“Don’t burn your bra, recycle it,” urges Kathleen Kirkwood, who is transforming the lingerie industry one bra at a time. BRA, Bra Recycling Agency, is a company that pulverizes an old bra destined for the landfill and extracts the steel underwire, both lifting and separating, as the Playtex brassiere ads used to promise.
A former model for Ford Modeling Agency in 1979, Kirkwood went on to invent “Pints of Pads,” a foam bra which she successfully sold on QVC. It landed her in Vogue, MTV, and she even made an appearance on “Oprah.” Production was often done at the Victoria’s Secret factory, where she learned the fashion company sold 13 million bras a month, approximately half a billion bras a year.
“It affected me. I had an ‘aha’ moment when I saw trailers from dawn until dusk. Huge trailers, morning, lunch, and dinner,” Kirkwood recalled. “We get numb to these numbers, but when you see it, it’s just, ‘Wow.’ So, I started to research the recycling.” A bra is seen as one of the most complicated pieces of fashion to make. In some cases, a single bra can have 44 unique components, making it difficult to recycle and thus an eco-fashion nightmare. Thus, in 2010, the concept for BRA began.
Upon pulverizing the bra, the bra fluff is then recycled into the cushion of red-carpet runway events. In 2011, BRA partnered with http://www.redcarpetrunway.com for its high-end clientele events. Soon after, Kirkwood pitched the company model to the American Chemistry Council, an industry trade association, which immediately connected her with brokers for big projects. Since then, she’s taken the time to prepare the sales models and appropriate patents, and plans to push the company forward in 2019.
In August 2018, she partnered with Victoria’s Secret and they collected 300,000 bras from a single Facebook post. “My dream is to become the recycled red carpet of their fashion show. A platform made of recycled bras,” said Kirkwood.
Her model is simple. Purchasing a recycling e-kit and label provides the cost of recycling, rather than dumping those bra cups in a landfill. It includes processing, sorting, separation, handling, envelope, and a final freight to carpet cushion manufacturer. BRA additionally extracts, through magnets, the steel underwire in most bras, sells it, and donates the proceeds to breast cancer research.
The only bras not admitted are gel and water bras. Kirkwood said she’s emulating her business model after TerraCycle, a recycling company specifically for those hard-to-recycle materials.
Kirkwood splits her time between Manhattan and Montauk. On Saturday, April 20, join her at Tauk At Trail’s End at 63 E Euclid Avenue in Montauk for a BYOB “Bring Your Own Bra” and Recycle it, a special Earth Day Event from 5 to 7 PM. The event will include free Montauk oysters and beer for the first 50 bra recyclers who post #dbybri on social media. Text BRA to 79274 for a link to a downloadable label to print and mail off bras. Visit www.brarecylingagency.com to learn more.