We had the good fortune of connecting with Jenny Silbert and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jenny, so many of the folks we connect with are focused on having a positive social impact on their community or the world at large. Can you talk to us about how you are helping the community?
Over 11 million tons of textiles are landfilled globally. Our entire business revolves around decreasing what other corporations are sending to landfill, and shifting the conversation about trash from where we put it, to what can we make with it? To date, we have diverted over 23,000 pounds of non-recyclable materials from landfill. Fighting against climate change is also fighting against other pressing issues that plague humanity, like social justice and inequality. Good capitalism will always cost more, and corporations have been putting profits over people and planet for a long time.
Nonetheless, we’ve been prioritizing sustainability since 2014, pushing better products through a business model that reintroduces value into waste streams. We take great pride in creating products that are not just a “better” option, like reusable metal bottles or bamboo t-shirts made out of virgin materials, but a negative option – one that actually removes trash and carbon from the environment.
Additionally, by producing ethically in our Los Angeles studios and partnering locally as often as possible, we combat the social and environmental cost of mass overseas manufacturing. It is very important to us that we quantify and measure the impact of our work in every step of our process. Greenhouse gas emissions is something that we measure per product, and we have the capacity to measure the CO2 diverted from landfill for every project.
The impact data allows us to tell a meaningful story when speaking to consumers and the companies we partner with, including exploring the direct health benefits of diverting material from landfill.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Rewilder is a sustainable fashion brand that finds beauty in discarded industrial materials, and impact in upcycling. We are 100% woman-owned and operated, and manufacture ethically in our Los Angeles studio using only repurposed and upcycled materials.
Rewilder began in 2014 as a friendship-turned-partnership between an architect and a handbag designer: Jennifer Silbert and Lisa Siedlecki. Both women were appalled by the massive amounts of unnecessary waste the construction and fashion industries generated, and were inspired to build Rewilder with a mission to divert high-performance materials from the landfill. Jennifer’s background in architecture and material development steered the material sourcing process, while Lisa’s expertise in design made it easy to enter the consumer handbag market.
After Lisa’s departure in 2018, Rewilder shifted focus to maximize material diversion: working with large companies to divert from their waste streams and doing R+D on new materials that can be successfully diverted for design. Our goal is to make these materials accessible to other designers as well. When the pandemic began, our business changed, and we immediately pivoted to making reusable masks at cost for the good of the community. We didn’t feel comfortable trying to sell our consumers bags they don’t need in quarantine, so we decided to develop a new product line that aligns our mission of waste-reduction to the reality of consumers staying at home.
Our new line of upcycled products for home will not only use our salvaged materials, but allow the customer to use their own discard as well. We are optimistic that the pandemic, however cruel, has unveiled the necessity for social capitalism.
The pre-pandemic prosperity was a facade that maintained a failing system, but now, we are in a better position than ever to tackle bigger issues because it’s what the world needs. In parallel, the world will also be more receptive to what we have to offer: completely rethinking and redoing things.
What many consumers don’t realize is that it actually costs more to sort and rehabilitate waste materials than to just pay for products to be made with new raw materials. For example, it is three times as expensive to make a recycled plastic bottle than make it new. This is one of the obstacles to circularity: it costs a lot because materials are irregular and inconsistent, demanding careful manual processes that counter the efficiency required in mass manufacturing. Rewilder faces the same issue: it costs so much to take trash and transform it into something that people want, but it’s tough to compete with brands that manufacture at scale for a fraction of the cost overseas with new materials.
Again, we use robust impact data and storytelling to educate consumers and companies on the benefits of working with upcycled materials for people and the planet.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Los Angeles is full of wonderful surprises and talented people. Pre-pandemic, I’d definitely recommend a trip to the LACMA, the MOCA, and the absolutely delightful Museum of Jurassic Technology in Culver City.
As an architect, there are some can’t miss spaces – the Schindler house; the Disney Concert hall; the Gamble house are a few of my favorites. I am also an avid surfer, which affords me the opportunity to explore the coastline and some lovely hidden beaches. My two favorites are PV cove in Palos Verdes, and Staircase beach at the north end of Leo Carrillo. If you’re a beginner surfer, head to El Porto, Manhattan Beach – there’s board rental right on the beach and a great beginner break most days.
I highly recommend surfing through the sunset, it’s the most magical time of day. For music, my absolute favorite is the Hollywood Bowl. The venue is simply top notch, classic LA. I love both the LA Phil there, and KCRW shows. THE BEST. For a more intimate vibe, I’d go to The Hotel Cafe. Just walk in and see whoever’s playing; it’s always good stuff. Monday nights at Bardot – School Night (also hosted by KCRW). There’s so much more! And writing all this down is making me really miss the amazing art and music in our incredible city.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
We are honored to be part of LACI – Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator – in both the FBA program and the innovators program. LACI is an incredible organization working to create an inclusive green economy by fostering and mentoring small businesses with big ideas for the future. We are working with LACI to pivot and grow our business into material supply, changing the way that designers see trash. Check them out here: https://laincubator.org/ We also want to shout out some incredible organizations that have committed to sustainability and have put money, energy and materials toward upcycling projects. These include LA Metro (we made 10,000 upcycled pouches for their Transit Operators Appreciation Day!), the Hollywood Bowl (upcycling their street pole banners into totes), Imperfect Produce (after rebranding, we transformed their old marketing materials), UCLA, Subaru, and more. It’s inspiring to work with large companies and organizations that are truly committed to taking responsibility for their materials and doing better for the planet.