Zero Waste Varsity Jacket: The Process Behind the Pattern

Settlemier’s, an iconic American heritage brand, and DECODE (Danielle Elsener), one of today’s most up and coming zero waste designers, teamed up to create the zero waste varsity jacket. Here’s the story of how it came about and the design process that followed...

'Reimagine the future of sustainable American manufacturing using zero waste design methods, resulting in a product that is both a true Settlemier’s varsity jacket and truly zero waste.'


Hey - it’s Danielle Elsener here, ZWDO Cofounder and Zero Waste System Designer + Founder of DECODE. Last year I had the opportunity to be a guest on the ‘Seeking Sustainability’ podcast with Julia Blanford where I discussed Zero Waste Design, my experiences, and the future of the industry (you can listen to it on Spotify if interested). This one hour talk led to so much more than I could have imagined.

The podcast was listened to by Stephen Campbell, one of the key members of Settlemier’s Varsity Jackets in Portland OR focusing on updating and innovating. Covid had allowed a pause for them to reflect on their future and where they wanted to go. After hearing my ramblings about dreaming of building a Zero Waste Factory and working with like-minded people toward a better future, he instantly knew he needed to reach out.

“We have decided to work as hard as possible to be on the front lines of the movement towards positive, equitable, and environmentally-conscience change. This means searching for improvements that lead to better fabric yields and uniformity of common parts - a real consideration for each small part and how it affects the final product. As happens with most quests, we realized that we needed a professional. Someone who wants to help make these big changes last. After searching across the globe, far and wide, we found out that what we were looking for had just landed in Portland.”

- Stephen Campbell

I had just happened to return to Portland after graduation with my master’s from the Royal College of Art in London, and decided to set up a small consultancy and studio downtown. Stephen invited me over to meet the third generation owner of Settlemier’s, Aaron, and to talk about how I could help them on their journey.

Introducing Settlemier's

Walking into Settlemier's is a dream. It’s an old-school world of tradition, where Varsity jackets reign supreme and the people working there live and breathe their role in it. This sense of tradition mixed with the young energy of a new owner is infectious; ideas are welcomed and innovation is encouraged.

The patterns used to make their iconic varsity jackets are lined up on the back wall, making it a beautiful yet utilitarian backdrop to the energetic workforce in front of it.