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Men’s fashion, especially men’s shirts, has evolved more slowly than the eclectic, often frenetic world of women’s fashion. Chico-based company Parallel Revolution is leading the way with changes men can feel good about.
Jake Wade and Andrew Schrage co-founded the company in 2010. Schrage was, according to Wade, an eco-driven guy, so the idea of making sustainable men’s clothing was a natural fit.
When Schrage proposed the idea, Wade had two conditions – that their products should be made of hemp and made in the USA. Schrage agreed and the company was born.
Parallel Revolution denotes a revolution, of doing the opposite of what men’s fashion has done for over 30 years, and, said Wade, of doing things correctly. That meant figuring out where the raw material was coming from, who was going to cut and sew it, who’d make the packaging, who would do the design work, the embroidery, etc.
“(We) were pretty ambitious in the beginning,” Wade said, who was going to college when they formulated their plans.
During their first year (Wade’s sophmore year), they created their logo and a trademark. Year two, things opened up.
The partners decided to aim high and not do cheap products. For their signature clothing, they wanted quality, style and biodegradability. They connected with a textile and design graduate who created two designs for them., then led them to a a sample maker in Los Angeles.
They also experimented with different buttons made from:
- river shell
- corozo (also known as tagua palm nut)
They decided to go with the corozo, which they get from a 3rd generation family in Ecuador that”s been in the button-making business for over 100 years.
“(The buttons are) probably the most sustainble piece of the shirt,” said Wade.
When these egg-size nuts fall from gigantic trees in the mountains, they crack open. Once they’re dry enough, the locals collect them, then sell them for buttons. Each nut seed produces 4 to 7 buttons.
Completely biodegradable and harder than ivory, these nuts can be made into jewelry and chess pieces.
Parallel Revolution sourced its hemp material through a vertically integrated company from Colorado that’s worked with them ever since. The raw hemp comes from approximately 1,800 small farmers in China who are part owners of the processing, dye and other factories.
“The hemp is certified organic,” said Wade. The dye is low impact and their YSO blend – one of their flagship shirts – is made from cellulose from eucalyptus trees. Their 158 shirts are made of this.
They use what Wade terms “no harm silk.”
Many companies incenerate or poison the silkworms while still in the cocooon when they’ve almost hatched. This produces the longest, strongest piece of silk. Parallel Revolution waits for the moths to leave the cocoon, then harvests the silk.
It has a unique feel and look to it, Wade says. “It’s perfectly imperfect.”
Their final products are around 97 percent biodegradable and “green”.
Single or double orders are shipped in a recycled reusable plastic bag. The fabric and the buttons are biodegradable. Even their finished hang tag, made by a family-owned San Diego company, is handmade with California wildflowers. The string is biodegradable hemp. Simply remove the tag and plant it in your garden.
The only things not biodegradable are their polyester thread – cotton thread snaps too easily – and some of the label’s backing is poly-cotton blend.
Concerning biodegradability, Wade says the majority of their blends will start biodegrading within 1 year. The lighter blends will be non-existant in 3½ years and all their products will completely biodegrade in 5 years.
But no need to worry. Biodegradability means these clothes must be left in the elements – rain, sun.
“(They) will not fall apart in your closet,” he said.
Wade says they plan to eventually offer a full men’s and women’s line of clothing.
Their design is innovative for the industry.
They’ve adjusted the neck and sleeve opening length..The top two buttons are spaced out approximately every two inches.
“That’s the right amount of chest,” said Wade. “It fits well in the shoulders and arms, it’s professional and it’s beter looking,” he said. “It increases how comfortable it is.”
“That’s the level of detail you’re really paying for,” Wade said.
These shirts aren’t inexpensive. But, says Wade, “at the end of the day you can’t build the best without starting with quality materials and that isn’t cheap.”
Wade pulls inspiration from Sierra Nevada and Tesla.
His shirts “are our Tesla Roadster,” he said. “Give us some time and we’ll make a $60,000 car and in a little more time we’ll make something for $30,000.”
Parallel Revolution is based around ethics and making a positive impact.
“We can open a lot of doors and educate people that it’s not gunnysack material and it’s not marijuana,” said Wade. “People can see how handsome it is, how long it lasts and how sustainable (and) biodegradable it is.”
Wade’s personal mission is to rebuild the “American Hemp-ire.”
Schrage emphasized their business model. “(It’s) profit via ethics and quality, not at the expense of people, the environment and our own values.”
You’ll find these stylish eco-friendly shirts online at www.pararev.com.