Students wear sustainability on their sleeves

By Jared Ebanks , Staff Writer

Mantas Treciokas and Thimira Bandara, sophomore in LAS, grew up childhood friends, but hadn’t stayed in touch since playing on the same basketball team together in 5th grade. Going into their junior year of high school, Treciokas reached out to his old friend to catch up. 

Their shared interests in design and environmentalism led to an hour-long conversation between the two which resulted in an idea: Offbeat Apparel.

Offbeat Apparel is a space-themed clothing brand centered around creating sustainable clothing that benefits the environment rather than take advantage of it. 

They enjoy exploring and visiting new, exciting areas and ideas that no one else has reached. Offbeat’s founders include student designers and local musicians in this process of creating something new, which in turn benefits all involved.

“We found that it’s kind of interesting giving other people that are passionate about designing a chance to put their stuff on clothing,” said Treciokas.

All three founders used their passion for sustainability as the brand’s foundation, looking to join other companies in their initiative to combat the negative effects the environment is facing. 

Treciokas and his fellow founders believe the fashion industry is one of the most detrimental industries to the environment.

“You have to wonder how do they get those prices that cheap? And that’s because they work in sweatshops, they make those shirts for pennies on the dollar,” said Treciokas.

Clothing companies’ production methods and the materials they use are aspects Treciokas wants to change with Offbeat. The leftover products companies produce will either be thrown away or the factories will make bootleg apparel out of the material to sell to 3rd world countries that then sell it to their people. Offbeat takes a different approach.

The brand works with a fair trade company that acts as a recycling plant for these excess clothing items. The fair-trade company purchases the excess materials and redistributes the fabrics to western society and small businesses such as Offbeat.

Karla Vargas comes from a family of shoemakers. Vargas, who grew up in Mexico, saw the effects of the fashion industry on her family as fewer craftsman jobs were available as machinery evolved.

Vargas, who attended the University through the iMBA program, has since created her own shoe brand and fashion blog, both centered around sustainability. 

“It’s hard to be 100% sustainable, but you have to start at one point,” said Vargas.

One of the ways Vargas incorporates sustainability into her everyday life is by paying close attention to the fabrics and materials her clothing is made out of. Some fibers such as cotton are natural materials, but require large amounts of water to be produced. Add that to the transportation costs and fuel spent on shipping the fabrics across the world, and there lies the detrimental impact on the environment.

Participating in sustainability practices can also be achieved by noting how long clothing items stay in personal rotation for use.

“I make sure to buy things that I truly love, that I see myself wearing a long time. It’s not like I’m going to buy something and then dispose of it two or three months later. I like to buy things to keep five or four more years, and then I can pass it on to friends or sisters and things like that,” Vargas said.

Bandara is studying environmental sustainability while here at the University.

“Unless you’re using 100% sustainable materials, you’re not a sustainable business no matter what anyone will say,” said Bandara.

Treciokas says that the brand is actively looking into more effective forms of creating and printing their products. One company in California, says Treciokas, claims to have created 100% recycled cotton t-shirts. However, such methods of production are expensive, especially for life as a college student.

“We want to make it affordable for college students, obviously. We don’t want to be buying super expensive stuff, we just want to feel good with what we’re wearing,” said Treciokas.

Offbeat has successfully created a business using sustainable practices. The next step for the company is incorporating sustainable materials.

“Our strategy is to come up with an algorithm or a strategy that we can manufacture here in America and make it still cheap and accessible to students and our customers,” said Bandara.

The brand looks to The North Face and Patagonia as major corporations that are playing with the idea of sustainable materials by incorporating organic cotton. However, organic cotton is an extremely expensive fabric, especially for college students. Given this, Bandara says the team is also gauging how they can use water bottles and bamboo as recycled materials. 

Networking with these corporations and manufacturers has been eye-opening for Bandara as the small business looks to make a big impact in the fashion industry.

“Our mentality is if they have the compassion to change the whole fast fashion into a more sustainable practice, they’ll be willing to help smaller businesses like us to do the same,” said Bandara.

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