Community collaboration with Public Thread
Our North American team worked with a local organisation in Grand Rapids called Public Thread as part of NeoCon 2018, and we caught up with its founder Janay Brower to learn more about the company’s purpose and its textile upcycling...
Public Thread’s mission is to create a connection with what already exists around us. We are a socially conscious textile upcycling company that uses scrap, extra and repurposed textiles to make products that support living wage jobs in our community. We are located just South of downtown Grand Rapids in an old brick building, built in 1923 for manufacturing furniture.
Our social enterprise company was started by Janay Brower in June 2016 as one of three cut & sew manufacturers for apparel and accessories in Michigan. Our initial focus was on supporting regional designers and entrepreneurs to launch and grow their sewn product lines in Michigan. Our focus always has been and continues to be about supporting living wage jobs and being mindful about textile waste and sustainability. As we navigated the sewn product industry over the past two years, we were connected to a number of corporations, nonprofits and institutions that had scrap and re-usable textiles that were largely being put directly into our landfill. We had no choice but to get creative from there.
The model for Public Thread is grounded in caring for the people and planet throughout the process of designing, sampling and manufacturing sewn products. We use scrap textiles left over from the manufacturing process, and we pay talented sewists and designers to design and make useful, quality sewn products that support a value chain we are proud of and want to share. We charge what it costs to make sewn products in small batches, where every piece is not cookie-cutter the same, the people are fairly compensated and treated with respect, and the materials are recovered, cared for and re-purposed into something new.
To re-use what already exists is about finding value in everything around us. Placing a value on how we spend our money, how we treat each other, how much stuff we make, how much gets wasted and getting creative. Currently we are making bags of many shapes and sizes, wallets, clutches, purses, hip pockets, wristlets, clutches, pouches, beer accessories and more - all out of upcycled and repurposed textiles. We sell some of these products in batches to other businesses, municipalities or universities, and we sell directly to retail consumers via a new e-commerce addition to our website.
One of the coolest things in this journey of entrepreneurship is connecting with cool companies, awesome leaders and visionaries, and staff in companies across the region that care about this community and want to be part of things that make a positive difference. Camira has been one of those companies for us. From when we met Rune Akselberg, President of Camira Group Inc., and got excited about how sustainable Camira’s products are, to Bobbie Hejna who has been our logistics and design partner on a number of projects, and of course our first big project – the all wool bags made of beautiful Camira Blazer fabric for NeoCon 2018. We love repurposing, designing and using what already exists, and making it beautiful and unexpected. We have loved working with Camira and hope to continue our partnership with them for years to come.