Camille Tagle, FABSCRAP
Updated: Dec 21, 2018
WRITTEN BY: JENNIFER MURRAY
Camille Tagle is the Director of Reuse Partnerships for FabScrap in NYC. She recently visited DAAP, alongside Zero Waste Daniel, to set up a temporary fabric pop-up sale. I sat down with Camille to talk about the work FabScrap is doing, the future of the fashion industry and how she felt about coming to Cincinnati.
To find out more about FabScrap, check out their site https://fabscrap.org.
What is your background? I read that you had founded another company, Design Up Studio before joining with FabScrap. Can you tell me more about how the partnership came about?
“It is a great question. With any cofounder situation, it is really difficult to explain to people how that happened if you weren’t there at the very same moment. I love that you ask about Design Up because that does get missed. I want to make it clear to people that our focus is the same. It’s always been the same since the beginning. I went to UCLA and at that point, I had definitely wanted to do fashion design. My parents, however, asked me to get a Bachelors degree first before doing anything with fashion. That was not a terrible thing to ask and going to UCLA was probably one of the best experiences of my life. I ended up majoring in Art History, which helps a lot with any sort of inspiration that you would use in design. Being familiar with art movements and even how to research are both really valuable skills to any designer. I graduated a little bit early and the plan was to go to New York as quickly as possible. At that point, I had done a full undergrad. I was a good student, but I didn’t like school. So I was looking for a graduate program that was reputable, but also fast. FIT was one of those schools that had an accelerated program. I knew that to go into design, you needed some sort of degree. So I went through the program after becoming a New York resident. After that, I just dove into getting a job, which was the evening wear position. Ever since I even went to New York, I knew that evening wear was my niche, which I felt very lucky to have identified that because a lot of designers still figure that out in school. It helped build my goals. I did a lot of internships, but Pamella Roland was my first long term job. They had wanted to do a diffusion line for about a decade, so when I got there they figured that would be a great opportunity for me. It was a great learning experience, but also I consider it my first introduction to waste. The fabrics are so expensive when they’re cutting they try as much as possible not to waste the fabric. Then I went into contemporary, which is a different price point. Different quantities, everything is different. So that was a very interesting experience. Throughout all of this, I started to have doubts. We were throwing out quite a bit and the market that I was in was only benefitting this class of people who are quite well off. It was really hard for me to justify all of the waste and the hours and effort and the stress for an outcome that would probably be worn once and then never worn again. So that was a really difficult time for me because I was doing really well in design. I was essentially doing the dream job that I had set out to do, but it was never fulfilling to me like I imagined.
I think it was because I had observed and noticed too much. After working in Mass Market, any doubts that I had were just amplified. I think that was the last straw. One day, I was helping an intern of mine take scraps to her class and I thought “what if there was a way I could do this on a regular basis and keep it out of the trash?” That was where Design Up was born.
I wanted to make all of these fabrics available that would have been thrown in the trash. The cost would really only cover the transportation to get it there and the process of getting the fabric. After doing a few school pop-ups, I met Jessica. This was probably only 6 months into her business. She was starting to realize that a bigger portion of her scrap was for reuse. Her background didn't really lend to speaking to designers on what to do with the fabric, so it was almost a fated meeting in terms of timing, our passions aligning and fitting together personality wise. I like to call it work love at first sight. It’s really rare that you meet someone and realize their passions are your passions and you could work well together. So immediately after we met, we decided to merge. I would handle anything to do with reuse and she would handle recycle. Just a few short months later, I was at the FabScrap warehouse and making plans to dissolve DesignUp.”
Did elements of Design Up then transfer over to FabScrap?
"The agreement was the organizations would fully merge. So any assets of Design Up would merge with FabScrap. Jessica had recognized that it takes a lot to open up a non-profit and she asked to make sure if it was ok that we were working under FabScrap’s name. For me, it was never about the name.
The goal was always just to do something more fulfilling and try to save the planet.
I knew our partnership just meant a larger impact. We would be able to tackle things together rather than alone. It wasn’t too long after that I felt like FabScrap was a part of me. I feel like I've been there since the beginning."
What, in your opinion, is the most prominent challenge facing the Textile and Fashion Industry? How is FabScrap trying to combat that challenge?
“The idea of textile waste is such an elusive thing that I feel it’s very out of sight out of mind, which I think is the big issue. We are very well aware that we need to inform people as much as we advocate for what we do. Every week there is some sort of lecture or presentation, largely done with schools but also in the industry. When people can see this waste as it accumulates, it speaks volumes. So much of the waste in the industry is internal and not shown to the public. Many people don’t know the process of making a garment, which creates a barrier for transparency. I think all of those factors go back to the lack of awareness.
I think it is important that people start talking about where they’re sourcing things and being more transparent with their consumers, because that’s also a great way to teach consumers. If there is a way to try and make people aware of what goes into a garment, I think that would really help to shape their perspective. Right now the perspective is our clothing is worth less than it is.
Especially with fast fashion, which has encouraged this idea that clothing and textiles are disposable. It’s really linked to that mindset of how do you perceive clothing? Many people, I think, if asked would say they wouldn't throw out something like jewelry but they would easily throw out a t-shirt. Part of the awareness is that there is so much that goes into the making of a fabric let alone the making of a garment and that makes fabric a really precious resource.
We’ve all been interested in FabScrap’s process since we are trying to come up with our own system to manage waste here at DAAP. Can you talk me through the process? How have you learned to best document, store and sort your textiles for reuse?
“I will start from the very beginning. So clients reach out to us and they say they want to sign up for our service. We send them an information sheet and the service agreements. Those are important because they explain insurance. It also asks if they would like to be known as a FabScrap client or if they want to keep it on the down low. So they get the option after signing up on whether we send them black bags or brown bags. Brown bags are non-proprietary and black bags are proprietary, which means they have a logo or print that was developed by their team. So anything that is in a black bag is a little more expensive because they're also paying for that protection. So when we pick up the bags, we keep track of how many bags of each color we receive. When they get to the warehouse, we weigh everything. That basically means if we get 10 bags from Brand A, then this si the total weight of what we received and that gets catalogued. Each company at the end of the year gets their own report so you can imagine how detail-oriented we have to be. We have to keep track of data but also organize the data. Then the waste gets transferred to trash bags that are labeled to again protect anonymity and just to be on the safe side. Then our volunteers step in. Once the bags are sorted, then a volunteer comes in and are placed at a sorting station. Each sorting station is set up with labeled bins so it becomes very easy for them. Everything they need is at that station, whether its scissors, a staple-remover, etc. When they walk in, we give them an introduction of what we’re doing and then we explain the table to them and what the process is. We will separate based on fiber content. Most of the items we receive are headers so the content is labeled already.
The great thing about that is anyone can volunteer regardless of their knowledge of textiles. This sorting actually helps students and other volunteers with not only knowledge of waste but also textile knowledge.
Can you speak to FabScrap’s mission statement/cause? How do you all continue to center yourself around this mission? How do you keep each other accountable?
“So our mission is to just divert textiles from the landfill. We do that by reusing and recycling. I think the great thing about our partnership is that Jessica and I communicate really well. If there is any sort of press related thing that reaches us, we talk about it. We bounce everything off of each other before making decisions. It really is a relationship. I think that’s a really great question too because you honestly do have to constantly check in and make sure that all of the steps that you’re taking are pointing towards that original mission. Jessica and I have developed a very proven way to communicate and check in throughout the day, but I think with any sort of growth that becomes more important. That growth will shape and lead the company in a certain direction and we want to agree on that direction and make sure it’s sticking to our vision.”
Is there anything upcoming that we should be on the lookout for?
“Definitely our location in LA. It is coming later, but we are starting to talk more about it and find clients there. Other than that, I would definitely say our eCommerce site. We have been fortunate enough to hire a fourth person. The eCommerce site, up until she arrived, has fallen under my domain which has been difficult because the more pop-ups we’ve been doing, the more I’ve been away from the warehouse. I’m excited because so much of our network is not in New York and they want to be able to support us. So this site is a great way to keep them involved. She will be able to dedicate a lot of her time to that. She’ll also be growing our client base so that will be fun. The more clients we get, the more fabrics we get. The variations of fabric could be interesting based on those clients as well. We’ve also been getting a lot of press for our events, which is great. We’ve had a demand for the fabrics that have been shredded. We have a partnership with our shredder and we will be able to make that available for purchase for those people as well.”
Are there any circular fashion companies or recycling technology systems that are you especially inspired by?
“Zero Waste Daniel of course. I will say, with this trip I feel like him and I have had very intense bonding. I've been able to see so many different sides to him and I just have to say from a personal standpoint my respect for him has just grown. It was already at a high point but now it’s just through the roof. He personally just really cares. This is not just something he does for an image booster. He genuinely is a really thoughtful person who cares about zero waste, cares about education and cares about the students. This whole weekend, he was asking “Oh, am I doing something to benefit the students” “Do you think they’re getting something out of this?” there was always a constant question and that was just amazing to see. I love him, he’s great. Also, Eileen Fisher. She really is pioneering the “system” whether it be transparency, creating other ways to stay circular, taking back items, reuse and recycle. Also Everlane is a great company too. The way they chose to format their website is easy to read and understand. They’re a great example of how to display information to consumers.”
We hoped you enjoyed your time at DAAP. Were you surprised to be invited to the University of Cincinnati? Had you been to the midwest before?
“It’s funny because when Design Up was just an idea, I had met Liz Ricketts at this very random networking event. It was really by chance. She wasn't aware that we had actually merged with FabScrap. So when she reached out to FabScrap and I replied to her she mentioned that we had met before and knew of one another. I think that made it even more exciting to come here. We've been wanting to expand where we are traveling for these sort of events. On a personal level though, it was really exciting because we (Liz and I) have really come full circle since that first meeting at a coffee shop when we talked about catering to students. That was already a great introduction to Cincinnati.
What's been really amazing to see though is that it actually doesn't really matter if it’s the midwest or if its the east coast, I think this next generation of designers are all equally very thirsty for knowledge of how to be more sustainable in design. That's been a major eye opener.
You come into a city having certain expectations because of location and cultural influences, but that has been one thing that remains constant. This really passionate hunger to be more sustainable but also still design. It’s really great to see that in Cincinnati. Everyone who participated this weekend were very passionate and I loved seeing that.”
In conclusion, what is your hope for the future of fashion design and the textile industry?
“When I’m at FabScrap and we get in our bags and bags of fabric and I’m sorting through it with our volunteers,
I like to think that every piece of fabric that we’re saving from a landfill is another moment that we can extend our planet’s life and I would like to see everyone thinking in a similar way one day.
I think that just speaks to an awareness and appreciation of what we have.”
This interview was written up by: Jennifer Murray
Process at @without__within