make you a much stronger leader, and make your company much, much more resilient. Yes, it will be very challenging at times, but anything worth having is.
When you sit down and make decisions, think about it from the perspective of being able to look back at what you’ve been able to create and consider that when you’ve put your heart and soul into something, how many times have you really failed? No one really makes any significant progress in this world unless they are bold enough to take a risk.
Stacy and Evrnu have launched an Indiegogo campaign to bring their technology to market. To learn more or to contribute to help make Stacy's dream a reality, go here.
If there's anyone you would like to see featured in our Women in Sustainable Fashion Series, let me know by emailing pliu (at) greeneileen (dot) org.