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The craft behind conscious clothing with Riley Studio

Georgie Grant

The mission behind Riley Studio is, quite simply, to change mindsets and make conscious consumerism the norm. The team creates clothing by sourcing recycled materials, and working with ethical partners and mills who are equally as committed to doing things the right way, not the easy way.

We spoke to the amazing team behind the brand to get an insight into the craft behind the creation of sustainable, genderless and timeless loungewear. And, if it doesn’t last a lifetime, they will take it back to recycle it to ensure that, in some way shape or form, the piece will last forever. 

Riley Studio

Riley Studio

How did Riley Studio come to fruition?

Our founder Riley Uggla, believed that the fashion industry needed to transition into a more sustainable business model and wanted to lead by example. She had a vision to create a company built upon the pillars of sustainability, so we set our minds to it and did a year’s worth of research and development. 

Our mission was to ‘create from waste’, utilising as many materials as possible that already existed, helping to divert them from ending up in landfill or clogging up our oceans. So, in our collections you will find products made from plastic bottles, fishing nets, textile waste and yarn discards. If we can’t source recycled materials, then we look to natural fibres that are biodegradable. 

The result, is a range of gender-neutral wardrobe staples, that are kind on the planet. By focusing on durability and longevity, we design products for life, not just a season. Nearly a year on, we’re about to launch our third curated collection, which we’re really excited about. 

Sustainability is a long and challenging journey but we’re fully committed to doing business the right way, not the easy way and we have lots of exciting ideas for the coming year and beyond. 

What was the decision behind creating gender-neutral clothing?

We believe in equality, and didn’t believe in labelling our products as menswear or womenswear, we encourage anyone to wear them and we love seeing the different ways our community style Riley Studio. 

The other reason for it was from a production point of view, particularly concerning overproduction, we didn’t feel we needed to produce two similar products under the label womenswear and menswear. We produce in limited quantities to tackle overproduction and encourage sharing products whenever you can.

Riley Studio: Human Kind

Riley Studio: Human Kind

Riley Studio: Human Kind

Riley Studio: Human Kind

Riley Studio: Human Kind

Riley Studio: Human Kind

What is the craft behind creating fabrics using recycled materials? 

A lot of research and development has gone into making the fabrics and materials that we use. Our global team are leaders in innovation and sustainability and are always challenging the norm, pushing towards a circular future. Key fabrics and yarns that we use include ECONYL® Yarn, Recover® Yarn, recot²® and Q-Nova by Fulgar. You can find in depth information about each of our materials within the Eco-Innovation section of our website. 

As an example though, Recover® yarn is made in Spain by Hilaturas Ferre, who have been recycling materials since 1947, but it was in 2015 that the mill launched its Recover Upcycled Textile System. After years of research and development they now collect and sort textile waste from all over the world, cutting and shredding it down to produce a new fibre that feeds into their industrial spinning process. The process is mechanical and they have managed to optimise it to keep the fibre as long as possible, ensuring it remains strong and of a high quality.

One of the best bits though, is that they don’t use any dyes, eliminating the use of water and chemicals. Incredibly, they take the colour already in the textile waste and they are able to blend it with carrier fibres to make almost any colour you want. According to Hilaturas Ferre, you can save up to 15,000 litres of water using 1 kg of Recover® fibre, compared to 1kg of conventional dyed cotton fibre. 

Our black Oversized Hoodie, MBR Classic Sweatshirt and white ‘Feel Good’ Classic Hoodie are made from Recover® yarn and they are so soft and comfortable with the added plus that they used to be textile waste.

Riley Studio: Gender neutral essentials

Riley Studio: Gender neutral essentials

Riley Studio: Gender neutral essentials

Riley Studio: Gender neutral essentials

How do you decide which materials suit the aesthetic of Riley Studio and also align with your sustainability values?

A lot of research and development!! Our first point of call is to find as many recycled materials as possible, there are more and more being developed each year, which is hugely exciting. We will plan out the wardrobe staples that we want to create and then go out to trade fairs and do lots of research online to find the best materials available. As well as being recycled or natural, we source materials with three properties in mind: durability, comfort and versatility. 

In terms of aligning with our sustainability values, we go to trade shows like the Future Fabrics Expo who showcase sustainable materials. Once we narrow down our choices we look into the company that makes the fabric or yarn and look for certifications such as GOTS or Global Recycled Standard.

There are definitely a lot of challenges when it comes to sourcing though and it is an ongoing journey for us, but you just have to persevere, ask as many questions as possible and stick to your sustainability values.

How do you combat the extensive water usage and toxic chemicals during the dyeing process using these materials? 

Dyeing is a huge area that we are working on and continuously researching, currently the materials we use such as Recover®Yarn don’t use any dyes at all, which is incredible! If you take ECONYL® Yarn for example, they dye their darker colours at the end of the week so that they use less water to clean the dye out their machines. We always look for certifications when picking our materials such as Oeko-Tex STeP or GOTS certified. 

Hilaturas Ferre: The mill that makes the Recover yarn

Hilaturas Ferre: The mill that makes the Recover yarn

Hilaturas Ferre: The mill that makes the Recover yarn

Hilaturas Ferre: The mill that makes the Recover yarn

Hilaturas Ferre: The mill that makes the Recover yarn

Hilaturas Ferre: The mill that makes the Recover yarn

When the products inevitably reach the end of their cycle, you collect them and recycle them, putting them back into the system. What does this recycling process consist of?

Yes, we have a Lifetime Guarantee on our products because we want to take responsibility for our products and their entire life cycles, ensuring that they don’t end up in landfill. We hope that our customers keep and cherish their Riley Studio products for years to come but if the day does come when they no longer want their product, we will collect them. Depending on the product and its condition, we will either up-cycle it or recycle it with a textile recycling partner. In an ideal world though, we won’t have to do this for a while, but we wanted to put it in place just in case!

Hilaturas Ferre: The mill that makes the Recover yarn

Hilaturas Ferre: The mill that makes the Recover yarn

Hilaturas Ferre: The mill that makes the Recover yarn

Hilaturas Ferre: The mill that makes the Recover yarn

Hilaturas Ferre: The mill that makes the Recover yarn

Hilaturas Ferre: The mill that makes the Recover yarn

Can you explain the positive impact Riley Studio has had so far and how this is measured? 

Working with our suppliers we have been able to work out that since we launched in August, we have been able to: recycle 1,708 plastic bottles from landfills and oceans across the world, have saved 5,512 litres of oil by using recycled materials and have saved a huge 951,795 litres of water by using recycled materials. But this is only just the beginning and we are dedicated to making an even bigger positive impact. Eventually, as we grow we would love to do in an in depth Life Cycle Analysis of our products with a third party company, but we’re only a start-up so we’ll get there in time.

We have a huge internal traceability document as well, which has enabled us to be completely transparent and we have listed each of our suppliers on every product page, from raw material to factory. It is important for us to provide our community with as much information as possible, so that they can make informed decisions. We took part in the Fashion Revolution Week campaign this year as well to answer the question #whomademyclothes. 

How can we encourage taking better care of the items in our wardrobe?

A big thing for us is respect. Our clothes travel through the hands of many people across the world who help to carefully craft them. By explaining how our products are made, we hope to educate our community so that they fully understand the process that went into making a Riley Studio piece. We want you to cherish and respect your clothes and hand them down for generations to come. As an antidote to fast fashion and the notion that clothing is disposable, we aim to produce high quality clothes that will stand the test of time and can be worn in a variety of different ways.

Repair is another crucial aspect in the life cycle of a product and what The Restory is doing is a fundamental solution for fixing the fashion industry. Collectively we need to encourage consumers to look after their clothes, to repair them and then to recycle them, donate them to charity or do a clothes swap. 

Another key element is caring for them. We have an Earth Friendly Care Guide online, where we encourage our community to wash on cold, line dry, use eco-friendly detergent and use green dry cleaners if necessary. 

What’s a Riley Studio must have?

Definitely the new Riley Studio Tote Bag. The tote bag is made from organic cotton has our signature ‘We are Human Kind’ slogan across it using water based inks. It is SO useful because you can use it for anything, we use them as our everyday bags in the office as they fit a lot in, whether that’s your laptop, reusable water bottle, gym kit, you name it! They have two handy inner pockets as well to separate out your wallet and keys etc so you’re not rummaging for hours. 

Another favourite is the Zip Track Pant because firstly, they are the most comfortable product ever!! And secondly because they are so versatile, you can dress them up or down and wear them for a series of occasions. They are also great for travelling because they don’t crease!