Talk about making waves in the fashion industry. Bionic Yarn, an eco-friendly company whose co-founder and creative director is multi-talented entertainer and entrepreneur Pharrell Williams, has figured out a way to look good while still doing good for the planet. Using reclaimed plastic bottles, many of which are removed from ocean shores, Bionic Yarn turns the would-be-pollutants into yarn and fabric to make clothes ranging from ski-wear, sweatshirts, denim jeans and more. The New York-based startup began in 2009, and has since joined forces with a number of clothing companies, including Adidas, O’Neill and G-Star Raw, as well as companies specializing in items outside of the fashion industry. The company’s co-founder, Tim Coombs, has stated that over the course of the last three years, Bionic Yarn has converted roughly 7 million plastic bottles found washed up on shore into sustainable clothes, boat covers, furniture and more.
Williams quietly became the co-owner of G-Star Raw in February of this year, having already helped launch the denim company’s sustainable clothing line known as “Raw For The Oceans.” Williams first began working with G-Star in 2013 along with Bionic Yard when he proposed using the high-tech thread to create a line of jeans for the company. Raw For The Oceans became a reality one year later. G-Star Raw’s CMO Thecla Schaeffer said of the first meeting, “They put a very interesting proposal on the table,” adding that making the jeans was no easy feat. Schaeffer said, “We had a radically short research period — it’s not like you get a nice, clean package of plastic bottles; we had huge containers [of ocean debris], filled with Barbie heads and lighters, and we had to figure out how to turn that into jeans.” Williams has typically flown under the radar regarding his advocacy for numerous groups, refraining from seeking media attention for his myriad of humanitarian efforts. When speaking about his involvement in the Raw For The Oceans line, he said, “Here’s the thing, we’re not shoving it in your face — if you’re wearing it, you’re supporting our issue to be sustainable — [the cause] in the clothes. We think the best billboards for people aren’t the ones up in the air, because those get changed out. It’s the ones you’re going to keep for a long time: You keep your denim. Even when you’re not thinking about it, when they’re hanging in your closet, that’s a statement right there in your closet.”
Bionic Yarn uses a unique process to create the yarn itself. As the plastic bottles contain the same polymer in traditional polyester, the company is able to break the bottles down to create a sort of recycled polyester; one that does not require the use of any crude oil, such as the case with new polyester. According to Williams, “It was a way to not kill plastic off but at least slow down the production of it and slow down the production of new polyester when we can just recycle the plastic from bottles.” The process involves a few steps and can be different depending on the type of material they are creating. For the denim used in G-Star Raw’s jeans, the plastic is cut into chips, which are then exposed to intense heat in order to make the fibers necessary to spin into thread. Bionic Yarn’s efforts have received positive reviews from those in the fashion industry, particularly in the sustainable fashion sect, as the company has brought the issue of the dangers of plastic in the oceans into the spotlight where it belongs. Recent research by the World Economic Forum and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation indicates our oceans are plagued with more than 165 million tons of plastic, which by the year 2050, could result in the weight of plastic being greater than the weight of fish in the water. The report also stated per year, 8.8 millions tons of plastic makes its way to the ocean; the equivalent of a standard garbage truck full of plastic being dumped into the ocean per second.
In the case of Bionic Yarn, it is wonderful to know there are companies willing to put the extra time and effort into ensuring the safety of our planet by thinking outside of the box. If more corporations began to follow suit, we could stand a real shot at improving our precious earth’s conditions to ensure future generations are given the chance to relish in the majesty of its immeasurable natural gifts.