Rewilder set out to design a product that was completely zero waste, giving themselves the challenge of not using ANY material that wasn’t previously trashed. The result is this 100% upcycled zero waste rain jacket, made from only high-performance industrial discard materials. From the shell, down to the trim, thread, and hardware, every component of the jacket is salvaged and given a new life.
- Material R+D
- Product Design + Prototyping
- Local Production Management
- Environmental Impact Storytelling
The initial idea was to create a 100% upcycled, zero waste duffel bag. Deep in material development and hardware research, it became clear that due to component and design limitations, a duffel would not be feasible. In prototyping further, the design evolved into a backpack, which ultimately morphed into a jacket based on the material properties and available salvaged hardware. Because Rewilder outright rejected buying anything new, they discovered novel approaches to their sketching, prototyping, and manufacturing processes. The outcome perfectly aligned design with the brand’s zero waste DNA.
The jacket’s silver fabric was originally used by the shipping industry as a car cover that protected vehicles on a single journey across the Pacific. Designed to withstand the elements, it’s salt-waterproof, UV-protected, and reflective to shield from both salt and sun. These incredible protective properties lead to a major downside: the material will never decompose in a landfill and is impossible to recycle.
In addition to the shell, all of the jacket materials were meticulously sourced and diverted from landfill. The pocket trim details are salvaged grey seat belts; the inner fabric is a warp knit originally hidden as automotive linings; rope cords are stretched and stitched fabric; uncut keys make the top button; magnets as the main closures; and all the thread is from a large factory that discards ¼ spools at shift changes to keep work flow at maximum efficiency.
In making this 100% zero waste jacket, Rewilder flipped the design process: designing from the perspective of the trash materials found, rather than sourcing new materials to fit a preconceived design. The materials dictated the design, and drove the final jacket details.
In terms of environmental impact, upcycling is better than recycling. There are tons of materials that cannot be recycled, or simply will not be recycled. The unfortunate truth is that it’s more costly to rehabilitate waste resources than it is to landfill and buy new. Only 9% of the world’s plastic has ever been recycled. The automobile industry alone trashes 100,000 tons (the weight of 250 airplanes!) of non-recyclable material each year.
Downcycling should be a last resort, because it renders recycled material to a lower quality and functionality than the original material. Upcycling is creative reuse, an opportunity for imaginative solutions that add value to discarded materials, rather than take away. This is the future – sustainable creation and consumption, using resources already in existence. Design then becomes a tool for innovation that pushes zero waste fashion forward. The future depends on it.