In Refinery29’s Talking Shop series, we’re chatting with owners of up-and-coming small businesses about their experiences launching, the big challenges and wins they’ve faced, and of course, their products and services.
Eco-friendly clothing may bring to mind earthy neutrals that lean granola, but Verloop proves that sustainability can come in a variety of stripes — and checks and squiggles and flowers. The AAPI-owned sustainable accessories brand gives life to deadstock yarn (excess material no longer needed after production) and creates one-of-a-kind items beloved for their bright and bold designs. Its cheerful site sells colorful mini totes, pouches, trendy bucket hats, slippers, and countless home decor items, all created with leftover textile materials. While reusing fabric may seem like a no-brainer, it’s not as simple as it sounds. It takes a team of experts and designers to carefully craft the whimsical Verloop accessories you see today.
Verloop’s story goes beyond simple sustainably driven practices. It’s also an heirloom brand that draws from experiences and family history. The deadstock is sourced directly from the factory owned by founder Ella Lim’s family which was first started by her grandfather in the ’80s, now run by her mother. Specializing in producing knit goods for U.S. name brands, the factory now repurposes the excess materials on-site for Verloop. It’s a full-circle practice that requires constant creativity and innovation, all while looking to the past for inspiration. With Verloop now in its 11th year of operation, we took time to interview Lim to understand where her love for knits stemmed from, as well as her drive to be environmentally conscious in each step of production.
Where did this love for knit stem from?
“I grew up in my mom’s knitting factory and shadowed her as she built her business producing knit accessories for major brands and retailers in the US. So I was exposed to machine knitting from an early age. It’s very conducive to small-batch production as you only use the yarn you need, there isn’t the same level of waste as a cut-and-sew factory, and the creative possibilities are endless.”
“I really like the technical aspects of the trade as well as the creative possibilities offered by knitting. Verloop really started as a creative outlet and solution to use the deadstock yarn left over in the factory after production. Deadstock is a reality for any producer, but most factories just throw it away. I wanted to find a way to use it and that became Verloop. I didn’t know if people would get it—there wasn’t a mainstream understanding of deadstock at the time. But I viewed it as a design challenge and I really wanted to try.”
I saw that Verloop Knits are created in a family-owned factory in the Philippines. Could you expand a bit about that?
“We make everything under one roof – we don’t outsource — and our factory team has just as much of a hand in the design process as I do. The factory was founded by my grandfather in the 80s and is now run by my mom. From the start, its sole focus has been on knit accessories, making them for top US brands and retailers. Our factory team are truly experts at knitting and have perfected things that are hard to get right, like well-fitting gloves and slippers that are knit without creating extra waste. You can see that same level of expertise and quality across all Verloop styles.”
Circus Mini Tote, $58
When it comes to all the knits you’ve designed, what is the proudest style that you’ve created for Verloop thus far?
“We introduced slippers a few years ago, and they’ve truly become a game changer for our business. We invested a lot of time and resources to perfect their fit, comfort, and sizing. Our slippers are known for their cushioned padded soles that we developed in-house alongside our factory team. They’re also fully washable. Now we have customers that collect them, get new pairs for themselves or as gifts, season after season. They’re worn all year round. It’s so rewarding to see our pieces make people happy day in and day out.”
What is your personal favorite Verloop piece?
“My favorite piece is our Simple Rib Beanie. We developed a way to make these beanies so that there’s minimal yarn waste. They’re super flattering and truly fit everyone. They’re also so soft and comfortable. Every season we launch like 10 new colors and they always sell out.”
Are there any new styles that we should be on the lookout for?
“We launched some new bags this spring that we’re really excited about. The Scrap Stuffed Tote is a see-through puffy quilted bag that works in our hardest-to-use deadstock remnants. We took separator yarn—used between pieces of machine knitting—and cut it up into stuffing, then quilted it with semi-transparent ripstop fabric. Ordinarily, this separator yarn would have been snipped off and discarded. But we’ve been saving ours, knowing we wanted to figure out a way to use it. Each bag is handmade and one-of-kind. It took a lot of experimentation to get the quilting technique right and we just love how it turned out. The plush and colorful stuffing in these bags is just one way we reduce textile waste with creative solutions.”
“We also launched raffia bags and pouches that use deadstock viscose raffia (made from wood pulp) that we sourced from another manufacturer. Every factory has deadstock in some shape or form, usually because materials are ordered with a bit of padding to make sure they don’t run out during production. We’ve expanded ours to include remnant materials from other producers. It’s exciting to start building those relationship and an added challenge for us to figure out how to use the different surplus materials that are out there.”
What message do you wish to deliver to new shoppers about Verloop?
“We want people to know that sustainable design can be colorful, expressive, and fit their personal style. It doesn’t have to be serious or toned down. The fact that we use deadstock is part of what makes our pieces so fun and colorful because we’re mixing existing materials together in spontaneous, unexpected ways.”
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