From Scraps to Sacks: The Product Lifecycle of Looptworks’ The Calvin

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The Story Behind an Eco-Friendly Accessory

Conscious companies that sell physical products tend to put a lot of thought into the full product lifecycle every item experiences. From material sourcing to distribution, each step along the way requires careful consideration. At Looptworks, a bag and eco-friendly accessory producer based out of Portland, Oregon, high-quality products are created from unexpected materials, and the environmental and societal impact of every piece is assessed. This is the story of one of Looptworks’ newest products: The Calvin Backpack.

Before production, The Calvin went through a rigorous design process, starting with 14 concept sketches followed by four prototype builds. “Nailing the product is an essential part of business, but it’s also an important part of our environmental mission,” says Nick Mastors, Looptworks’ Ecommerce Manager. His reasoning? Products that aren’t made well, that aren’t useful, and that customers don’t fall in love with end up in landfills. Step 1 in The Calvin’s product lifecycle is crafting a product that customers want to hold onto for the long haul.

the calvinStep 2 is finding the right materials. The Calvin is constructed from two primary textiles: leather and nylon twill. Rather than sourcing brand new materials, Looptworks makes use of recycled textiles. The black leather was discarded by a shoe manufacturer in California. The nylon twill? Leftovers from a company that makes snowboarding jackets. (Other products from Looptworks are made from leftover and unwanted materials such as leather from old airplane seats.)

“Our mantra is ‘use what already exists,’” says Mastors. “Materials take a lot of fresh water and energy to create, and upcycling extends the life of materials, which means that less resources are used overall.”

In the case of The Calvin, only one component is not upcycled: the hardware. That’s a concession the company made in order to retain its high quality and durability standards.

Once materials are secured, they’re shipped to Portland for Step 3: manufacturing. Mastors notes that using a manufacturer in Asia would have been less expensive, “but that would mean unnecessary emissions.” The Calvin is constructed almost completely within a 25-mile radius of Portland.

Step 4 in the product lifecycle is the official product launch, which for The Calvin, took place on Kickstarter – a new process for Looptworks. Gathering funds on Kickstarter allows Looptworks to take preorders and have a real understanding for how many bags will be purchased. “By the end of this Kickstarter campaign, we’ll know exactly how many units we need to make to fulfill the orders we have already,” says Mastors, “and we’ll also have a reasonable expectation of what demand will look like going forward. This means more accurate inventory planning and less waste.”

The Calvin comes with a lifetime guarantee, which ties into Looptworks’ environmental and quality standards. In addition, 10 percent of profits from purchases of The Calvin go to Girls Inc. of the Pacific Northwest, a nonprofit that empowers and provides mentoring relationships to girls.

On the Looptworks horizon is a possible take-back program, which would allow customers to return their products when they’re no longer useful. Looptworks would deconstruct returned products and reuse the materials (similar to existing take-backers such as Patagonia and MUD Jeans). “This is just one of the things we’re working toward on our journey to an entirely closed-loop manufacturing world,” says Mastors.

Visit the Looptworks website to learn more about the company’s story, mission and products.

Learn about another accessory company that puts a lot of thought into its product lifecycles in The Necessity of Longevity: The Product Lifecycles of Wallets at Bellroy.

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