Goodwill finds stylish partner

Taking old clothes and craftily altering them to create new designs is a time-honored trick of the fashionable, but a partnership between a major nonprofit and a San Francisco garment merchandiser could take the trend to the mass market.

Goodwill Industries of San Francisco and Nick Graham, who founded the Joe Boxer underwear brand in 1985 before selling it to New York-based Iconix Inc., announced a partnership Wednesday.

Called William Good, the new clothing line will draw from Goodwill’s 23 million pounds of clothes donated annually and a team of designers from Graham’s company 100 Minute Co., a firm that sells branding and retail merchandising services to the apparel industry.

The goals, according to Goodwill CEO Deborah Alvarez-Rodriguez: divert clothing from the waste stream, create trendy and fun items that can be sold in stores and over the Internet, and potentially create new jobs.

William Good is in a pilot phase, with plans to preview the line Monday at Fashion Week in Los Angeles, but the two partners are discussing what sort of corporate structure they’d like to pursue if the concept succeeds.

“This is clothing that would be going towards the salvage market,” Alvarez-Rodriguez said. “We were really interested in seeing [if we could] do something with that clothing that creates value for people people like you and me and … create job opportunities around it.”

Goodwill was inspired by the success of a program that refurbished computers originally intended for recycling, she added. Graham said he e-mailed Goodwill about working together after thinking that the organic clothing market might already have many good players. In addition to owning 100 Minute, he also is a partner in Wonderbrand, a 30- to 50-person underwear and sleepwear branding firm.

“It’s really refreshing to work with Goodwill,” he said. “It’s a great brand. It’s something everybody knows.”

The men’s and women’s clothes may feature appliqués or other added-design elements with a whimsical touch, he said.

Priced between $15 and $300, some 300 garments will initially be available at Goodwill’s Fillmore Street store, along with another 50 at www.shopwilliamgood.com starting in November, Alvarez-Rodriguez said.

The initial production team includes two designers, two sewers and a production manager who initially worked for Goodwill, but the team hopes to employ people from job-training programs once the business is established.

Other challenges include making high volumes when the source material — donated clothing — varies.

“It’s a lot of trial and error,” said Ally Beran, production manager for William Good. “Right now … it’s a lot of creative collaboration.”

kwilliamson@examiner.com

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