Thread. Haitian Fabric

Thread, the Pittsburgh-based company that turns trash into durable fabric, will expand its reach through a deal with Timberland.

The global fashion brand teamed up with Thread to create a line of bags and shoes. Set to launch in spring of 2017, the collection will use Thread’s trademark Ground to Good fabric made from recycled plastic bottles collected from the streets and canals of Haiti and Honduras.

Thread COO Lee Kimball says it was their shared interest in helping Haiti that united the two companies. Thread took root there to help tackle the mounting garbage problem and rampant unemployment caused by the 2010 earthquake. The company now employs roughly 1,800 bottle collectors, entrepreneurs and manufacturing workers in Haiti, as well as another 1,800 in Honduras.

In 2010, Timberland made a commitment to reverse the devastating effects of deforestation in Haiti by planting five million trees over five years. The move developed into a self-sustaining agroforestry program owned and operated by smallholder Haitian farmers. The project was captured in KOMBIT: The Cooperative, a documentary produced by Timberland.

“We’ve been working in Haiti since after our founding, cleaning up neighborhoods and creating sustainable supply chains,” says Kimball. “Then we got to talking [with Timberland] and realized we have a lot in common. We make fabric, they’re interested in Haiti. We should work together.”

The collection will benefit the small company, which focuses on transparency by tracking each yard of fabric from the moment bottles are retrieved to the moment bolts are delivered to the manufacturer. As a result, Timberland consumers can learn about the people and production process behind their purchase.

Kimball believes the exposure and profits gained through the Timberland deal will enable Thread to explore the establishment of more supply chains throughout other parts of the world.

“Our mission is to take fashion in the developing world and create dignified jobs and useful stuff people love,” says Kimball. “The larger the company we work with and the more products we’re in, that means we can pick up more trash, we can create more fabric, we can create more jobs, we can fuel more income opportunities.”

Amanda Waltz

Amanda Waltz is a freelance journalist and film critic whose work has appeared locally in numerous publications. She writes for The Film Stage and is the founder and editor of Steel Cinema, a blog dedicated...