Mpora INTERVIEWMAKE | The Cardiff Brand Making Sustainable Gear Entirely From Leftover Fabrics
Setting up MAKE in 2019, Sam Osborne has set about putting waste in the outdoor apparel industry to good use. Does his sustainability-first vision for kit show us the way forward?
By Hannah Bailey
“The world is literally a treasure trove of waste” says Sam Osbourne, fabric designer and founder of MAKE. He makes it sound like a good thing, which of course it isn’t. But what Sam is doing with his “treasure trove” of fabrics, left over from outdoor apparel brands, is positive for the industry and our consumer driven society.“The amount of surplus material is exponentially huge. It is very difficult to visualise it until you go to a warehouse and see bundles and bundles of it that will be destroyed if no one buys them out. The bottom line is we don’t need to produce any new materials for a few years, as long as people are willing to put up with colourways that are already out there.”
As a passionate community of outdoor enthusiasts, our consumer habits often contradict our reliance on, and love of, nature.
What Sam is doing with MAKE is challenging not only brands in the industry to address fabric surplus, but for the consumers (us) to question it with their voice and buying power.
“It really is about trying to assist in a way that hasn’t been done before to provide a solution.
We have done a lot of damage to the planet, and for me I don’t want to continue to access the things I love and damage them at the same time,” he explains.
Sitting surrounded by nature just outside Cardiff, Sam’s mission to create a solution based outdoor apparel brand from surplus materials in the industry was born from two worlds; the urban influence of the Welsh city, paired with the accessibility of the outdoors to his home.
His time working for brands in the industry opened his eyes to the production process and its damaging ways.
“What we are seeing right now are token greenwashing projects from big players, and it doesn’t reflect how they are actually treating their suppliers and how they are producing their fabrics,” he explains. “The vast majority are making products every year to feel relevant in a market place and offer something new.
They have shareholders to satisfy which is a very big boat to steer. This is an industry which has been working this way for a long time.” His awareness on the issue of surplus materials, experience in the field of fabric design, passion and creativity resulted in him starting MAKE in 2019; an innovation-led, sustainability-first clothing brand, which uses the endless surplus stockpiles of fabrics available globally.
Leftover from the fashion industry, these contribute to it being the second largest polluter on the planet.
Rather than starting a brand which adds to the treasure trove of waste, he is making use of it.
“I always knew I wanted to start my own brand but as I had my industry awakening, the idea of the brand started to happen simultaneously,” he says.
With existing relationships with factories and mills who back his idea and the MAKE brand ethos, Sam has been able to be part of the change, and many of the people he works with have become personal friends.
There is a sense that change is needed by them too. COVID made things clearer because there were relationships in the outdoors market that were really not honoured when huge multinational wealthy brands were cancelling orders they hadn’t paid for which were already being produced.
It put huge pressure on manufacturing communities.“What we are seeing right now are token greenwashing projects from big players”Starting out using 100% surplus materials only, a guiding principle for MAKE is beauty in restriction. “We are celebrating the fact that we can’t go on the way we are, but we can make really interesting, progressive, informed decisions about our limited supply, and we can move forward in that way,” explains Sam, before going on to elaborate.“
If we simply follow the rhetoric of capitalistic consumption, which of course exists wholeheartedly within alpinists and skateboarders, you are just continuing to create waste and fuelling the issue.
So we are digging our heels in, being proud of who we are and being realistic about what our abilities are and our approach should be!”It’s not only for the sake of his brand, Sam wants to draw attention to the issue, and expand the use of surplus materials in the outdoor industry as a whole. “Apart from the obvious key players who are really great and have always been doing the right thing, the vast majority of brands make products from petrochemical derived yarn and that is really damaging.”
At a time in the industry when a lot of brands are remodelling their values, and being questioned about their transparency by consumers, MAKE has nothing to hide and is there to challenge the system.“Every year or so there is a new strapline for different materials, when really they rely on the same technology and come from the same place.
We want to do away with the cult of the hang tag! We just launched a biodegradable high abrasion polyester, which is our first foray into our own trademarked materials.
That material can be literally cut out from the garment and buried, and will disappear into the soil. Plus it can compete with some of the damaging nylons that are out there.” Sam sees his mission also being about changing the perception of what surplus fabric can produce – from that vision of a patch work jacket, to something long term, reliable and sustainable.
“We are seeing the benefit of scavenging and using waste for them as a way to move forward. We are in a sacred jumble sale looking for these crazy materials and getting really excited by what we are finding. It is completely down to the perspective.”
His work pragmatically and aesthetically challenges the industry we all know well – from questioning how an alpinist should look to wondering how many new waterproof jacket styles a brand should release each year.
If you look at MAKE, you won’t see it fitting the mould of other brands, or trying to talk to the same audience. Made for everyone, Sam is proud that the brand visually challenges the outdoor stereotype. Some might consider it leaning towards streetwear or fashion, but who decides how outdoor apparel should look?“We challenge users perspectives of garments in that way,” says Sam.
“Our clothing performs really well, but might be slightly unconventional looking compared with a lot of the other products out there on the market, but that is a good thing as far as we are concerned. You don’t have to make any sacrifices using (surplus) materials, you can literally find the best materials available on the planet, but you need a business model and a mentality.
It is time for the small and independents who have an opinion and are offering solutions to come in and to break up the order which has created the waste!”