In the age of environmentally conscious living, most of us by now have learned the importance of recycling along with reducing and reusing. We learn the easy steps of placing bottles in recycle bins and choosing a bicycle over a car whenever possible. From these steps, many of us choose to go even further and grow our own vegetables or buy organic products. But, even today, there are daily used products with little or no eco-friendly options for us to choose from. Luckily, a clothing company based around the area of Portland, Oregon is taking their part to provide consumers with more environmentally friendly products, with a unique focus—men’s underwear. By using re-purposed and eco-friendly fabrics, the eco-under brand is fighting to earn their place in the fashion industry.
Excited by their business goals, I sat down with Eric Christensen and Sarabeth Chambers, co-owners of eco-under to discuss their products. “Our goal is to make a comfortable product while cutting down on our carbon footprint,” explained Chambers. Immediately, they began pulling out product samples to share with me the benefits of their materials.
While working on designs and materials for her own growing line of women’s clothing, Chambers was approached by her partner who discussed with her his own displeasure in the products being sold by most big name underwear companies. She had not expected this change in direction, but took on Christensen’s request to make a better pair of men’s underwear.
This shift could not have come at a better time. While toying with new materials for her own line, Chambers had come across bamboo and soy and began researching their benefits. “The problems with cotton,” Chambers explained, “Is it does not have the same properties you can get with bamboo. It is not anti-microbial, nor anti-fungal. Bamboo materials offer better breathing and moisture wicking aspects that are important with sensitive areas.” With these new materials on hand, Chambers set out to create an eco-friendly product that would be used on a daily basis while benefiting both the environment as well as the wearer.
After making “about a gazillion pairs” Chambers quickly found the soy products to be her favorite. “They are made from leftovers of the tofu making process and turned to soy fabric. In this sense, it is making use of what would otherwise be a discarded fiber,” she explained. In this way, she realized that by making her products, she was truly reusing.
Excited by her products, Chambers handed me a fresh pair of their “Ranger” style underwear. While I had been a bit skeptical about just how great the soy products could be, the truth was revealed through my fingertips. The silky smooth material flowed through my fingers while still feeling sturdy like a cotton.
With the soft fabric still in my hand, I noticed the lack of labeling as I could only find a small screen printed material listing on the inside back piece. After inquiring as to the reason for this, Christensen proudly explained the years of interviewing that has gone into perfecting their design. “We asked and took suggestions,” explained Christensen, “Men really are willing to talk about their underwear—it seems like everyone has ideas and opinions about what they want but cannot find.” From these suggestions, the pair discovered that “gaudy” logos on waistbands were a definite no. They also created a style of flat seaming that takes the bulk of the material out of the seams and acts to reduce uncomfortable rubbing on sensitive skin.
Though their unending and vigorous design process, Christensen and Chambers have developed several styles that they feel confident offering to their customers. All styles are accompanied with their unique eco-friendly materials, manufacturing, as well as packaging. With their push to remain eco-friendly, it is promising that other companies will take head and follow their example.