In founding a new independent clothing company, Rylan Blue, Andrew Meyer hoped to combine his two greatest passions: environmentalism and a love for sports. Today, Rylan Blue launched their new website, with a convenient e-commerce component, three product lines and an inspirational look, thanks in part to the crisp, evocative photography of Paul D. Van Hoy II.
Meyer spoke with URTH Guy over the phone earlier today. He said he grew up in New York state in a family that has always been committed to the environment -- his father, Edward Meyer (D), is a state senator in Connecticut who chairs the environment committee. Meyer also grew up with athletics running through his blood. He said his mother had been a top 20 tennis player, and he served as captain of the heavyweight crew rowing team while an undergrad at Cornell.
Meyer still coaches rowing, and added, "All my good friends have been through sports. Yes it's a game, but in some ways it mirrors life. You make friends, learn lessons, travel around the world."
Meyer said he loves all sports, and hopes to produce high-performance, green gear for as many disciplines as possible. In addition to rowing, he is an avid tennis player and cyclist, having once biked from Maine to California.
So about 18 months ago, Meyer founded Rylan Blue in Austin, Texas. He originally worked with a partner, but today is the sole owner.
What are the clothes like? Currently, Rylan Blue makes a limited selection of active apparel especially for equestrian, tennis and golf (yes, Stuff White People Like). The form-fitting Women's Equitek Show Shirt ($180) is lightweight and stretchy to allow for freedom of movement, while a contoured slim fit prevents bunching. It's tailored to go under a show coat, with nearly invisible back, side and under-arm mesh inserts for ventilation. It's made of 100% bamboo charcoal polyester, which is naturally wicking, quick drying, anti-odor, and offers some UV protection.
What is bamboo charcoal polyester? According to Meyer, sustainably grown bamboo is harvested, burned and made into charcoal, from a process that has been refined over centuries. Then that material is blended with polyester. "It's a great soft fabric that has tons of good properties," said Meyer. "It's naturally wicking and UV protective; that's a big one for me as a tennis player: when you sweat, or if you wear regular clothes, especially if they are white, it doesn't do a good job of protecting your skin."
Rylan Blue's tennis shirts for men and women (starting at $45) also come in 100% bamboo charcoal polyester. There are long and short sleeves, a range of cuts and several colors to choose from.
The company also offers men's and women's performance golf shirts ($70), designed for freedom of movement and breathability. They are made from 17% polyester and 83% modal -- a bio-based, rayon-like fiber made by spinning reconstituted waste cellulose left over from the processing of beech trees at mills. Modal is naturally smooth and soft, and resists shrinking, fading and pilling.
Meyer cites Yvon Chouinard of Patagonia as an inspiration. "His book [Let My People Go Surfing] was a real eye opener for me, especially what they've done to bring about awareness and openness about how their manufacturing is done. It's such a great company," he said.
Meyer said he has worked hard to try to limit the amount of shipping that must be done of his raw materials. He said his modal fabric comes from beech tree farms that not only practice sustainability, but are located in Taiwan, which isn't too far from where the clothes are actually made, in Shanghai. Meyer said he had researched making his products in America, but has been unable to clear various hurdles, from cost to vender interest in a relatively small order.
Rylan Blue clothes are dyed with Piho dyes, which Meyer says he selected because the provider has won awards for having exceptionally clean effluents.
Asked about the concerns some greens have expressed over chemical processing of bamboo for fibers, Meyer said his research turned up no viable yarn providers that still use the old mechanical methods, or even less-toxic solvents (versus sodium hydroxide), even after 9 months of searching in Asia (Meyer had previously been stationed on that continent for work).
Rylan Blue will not offer paper catalogs, pointing out that some 19 billion are already mailed out every year, resulting in millions of tons of paper waste. Instead, find detailed product info on the company's website. In fact, Meyer hopes Rylan Blue will evolve into an e-commerce platform for other companies doing eco-friendly athletic wear.
Meyer admits that this isn't the best economic climate to be shepherding a new business, particularly in the competitive world of fashion. Yet he is hopeful for the future. "As long as we stay true to our ideals, of environmental friendliness and a love of sports, it will go in a positive direction," he said.
"As an idealist you inevitably want to do more," Meyer added. "Yet you have to deal with reality as it is, and work toward reality as you want it."
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