Moving the needle on sustainable fashion with ANIÁN’s founder, Paul Long
ou start by pulling on a thread … When Paul Long started his sustainability journey, he couldn’t imagine how far he would need to travel to unravel the complexity of the world’s waste fabric.
Long is driven by a desire to see fashion take its responsibilities seriously. As he points out, the ‘rag trade’ has done so much good — why not do more?
“The clothing industry has been one of the most, if not the leading, destructive environmental forces. Of course, it has done a lot of good. It has employed a lot of people, brought a lot of people out of poverty. But it also caused a lot of harm to the environment as it grew.
“I truly believe that no other industry will be able to have the same positive impact. If we can start looking at our supply chains as well as our product, we can have a massive impact. Imagine The Gap with 20% recycled textiles; it would be insane.”
Long’s brand — ANIÁN — is named for Marco Polo’s mythical ‘northwest passage’ to Asia. At times, Long felt he was battling the creatures that inhabited medieval maps of the world: Here Be Monsters; monsters dead set on sinking his dream of fully recycled clothing.
“I was working with one of the last woollen mills in Canada when I started in 2013, and then they moved overseas. So, at that point I had a choice on where to source our material. That’s when I started searching through the States, and Canada … and I was hearing rumours of recycled wool. I started hearing a little bit more, a little bit more.
“I tried out a bunch of American mills. I tried some out of Hong Kong, some Asian ones, and some European ones, and all the time this was happening I was Blackberry messaging a woman who represented a mill out of Italy.”
Today, ANIÁN sells tailored coats, shirts and jackets made from 100% de-cycled fabric from an Italian mill, all manufactured in Vancouver. You didn’t misread — de-cycled. Long explains that his fabrics aren’t being chemically altered. He’s simply reviving them:
“The easiest way to think about it is to take a bunch of clothing, chop it all up into a sort of fluff, wash it, and create a dreadlock. Thin it, and you eventually twist and pull the dreadlock until it’s as thin as the original wool or cotton that you started out with, except it’s long, and you can use that to spin or weave into usable textiles.”
Go to one of ANIÁN’s stores in Vancouver or Victoria or go their online store. You’ll see modernity interwoven with yesteryear. Long designs the look to fit the fabric, not vice versa. As he says, you can’t make ‘Lululemon stretchy pants out of structured wool.’ Instead, the dapper nap of flannel goes for thinner shirts, and the Melton used for marine pea coats becomes a heavier overshirt. There are sweaters, PJs and T’s, and caps, and even cashmere toques. Every single one is made from old wool or cotton. In Long’s words, when clothes look this good, it’s easy to say no to new.
ANIÁN’s journey isn’t over. Like a modern Marco Polo, its founder is still searching:
“I would love to see society as a whole start to demand that textiles are recycled. And, that we stop moving our economy in a linear way, on a one-way street where we just make, buy, sell, throw out. If we can start inspiring other companies, large or small, to say let’s start looking at our supply chains and think differently — that’s my end goal.
“We are not doing it perfectly, and by no means are we saying that we do it perfectly, but what we hope we are doing is showing people that it can be done.”