Portland-based brand Looptworks offers circular services that transform landfill-bound material into stylish bags and apparel, downcycled insulation and recycled fibers . Excess kite sail fabric becomes duffel bags and totes. Old athletic uniforms supplied by the University of Oregon serve overtime as toiletry bags and backpacks. Excess airline seat covers are reborn as the world’s best traveled leather bags. And excess fabric from the apparel industry becomes hoodies, t-shirts, aprons and more.
Looptworks was founded in 2009 by Gary Peck and Scott Hamlin, who wanted to “upcycle,” or add value to the unnecessary textile waste generated by the fashion industry. The high-quality pre- and post-consumer excess would otherwise end up in landfills. Looptworks has partnered with a diverse range of companies, including Eddie Bauer, Pendleton Woolen Mills, Patagonia and Langlitz Leathers, a maker of motorcycle wear located near Looptworks’ Portland workshop.
Several of Looptworks’ partners aren’t in the apparel business at all. They include at least three airlines: Alaska, Delta and Southwest. Looptworks has reconditioned the leather salvaged from retired Alaska and Southwest seat covers and produced bags and accessories. Delta, meanwhile, has provided retired uniforms, which too have become bags. The company has also partnered with the NBA, Google, Tesla, and many other high-profile brands in need of zero waste solutions.
The diverse nature of Looptworks’ materials creates unique challenges of the good kind for the company’s designers, says Katie MacDonald, the company’s head of marketing. Most of us would have no idea what to do with retired Patagonia fly-fishing waders. Looptworks’ designers turned them into waterproof lunch bags and insulated wine carriers. They’re currently figuring out how to use unsellable hoodies provided by a popular Northwest outdoor company.
Looptworks sells its eco-friendly upcycled goods online, at its Portland showroom and often to other businesses. One of these is Southwest Airlines, which bought many of the bags made from its seats and sold them to its staff and customers. Among Looptworks’ most popular products are backpacks and their In Flight collection of bags and totes.
The company employs about 25 people at its southeast Portland workshop. It also creates job opportunities for people with barriers to employment through non-profit partnerships in other states and countries. Some of the products the company sells are manufactured closer to the source of excess materials.
Looptworks has been certified as a B Corp by B Lab, a global nonprofit network that requires members to follow strict standards of positive social and environmental impact. In addition to conserving resources and reducing waste through reuse, the company has embedded social partners directly into its supply chain. Since 2018, the company has conducted warehousing and distribution work with the help the Bobby Dodd Institute, which creates opportunities for adults with developmental disabilities.