Fabscrap has been at the forefront of fashion sustainability in New York City since its founding in 2016, and now that the nonprofit is settling into its new warehouse space in the Brooklyn Army Terminal, it’s poised to make an even bigger difference in reducing and reusing textile waste.
“I know this is intended to be a hub for the fashion community, so being in the center of that is huge,” founder Jessica Schreiber told Metro during a tour last week. “And we’re also exploring how we can accept drop-offs, not just pickups, and what that means in how many more clients we can serve and how much more quickly we can sort. I think everything is much more scalable when you have the space and time to do it.”
Fabscrap, which nearly doubled the size of its former Jamaica location with 4,100 square feet of space at BAT, currently picks up discarded fabrics from more than 150 fashion designers like Marc Jacobs, Oscar de la Renta and J.Crew.
Textiles are sorted by its 600 volunteers, who are paid in fabric, and items that are not proprietary are resold in New York and beyond thanks to the nonprofit’s new e-commerce store. Fabrics with logos are sent to a shredder in New Jersey, who repurposes the scraps into insulation, carpet padding and more.
While Camille Tagle, co-founder and director of reuse partnerships, said that Fabscrap is “getting floods of orders from people everywhere” via the online store, there is a bit of a “wow” factor in seeing the warehouse in person, where mountains of bags await sorting in the intake area and colorful fabrics are ready for their future fashions in the separate retail area.
“The benefit of people coming in is seeing that pile and not only seeing the volume of the waste but how beautiful the stuff we have in here is. I think it really drives the message home of what we’re doing,” Schreiber said.
Fabscrap doesn't just help make the fashion industry more sustainable, it also gives its shoppers and volunteers a crystal ball into coming trends.
"Without realizing it, they’re getting a little bit of trend forecasting because we’re working with really well-known brands and see what they’re sampling this year," Schreiber said.
A life in waste
Schreiber got her start in fashion sustainability by, quite literally, spending some quality time with New York City’s trash as an intern with the Department of Sanitation.
“One of my favorite projects was sorting New York City garbage. We would go to a transfer station and sort trash,” she said. “It’s disgusting, but I loved it because you learn so much about a culture by what people don’t think is valuable.”
She was eventually hired to run the department's then-new clothing recycling program and piloted the city’s curbside clothing collection, which eventually knitted the fabric of Fabscrap, the idea for which she pitched and partly funded on “Project Runway Fashion Startup” in 2016.
“Camille came on as co-founder to really oversee the retail side and reuse side. My background is waste management, so asking me what that fabric is good for, I don’t know — it’s purple,” Schreiber said with a laugh.
Tagle loved working as a luxury eveningwear designer but became interested in fashion sustainability after witnessing the industry’s waste firsthand.
“When I transitioned to a mass-market company is when it really hit me and was the final straw to make a career switch because I couldn’t contribute to the problem,” she said.
Fabscrap last year recycled just over 70,000 pounds of textiles — and has already surpassed that number by 30,000 pounds this year, Schreiber said.
“We’re bringing in about a ton a week, and that was with two pickups a week, and we’re already expanded to three since moving here, so it’s going to continue to scale,” she added. “The industry’s been so supportive. I feel like we hit a nerve. Students feel like they’re giving back, shoppers feel like they’re saving things from landfills, and companies feel like they’re not being so wasteful.”
Fabscrap will hold a warehouse warming party on April 29 from noon to 4 p.m. for anyone interested in volunteering or learning more about the organization.