Major fashion companies send “damaged” clothes to the Cascade Locks for a chance at a new life

Clothing companies often end up with piles of clothes that are not up to standard production standards. Perhaps the hem or stitches are inconsistent, or they have experienced rips or holes along the way.

Many major companies now send their returns to Cascade Locks, where The Renewal Workshop can repair them.

The company takes discarded clothing and textiles and repairs them for sale at a slight discount. If the garment is not recoverable, the material is then recycled. The Refurbishment Workshop collects data on everything that flows through its plants, and these numbers are assigned to partner brands to help them improve the production and design of future products.

The goal is a zero-waste system that extracts value from what has already been created as a way to serve customers, partners, and the planet.

The Renewal Workshop was founded by Jeff Denby and Nicole Bassett in 2015 as a reaction to what they saw as a disruptive business model for the apparel industry. There was a surplus of clothes and clothing that ended up in landfills due to the rise of the big fast fashion companies. Denby and Bassett saw an opportunity for companies to increase their revenue without using any other resources — and to reduce waste along the way.

They built their first factory at Cascade Locks in 2016. Bassett, who lives in Hood River, was looking to expand the company from a smaller warehouse and needed a location with adequate manufacturing space. Cascade Locks had just what it was looking for in terms of space and location.

The company also opened a second factory in Amsterdam in 2019.

Bassett and Denby have experience in apparel, manufacturing and logistics. Bassett has worked for brands including Patagonia and Prana, managing sustainability and social responsibility programs, while Denby worked in manufacturing prior to founding the organic cotton apparel company, Pact.

Jeff Denby and Nicole Bassett in front of clothes hanging in a warehouse

The Renewal Workshop founders Jeff Denby and Nicole Bassett.renovation workshop

The renovation workshop employs 42 workers at their Cascade Locks location. Every day, they receive shipments of defective products from their brand partners, who are their only customers. These items are cleaned, repaired, inspected, and made available for resale on “re-trade” sites created by The Renewal Workshops customers, which also boxes and ships repaired items to buyers.

“It’s unique for brands to let someone else fix their products,” Bassett said. “We have invested a lot in developing reform standards so that brands can feel confident in the quality of the work we do so that they can stand behind their products being sold as renewable.”

With both companies benefiting from good resale and branding reputations, The Renewal Workshop was able to grow their profile and attract new clients. Its partners now include Carhartt, Pottery Barn, Champion and New Balance.

While apparel is an important industry in Oregon — home to national brands like Nike and Columbia Sportswear, as well as Adidas’ North American headquarters — apparel manufacturing is scarce, accounting for just 930 jobs at 70 companies statewide in 2020. .

Getting these jobs in a city like Cascade Locks is very rare, said Dallas Friedley, a regional economist with the Oregon Department of Employment.

“Small communities in rural Oregon, such as Cascade Locks, face challenges attracting startups and companies looking for space to expand,” Fridley said. But he said the Cascade Locks take advantage of advantages that other small communities lack, such as easy access to a highway and the Bridge of the Gods that provides crossing the Columbia River into Washington.

The Port of Cascade Locks is stimulating economic development, particularly by providing space for companies headquartered in Hood River and other parts of the Columbia River strait to expand.

Like most companies, The Renewal Workshop has had to adapt its practices during the pandemic, given the proximity of workers inside their warehouses, as well as the economic hit the retail industry has taken from under-sales and underproduction. Since the refurbishment workshop relies on its brand partners to repair their clothes, they have been affected by the lack of sales from major retailers.

“We definitely had to change our processes to keep everyone safe like the spacing between production facilities,” Bassett said.

But the company has also put its sewing skills to work making hospital gowns and masks for clinics and local hospitals.

– Jordan Hernandez

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