There’s plenty of common ground between brand and brewery t-shirts. For one, most tend to be black. They also act also an instantly recognisable sign of fandom and passion, one that ensures you can spot a Capital Brewing or Tool fan as soon as they walk into a room.
And if you want to showcase your fondness for a band or brewery in a way that's kind to the planet, Sydney-based apparel company Tmorrow have you covered – in both senses. They've spent years developing clothing made from fabric and plastic bottles otherwise destined to be dumped.
Co-founder Tim Austin has spent decades in the fashion industry, working for several major names; after being tasked with creating an organic cotton program for Gorman, he started digging deeper into the world of sustainable fashion.
“I started to take a bit more of an interest in sustainable fabrics from that point and just found some really viable alternatives in the market to conventional cotton and polyesters,” he told The Crafty Pint.
From there, he set out on a mission to provide an alternative to fast fashion; the global fashion industry is among the world’s biggest polluters, sitting near fossil fuels and agriculture.
“I felt quite compelled,” he says of the path he ended up following. “I just thought that developing products with more sustainable material was absolutely the right thing to do.”
Since 2017, he’s worked on bringing more ethical and eco-friendly fabrics to a range of industries, through shopping bags and other forms of apparel. Tmorrow officially launched during the height of the COVID pandemic when members of the music industry approached Tim and his business partner about designing band merch that was more sustainable than what was typically on offer.
“The concept of Tmorrow came from speaking to music industry people,” he says. “We basically just went, 'Let’s design the best rock 'n' roll t-shirt in the most sustainable way we can build it.'”
From those initial conversations, it took more than two years for Tmorrow to become a reality. They went to great lengths to source the material and make sure everything was accredited as being both environmentally sound and ethical. But, above all else, they never strayed from their desire to make sure band shirts weren’t just better for the world but also fitted well.
“I know it might seem weird,” Tim says of the lengthy development period. “Sure, it’s a basic t-shirt but a lot of thought goes into it and a lot of trials and errors.
“We didn't want to engineer a garment that's not going to go the distance – that defeats the purpose of what we wanted to do.”
The entire Tmorrow range, which includes hoodies, sweaters and other bits of apparel too, is manufactured using waste that would otherwise end up in landfill, with the yarn spun from industrial cotton waste and held together with plastic bottles.
“You’ve got this recycled waste that’s chopped into very short fibre,” Tim says. “But it needs to be a stable fibre, which is where you need a polyester filament, so what we do there is use recycled plastic bottles which have been broken down.”
The numbers found front and centre within Tmorrow's messaging are stark: the production of each t-shirt uses 3,000 litres less water compared to the industry standard while also putting less carbon dioxide and pollutants into the atmosphere. And, while the Tmorrow range was originally conceived for bands, Tim says he soon knew there was a range of other industries where his products would work.
“I think it's a really good way for brands with social and ethical alignment to jump on board and attach their brand to our blank,” Tim says.
Tmorrow's tees, hoodies and other items of clothing are now part of the local beer industry too after partnering with the family-run Brand Hustle. Co-owner Heath Shirtcliffe says breweries and bars have shown a growing interest in getting their hands on more sustainable merch.
“It's becoming so frequent now,” he says. “We're getting to the stage where brands are coming to us and will only purchase if we have sustainable, eco-friendly, recycled, upcycled and ethical products.”
Some breweries are building their entire merch range with more environmentally-friendly products; at Brand Hustle, they’ve been sourcing hats, bags and a mix of other merch made from recycled materials. While in the past there has at times been a trade-off between something that was well made and made to do good, Heath sees the likes of Tmorrow as showing how that's no longer the case.
“We have been waiting for products that have the right accreditation, research, and that are just really nice bits of apparel,” he says.
“We've always wanted to push the sustainable and recycled part of the product range. So to be able to be talking about it, have people interested, and have a great product, that’s really huge – we’re really happy.”