In a new partnership, Able Made and Burberry bring sustainability to sports gear.
The sports team uniform is more than just field gear. It is a statement, a first impression, sacred regalia worn in honor and loyalty not just by the teams themselves, but also by their legion of fans.
Historically, sports uniforms were designed primarily for ease of play and comfort on the field or court, but in recent years, teams and designers have begun looking more critically at the environmental impact. Data show that increasing global temperatures as a result of climate change could make some sports untenable in the not-too-distant future. Ralph Lauren has been bringing sustainability to U.S. Olympic team uniforms and American tennis players alike in recent years. Nike also created sustainable uniforms for Team USA to wear at the 2020 Olympics, among others.
But the bigger impact than the uniform for several dozen players on the field is in the fan gear industry. The global sportswear market was worth more than $319 billion in 2022.
As sports industries work to address climate issues, they’re increasingly looking outward at the impact of team and league merchandise. Ahead of the London games earlier this month, for example, the NFL partnered with Plant City and Idris Elba’s Don’t Stop Your Future on two collections.
And, ahead of the Women’s World Cup this past summer, sustainable soccer gear brand Able Made and British luxury label Burberry announced their first collection made from upcycled Burberry fabrics.
Partnering for the planet
“We are working with Burberry to use its leftover, high-quality fabrics that we incorporate into our collections,” Able Made founder Suzanne McKenzie told Ethos via email.
McKenzie founded Able Made after losing her husband to sudden cardiac arrest while he was playing a soccer game. The label supports the Ucal McKenzie Breakaway Foundation (UMBF), which produces affordable, high-quality soccer and health camps and clinics for young people in Boston, Hartford, Conn., and New York City. Proceeds from the co-branded Burberry collection support the UMBF efforts.
October is also sudden cardiac arrest awareness month, and heart health and crisis prevention is a large focus Able Made’s efforts in honor of her husband, McKenzie says.
“Hands-only CPR and AED (automated external defibrillator) awareness is a constant piece of our education curriculum at our foundation’s youth programming. We also distribute AEDs to Boston public fields and for our partners, including the league my husband was playing in when he passed away,” McKenzie says. “This past September, a life was saved in part because the team had an AED on the field during the emergency, inspired by our AED awareness and advocacy work. We can quantifiably say that Able Made, our partners and our customers have helped save a life.”
Burberry’s “climate positive” pledge
The British luxury label has become a beacon for sustainable fashion. It’s aiming to be “climate positive” by 2040. “It’s about reducing carbon emissions but also restoring nature,” Pam Batty, the company’s vice president, corporate responsibility, said in a statement about the label’s Regeneration Fund, which puts biodiversity protection at the forefront.
“Part of being climate positive is working beyond your own initiatives,” says Batty. The Regeneration Fund will address impacts within Burberry’s own extended operations, as well as support efforts to reduce biodiversity loss across the globe.
The label was the first luxury cosigner of the LEAF Coalition (Lowering Emissions by Accelerating Forest Finance) — a $1 billion initiative to protect forests and reduce deforestation. It has ditched fur and exotic skins and committed to resale and increased repair efforts as well. In 2020, Burberry achieved the highest ever score in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index.
According to McKenzie, Able Made and Burberry are like-minded about their sustainability commitments, which made making the MADE2 Collection as fun as it was meaningful. “We reviewed fabrics and colors, and selected which qualities we wanted to use to create the collection,” she says.
“We designed backwards in this process to accommodate the quality of fabrics we were receiving,” McKenzie says. Instead of designing a collection and then sourcing fabrics afterward, Able Made did the reverse. “We sourced the fabrics that were available and then used those fabrics as a starting point to inform what pieces we would design. It was an inspiring design and creative challenge.”
While the fabrics were from Burberry, the spirit and POV on the collection design was 100 percent Able Made, McKenzie says. “We designed into ready-to-wear pieces that incorporated our signature quilted monogram to make the pieces extra-luxe.”
All of the MADE2 Collection pieces are cut and sewn in New York City’s historic Garment District. “First, we are leading with great quality, fit, fabrics, and attention to design,” McKenzie says. “I feel you must have a great product to grab a customer’s attention before addressing any reason to believe in the brand–including any responsibility and sustainability messaging.”
The collection features joggers, jackets, sweats, and hoodies, which are perfect for a layered look or on their own for all-season weather. There’s also a Sport Bucket drawstring bag with long and short handle options. There’s no leather trim, making the collection fully vegan.
McKenzie says the “made” part of Able Made’s brand speaks to its design approach, “a thoughtful and very diligent process of sourcing materials, and responsible manufacturing,” which she says keeps the label transparent with customers about its “responsibility” as a business. The new partnership is an extension of that commitment.
“This is a strong example of how the fashion industry can work together to make positive environmental change,” McKenzie says, “we have to be more gentle on the planet.”
You can shop the Able Made and Burberry collection on the Able Made website.
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