Whichever way you look at it, cycling clothes are plastic products.
The attributes we want and need to find in our apparel when riding are achieved using materials based around synthetic polymers. If you want a jersey that breathes well, fits closely and feels good to wear you will at some point have to use a yarn, membrane, treatment or application that is difficult to recycle.
Everything we do as a business at Milltag reflects the outlook and principles of the individuals that work here. We love what we do and take great pride in producing high quality, bespoke products for our clients with a level of personable customer service you can’t find elsewhere. But how do we square that with the fact that there’s a climate crisis we are all implicated in? We have to apply the same approach to sustainability and environmental responsibility that we do to any of our clients. Be good, honest, transparent and conscientious. We’ve tried to align our own principles with those discussed at the highest levels of global governance and within academic writing on the climate crisis. Both the IPCC and COP (which includes the Paris Agreement on climate change) refer to mitigation, adaptation and resilience as starting points to think about tackling environmental catastrophe. We have tried to take those principles and apply them to Milltag’s business practices. We are committed to reducing our impact on the planet to as near zero as possible without it being greenwashing rhetoric.
We want to adhere to these principles as closely as possible as we believe it will help us to achieve our goal of being a socially and environmentally responsible company.
We want you to buy less cycling clothing. It sounds strange coming from someone selling you cycling clothing, right? But we mean it. As a company we produce bespoke, custom cycling clothing for teams and clubs as well as limited edition retail collections. We want to discourage fast fashion. This might seem hypocritical but whenever we release a new product online we are trying to create retail collections that will be treasured and worn for a long time because of emotional ties. Through the years we have collaborated with the likes of Joy Division, The Wedding Present, Shepperton Studios, Public Image Limited and produced our annual Yorkshire National Jersey. These are products that people purchase and feel an attachment to that goes beyond purely aesthetic reasons. The seemingly month-by-month releases of new colours, “new” features and new products tells you what you have is old, obsolete and out of fashion. It isn’t.
Pay more, buy less is a term often thrown around to make yourself feel better about splashing out on something extravagant but it does ring true. Whether it is that pair of premium denim jeans, the tailored jacket or the tough boots you take pride in those products, look after them and take them to the very end of their usage cycle. When we design for clubs or teams, we always try and produce work that won’t go out of fashion quickly. There’s no point in designing something that won’t look good 6 months down the line as it becomes an expensive process for clubs to change colours every year. We want to get you kit that lasts visually and physically.
We want you to treat our products the same way. Take pride in the fact that what you’re buying is something unique, created for you. It is your way of showing who you are out on the road, whether it is your club, your team, your company or a ride that you did with mates. It is something worth looking after and using until the end of its life, which we hope and expect is a good long while through our meticulous production.
With our retail collection, we want to introduce more pre-order collections. This goes against our consumer instincts of see it, want it, buy it, get it immediately but we think these things are worth the wait. By employing this system we make what is required, we hold minimal stock and we ensure that these items don’t sit around and go to waste. It also means every product becomes exclusive and sentimentally valuable as there is a very finite number of them. You are part of an exclusive club of fellow customers that bought that limited edition item.
For us, a sustainable approach begins at the factory by employing local workers at a fair living wage and supporting community projects.
They do all they can to reduce, reuse and recycle all of the materials that go into making our clothing. All of the packaging we use for our products is fully recyclable. Indeed, we urge our customers to find other uses for product bags at home or when travelling.
Cutting patterns of materials are organised to leave room to make smaller items and leaves thin strips of material that we can use to tie together bundles of items for dispatch to our clients. This ensures all material has a purpose and reduces the need to use tape.
PET bottles, sublimation paper and any fabric are collected separately and collected by the local waste processing company who further separate waste into 10 groups. Danish waste management company Marius Pedersen handle some of these responsibilities, including the more technical aspects such as the recycling of ink canisters used for dye sublimation.
We work closely with our factory and our suppliers towards a shared goal of developing better, more environmentally conscious products. 2020 sees the introduction of our new recycled jersey. The jersey is made from 100% recycled polyester, with some coming from Seaqual, a company using waste plastic found in oceans as the base material to create new yarns. With finishing touches like a full length zip made from recycled plastic we want to lead the way in researching and developing new recycled products.
We’re proud to say that our supply chain is a wholly European affair. Whether it’s material from Miti or chamois pads from Dolomiti and Elastic Interface, we are able to trace what we use to relatively local suppliers. Indeed, this close proximity allows us to cut our air miles by moving things around overland.
Finally, when organising shipments to our studio in Shoreditch, we always aim to have less frequent but bigger consignments. This means that we lower shipping costs for our clients and reduce the carbon footprint associated with transporting goods.
We try and make sure we bring an environmentally sustainable approach to our studio too. As well as the obvious things like recycling waste and reusing as much cardboard as possible we are always looking for ways to reduce our energy consumption. One of the ways we do this is our choice of shipping methods when we send out custom orders.
For orders in London we’re proud to work alongside PedalMe, a local cycling courier service. Using electrically assisted cargo bikes, they allow us to avoid using vans for our local deliveries and go some way to keeping London’s roads a little less congested.
Unfortunately, pedal power can’t get our consignments to customers further afield. For these we use UPS as they offer a carbon offsetting service which calculates the impact of that delivery and for a small added cost will invest in biodiversity, renewable energy and replanting projects all over the world. Details can be found here.
Once you've received your order we hope that you enjoy wearing it to explore, train and achieve whatever you set out to do on your bike. We hope you get to use our clothing to its full extent, to the end of its product cycle. To help you do that, we will happily accept damaged items and repair them where we can. If we can't we can offer you a replacement at 50% of the initial cost.
That is what we are trying to do now to reduce our impact as much as possible. But we can always do more. Just like descending a long hill on a ride, you have to look ahead at the best line to take. We’re always planning for the future and aiming to improve. 2020 is our 10th anniversary and rather than look into the past for nostalgia we’re looking forward to the next ten.
We always want to be as transparent as possible with our clients and as part of that we will be working hard to ensure we can give you as much information as possible about the products you are buying. That includes where we get our materials from and what they are made of. More and more people are becoming conscious of the clothes wear and rightly so. We want to make sure you are confident that you’re putting on an item you have full knowledge and confidence in.
As ever, we will continue to support charities and initiatives close to our heart. We see ourselves as an ethical company working to provide the best service we can to you and give back to good causes whenever we can. This includes cycling related charities such as Roadpeace and the International Brigade Memorial Trust, local charities working in our area such as the Spitalfields Crypt Trust and teams like TMC who will donate all 2020 winnings to the mental health charity CALM.
In summary, we aren’t perfect. Very few people are (apart from maybe Egan Bernal, he seems pretty great?). But what we can do is be conscious of that fact and put all of our energy into doing good. Doing good by everybody we work with from the wonderful people that make our clothing to the people that get them from place to place to the people we’re lucky enough to call our customers and also to the planet which we are lucky to live on and have the chance to ride around, taking in all the natural beauty it has to offer.