A few weeks ago, I was reorganising the MoDiP store when I came across a box containing some garment bags and clothes hangers that had been previously used to store the museum’s textile collection before we had our roller racking drawer units installed, back in 2010. In amongst these, right at the bottom of the box, was a hanger that looked quite ordinary, except for the fact that it bore the iconic BIBA fashion brand logo.
Image ref: AIBDC : 008787
Image credit: Katherine Pell
We have several BIBA related objects in the collection already and I thought this might make an interesting addition, particularly since we did not currently have an example of this type of hanger yet either. I started to do some research to see if I could find out anything more about it.
Image ref: AIBDC : 0_2733
Image credit: Katherine Pell
We have this lovely BIBA dress in the collection and we surmised that the hanger probably originally came into the museum accompanying its purchase in 1998, the two becoming separated when the dress was laid flat in the roller racking drawer.
Some key information was very helpfully moulded into the underneath surface of the hanger, including its name (Classic), the plastics resin identification code (polystyrene), the manufacturer’s details (Braitrim) and a registered design number (2036699). This helped me to track down an approximate date for the object as the patent was applied for in 1994 and we know the dress was acquired four years later.
Image ref: The registered design.
Image credit: https://www.registered-design.service.gov.uk/find/2036699
A little bit more digging and I was able to find out that Braitrim was a UK based plastics company that specialised in making garment hangers but, in addition, they developed a system for re-using them. By charging stores to collect and then return their used hangers, Braitrim would clean, re-pack and re-distribute them from a depot in Sheffield. It was the first closed-loop hanger service processing some 425,000 hangers every day in peak operation.
By 2019 the company claimed to have re-used nine million hangers, at a time when retailers were being petitioned to stop giving hangers away free with purchases due to their potential for environmental damage; clothes hangers were being considered as harmful as plastic bags, straws and bottles. Furthermore, at the end of their usable life, Braitrim would recycle the hangers in order to re-use the raw materials.
I started off thinking the hanger was notable due to its connection to BIBA, but ended up thinking it was quite remarkable due to the sustainable credentials of its manufacturer. Braitrim stopped trading in 2020 when the business was acquired by Tam Hangers who have taken over the re-use programme. Today, they claim to save 300 million plastic hangers and accessories from landfill every year.