Clean Clothes is a series examining the fashion industry’s impact on our planet, and the brands, technologies, and people helping us toward a cleaner, more environmentally conscious future.
Now, Arvin Goods, the sustainable basics brand behind ALYX Studio’s head-turning hosiery, is launching its own Made in Japan sock line.
Almost every major brand now makes socks. Some, like Vetements, have even had theirs immortalized in song. But for designer Matthew Williams, a mission other than rapper namechecks drives development.
Williams, the founder of the eco-minded fashion line 1017 ALYX 9SM, has made headlines for his garments and mission alike. So when ALYX needed a partner to manufacture their vision of statement socks sustainably, Arvin Goods answered the call.
“A mutual friend linked me with their production team since they wanted to explore socks,” explains Arvin Goods co-founder Dustin Winegardner. “They liked what we were doing, so we ended up developing the ALYX Studio collection with them, for them.”
Winegardner will be the first to say that Arvin did not collab with ALYX: “They designed it. We manufactured it.”
Given Williams’ vision for his brand, however, Arvin had a high bar to meet.
Making socks with sustainability in mind is far from the norm. Because they’re sold cheaply, made in mass, and thrown away often, most socks are made on factory lines that maximize economies of scale. The more socks made in one shift, the better. The less expensive the material used, the better.
From a business perspective, the case for sustainable socks is as strong as the case for sustainable white tees. Cotton goes in. Garments come out. Amazon gets to list a category called “Bulk Socks.”
It doesn’t take a fast fashion thinkpiece to recognize that something sold 12 for $14 may not have the planet in mind.
That being said, socks are not notorious polluters. In fact, apparel factories the world over have recycled fabric scraps into socks for years. Arvin’s innovation – the one that lets it make socks sustainably, and the one that got the attention of ALYX – has to do with how that recycled material goes from scraps to statement.
The insight powering Arvin Goods: “waterless dyeing.”
“If you were using traditional cotton, it’d come off the plant, get processed into fiber, then spun into yarn,” describes Winegardner. You’d then have a grayish, ‘natural’-colored yarn which gets ‘bath dyed’ in a giant bath of hot water.”
According to the brand, the typical pair of socks takes around 50 gallons of water to produce – from field, to factory, to finished product. Arvin’s process brings that number near zero.
Winegardner again: “We can take in red cutting scraps – wastage when, for example, someone makes a run of 1,000,000 red T-shirts – and grind them back down to the fiber state. The color will stay with it when it’s re-processed, so when we spin it into a yarn, that yarn on the spool is already red.”
The difference maker is the yarn. With a spool of recycled “waterless dyed” material, a sock like this season’s Logo crew can be made from recycled material, use no new water or dye, yet still maintain its brilliant hue.
Now, with its new Made in Japan line, Arvin is spinning their yarn quite literally to new places.
The collection consists of three models: a no-show Street Sock ($20), heavy-weight Rib Sock ($32), and pared back Original Sock ($32), a refined take on daily wear. Each is produced in a family-run Japanese factory using Arvin’s sustainable yarns.
“In Japan, socks are important culturally,” Winegardner comments. “You remove your shoes everywhere, so there’s almost an added piece to the craftsmanship.”
And the craftsmanship shows. The Rib Sock is a gorgeous, heathered essential piece on par with other Japanese sock brands. The Street, a rugged take on the low-cut, stands out through its quality alone.
By making eco-conscious socks with artisan craft, Arvin is proving that even the smallest parts of your wardrobe can be made well and do well. Sure, socks and other basics don’t make for sexy sustainability stories the same as, say, biodegradable techwear. But the effects of a tiny change at scale have massive potential.
Imagine if a world’s worth of “Bulk Socks” got the ALYX treatment. Better yet, check out Arvin.
For more sustainable fashion, check out Ralph Lauren’s first-ever Polo shirt made from recycled ocean plastic.