Sustainability Column: Founding Fair Harbor Clothing

Along with my brother, senior Jake Danehy, I started Fair Harbor Clothing, a sustainable waste-diverting effort to make a positive impact on our planet. 

The idea for this project came at the end of Jake’s sophomore year at Colgate, when he was learning a lot about plastic waste in his Geography classes. He learned how much it’s filling our beaches and oceans, and he wondered what could be done to mitigate this issue. After a brainstorming session with a close friend, Sam Jacobson, who is now a senior at University of Southern California, and me, his younger sister, Jake turned to Professor of Geography and Chair of the Department of Geography Peter Klepeis for some further direction. Professor Klepeis shared with him that it is possible to turn old plastic into usable products. 

Board shorts made of 100 percent recycled polyester from 11 recycled plastic bottles became our answer to solving this plastic problem. Growing up just minutes from the beach, we became passionate about creating a board short that could perform all day on the beach and still look good enough to rock to a restaurant or bar. With this mission, Fair Harbor Clothing was born.

Over the past 12 months we have researched recycling plastic, and listened to enough Jack Johnson to make studying for final exams in the Hamilton winter feel like a Hawaiian vacation. All spring we balanced classes with locating manufacturers, sourcing the most high-quality recycled plastic and designing the blueprints for the world’s first fashion-forward environmentally-focused board shorts.

We have created what we feel is the best product for a simple beach life. Each pair is made from 11 recycled plastic bottles. Fair Harbor Clothing’s goal is to identify with the lifestyle of its namesake, a small barefoot beach town with a handful of stores, no cars, and clean beaches about an hour outside of New York City. Fair Harbor tried to create a product that both embodies the serenity of that town and fights hard to protect similar beach communities around the U.S., which is why Fair Harbor has partnered with One Percent for the Planet and donate a portion of every sale to ocean plastic waste removal.

After dozens of different fabric, design and style samples, as well as a 500-piece test run on family, friends and local Fire Island residences, we are ready to officially launch the full Fair Harbor Clothing experience in two big ways: our Kickstarter campaign will be launching December 2015 and our second line will debut February 2016.

We would not be where we are today without Colgate’s Thought Into Action (TIA) program, which has been incredibly helpful in connecting us with knowledgeable mentors that have guided us throughout our process. In addition, we were fortunate enough to win $20,000 from Colgate’s Entrepreneurship Fund and Colgate’s “Shark Tank” pitch to a panel of investors

including last year.