Brandon Kline ’03 recently launched Natural Border, a sustainable shirt manufacturer based in Richmond, Va., that uses all natural bamboo fibers.
Brandon Kline ’03 wants to help save the world—and look good doing it.
That’s why he recently launched Natural Border, an upscale shirt manufacturer based in Richmond, Va., that uses all natural bamboo fibers, which he says is one of the fastest-growing options for clothing manufacturers. “It simply produces the most advantages,” he says. “It’s antimicrobial and doesn’t use water supply or chemicals as a plant, and it’s soft and quick-drying as a fabric, which overlaps well with beachwear.”
Almost everything associated with the shirts is made in the United States. The shirts are manufactured at a factory in Wilmington, N.C., a decision Kline made based in part on his experiences at Elon, where he majored in philosophy and actively participated in community service. “I felt as if I had some roots in North Carolina because of Elon, and I wanted to give back to that industry which had mostly gone dormant,” Kline says.
Inspired in part by the popularity of pearl snapped western cowboy shirts, and designed to be worn near the water, Kline’s apparel line fastens with snaps, making it easier to put the shirts on and take them off. Snaps are also more durable than buttons: there is no chance the snaps will fall off since they are secured using copper and brass instead of thread.
Making sure the entire process was environmentally sound was important for Kline. The hangtags on the shirts are actually bookmarks or coasters made from biodegradable, recycled paper collected from local offices and schools. Not satisfied with stopping there, the company added parsley and basil seeds to them, so the coasters and bookmarks can be planted and eaten. The packing materials used are also eco-friendly. Instead of traditional tree paper, Natural Border uses a custom waterproof envelope derived from crushed stone.
The final step in sustainability during the manufacturing process is the elimination of a sewn-in label. The company label is printed directly on the inside back of the shirt. Even the available shirt colors—grass, water and white sand—were selected to echo colors found in nature.
But saving water by using bamboo in the shirt production wasn’t enough for Kline. He donates a portion of the profits to a 100 percent volunteer-based international nonprofit that provides clean drinking water to people who do not have access to it (the equivalent of 7-10 years of water per shirt).
“Being able to support a community in need of water is a way to come full circle,” Kline says. “This is the last impact, giving water directly to those in need through nonprofit partnership.”
For more information about the company, visit naturalborder.com.
By Kaitlin Dunn ’16