Through a zero waste process, tonlé creates clothing, accessories and homewares from reclaimed materials that other manufacturers consider waste. They strive for circularity and climate justice to mitigate the fashion industry’s devastating impact on the planet, and to facilitate conversations about equity and justice across the fashion industry.
tonlé currently employs 30 in their Phnom Penh workshop, who see the process through from fabric sourcing to production to shipping. They all earn fair wages and benefits, including a generous vacation package, free lunch, training opportunities, and team retreats. They train their team members in many aspects, and they all have the opportunity to rise up into management positions – rather than staying stagnant in an assembly line style workflow. tonlé also partners with a weaving cooperative in northern Cambodia which also employs 20 artisans, most of whom are full time.
There are generally two approaches to making zero waste fashion: creative pattern making that uses 100% of a given textile, and creating garments from reclaimed materials. The approach tonlé takes is a marriage of the two. Their design team scours the remnant markets in Phnom Penh, Cambodia for pre-consumer textile waste. Designers then work together to create designs from the larger pieces of reclaimed fabric. They then sew small scraps left over into yarn, which is handwoven and knit into new pieces—creating their iconic twice-recycled fabric pieces. They mix any other textile waste with used paper from their office to create their own handmade paper. By being purposeful each step of the way, they are left with zero material waste. In addition, they also have a resale platform: Open Closet. Through this, they have created a fully circular fashion portal where consumers can trade in or buy pre-loved designs.
The only plastic they use is when mass-shipping from their manufacturer in Cambodia to their US office. They use shipping mailers that reduce bulk for the lightest possible shipping option, resulting in a lower carbon footprint. These, along with the recycled tissue paper used for gift wrapping, come from Ecoenclose. Their printed materials all use the highest green standards for ink, paper, and energy usage.
tonlé makes all of their products from remnant textiles that other larger factories consider waste. They do this through a zero-waste process. Thus, they’ve diverted thousands of pounds of textiles from landfills and incinerators. At the same time, they have turned the textiles into beautiful garments and distinctive homewares. They also educate our customers on how to best care for their garments to ensure they last. To keep wearable garments out of landfills, they have created a resale platform where customers can trade and sell their tonlé pieces.
tonlé operates by three values: being purposeful, inclusive, and honest. They believe that every scrap of fabric, every action they take, and each piece of clothing they create has a purpose. Using fabric others consider waste, they create beautiful products designed to last. As a community of makers and wearers, they envision a new fashion ecosystem. One where those historically sidelined or exploited are recognized and centered as leaders and creators. tonlé is built on collaboration and reciprocity; justice is at the core of what they do. The brand also believes that knowledge is power; thus they champion transparency and accountability, while crediting teachers and co-creators with humility and authenticity.