Hosiery Waste Turned to Products in Gildan Sustainability Initiative

Top 40 supplier Gildan Activewear (asi/56842) has partnered with an eco-conscious fashion designer on a new sustainability initiative that keeps hosiery waste out of landfills while contributing to the creation of new products. Montreal-headquartered Gildan is sending cuttings and waste from its Canadian sheer hosiery factory to Sans Soucie Textile + Design, a zero-waste fashion studio in Vancouver, B.C., that transforms the excess material into garments and accessories.

“We have just launched the initiative and are shipping approximately 250-350 pounds of waste bi-weekly,” Garry Bell, Gildan’s vice president of corporate communications and marketing, told Counselor.

Katherine Soucie, founder of Sans Soucie, said to Counselor that so far “it has been a fantastic partnership. Gildan has taken a genuine interest in my process and they’re really in-line with what we’re trying to do from a sustainability perspective.” 

Through a process she pioneered, Soucie transforms pre-consumer nylon waste – think pantyhose – into handmade textiles that include everything from durable handbags, dresses and jackets, to leggings, socks and various accessories. She also produces in-demand yarns through her unique medium, which includes use of obsolescent textile machines and an emphasis on ensuring all dye is absorbed into the material – a boon for the environment.

Soucie told Counselor that the different types of hosiery materials she receives from factory partners influence the type of products she can produce. One notable aspect about working with Gildan is the consistency of the material, said Soucie, adding it’s a bit too soon to say what she’ll create with it. “It’s a feeling-out process,” she said. “The material tells you what it wants to do. There is a language that happens. It might sound a little strange, but I try to tell the story of the material.”

For Gildan, contributing to Soucie’s eco-friendly line is all part of a committed, ongoing effort to operate more sustainably. In 2016, for example, the apparel maker reduced energy usage intensity by 10%, mainly through the use of high-efficiency steam absorption chillers that harness thermal energy from BioMass steam systems to generate air conditioning for Gildan facilities. Additionally, Gildan leveraged renewable energy sources that reduced GHG emissions by 155,000 tons. This past year, the supplier also recycled or repurposed 86% of its total company waste.

In light of such efforts, Gildan earned a spot on the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index for the fifth consecutive year and the DJSI North American Index for the second straight year. When the achievement was announced last month, it was noted that Gildan was the only North American company in the “textile, apparel and luxury goods” industry group to make the DJSI World Index.

“We take great pride in our inclusion in the DJSI indices, which is a testimony to our ongoing commitment to operating responsibly and sustainably,” Glenn Chamandy, Gildan president and CEO, said in a statement. 

With estimated 2016 North American promotional product revenue of $150 million, Gildan ranked ninth on Counselor’s 2017 list of the largest suppliers in the industry.