Michael and Tina Elias of MANRAGS

Michael Elias of MANRAGS:

Circular Socks and Jocks

In this episode of Plastics Revolution, I chat with Michael Elias of MANRAGS, a men’s essential clothing line and textiles recycling service. 

Michael was in banking industry when he and his wife, Tina, decided to sell socks through a subscription side-hustle. The business did so well that he eventually left his job to focus on it full time. Yet soon afterwards, Michael realised that his own business was adding to the landfill problem. This started the next phase of the business which they are undergoing now to close the loop on textile waste.

I hope you enjoy this episode of Plastics Revolution with Michael Elias of MANRAGS.


Hosted by Tammy Ven Dange
Produced by Jonny Puskas
Theme Music by Joseph McDade
All Rights Reserved 2020

Topics from this episode:

  • 0.00 | Intro
  • 1.54 | More about MANRAGS
  • 11.26 | Sourcing material in Egypt
  • 13.26 | Who is the actual customer? “The average life of one man’s underwear globally is seven years!”
  • 15.15 | Do men’s socks and jocks go ‘out of style’?
  • 16.26 | Impact of Covid-19 on business
  • 19.07 | How does their recycling service work?
  • 23.07 | What happens to the recycled socks?
  • 26.58 | Is local manufacturing sustainable once borders open up again?
  • 28.37 | Breaking news from MANRAGS!
  • 30.37 | Sustainability requires profits too
  • 31.47 | Moving in to other textile recycling as a business move?
  • 33.00 | Partnerships
  • 37.08 | Why creating a circular loop for their products is important
  • 38.02 | Career change – from banking to making socks?
  • 40.51 | Customers – who are they really?
  • 42.48 | Advice for those considering a career change
  • 44.37 | The plastic-free packaging journey
  • 47.18 | How to learn more about MANRAGS

Quotes from Michael Elias in this episode:

“I was wearing some quirky and fun, colourful socks to work in my corporate life and realised that meetings became about not how to make billions of dollars from customers, but what kind of colour socks are you wearing today.”

Funny enough, we began growing in Singapore faster than we were growing in Australia… We hadn’t actually considered the logistics of international operations back then.”

“I think we’re in over 70 countries around the world. So, we’re on this ride. We had great growth. And then early last year, we began questioning our purpose.”

Last year, something happened where I probably have one of the largest sock drawers in the country, potentially in the world. And I came to clear out my drawers, which is a problem all of our customers and subscribers have, and realised that there was nothing you could do with old worn socks here in Australia. The only solution is to put them in the bin.”

“We identified an issue that some people may have never actually considered because socks are only a small little item. But, you know, what we found was people who have been recycling with us now for the last seven or eight months. They had been hoarding socks for years because they were not comfortable with putting them in the bin.”

“We recently launched Australia’s first digital direct to consumer textile recycling programme, which customers now around Australia can log onto our site request to pick up. And we pick up their old textiles from their house, from their front doorstep.”

“We’re now on a journey to become a fully circular Essentials brand, ensuring that our products never end up in landfill and that we have a second life solution for all of our products.”

“We’ve had to pull back completely on international marketing because we’re seeing products being held up at customs and borders for weeks and up to months.“

“Socks are specifically the least donated item in the world. So, actually from a Second Life perspective, there are a number of second life markets asking for socks.”

“The only saving grace here is that some of the equipment and machinery that’s been developed requires a little bit less overheads from a labour cost. And so, an investment in machinery and technology has a saving over a longer term value add, but does cost a lot upfront.”

“We’re about to release our first pair of recycled cotton socks.”

“We’re learning and we want to continue to learn and we want to change the way things are. And, you know, we will do that step by step and we’ll do it both with a focus on triple bottom line… At the end of the day, unless we continue to demonstrate that sustainability can equal success, people will not jump on the bandwagon.”

“I think there’s a very big difference here where we’re seeing a significant amount of new things come through – anywhere between 5% to 10% which, you know, hurts a little bit when you think about what consumerism, materialism or that type of thing. But, you know, we’re not trying to solve for that, we just want to see that it doesn’t end up in the ground.”

“We’ve made many, many mistakes along the way. And if we had waited for the perfect product and if we had waited for the perfect website and, you know, if we had waited, waited – we would never have launched.”

‘Eighty percent of stocks around the world, a little plastic pin holds the socks together. Most of the time, it holds the label to the sock. And then, you know, both socks together. We went as far as saying, “Well, we’re going to make our label detachable to ensure that we no longer need to use this little piece of plastic pin to hold the socks together because it makes no sense.”’

Links & Resources

Other Plastics Revolution interviews mentioned in this show:

Published by

Tammy Ven Dange

IT Consultant for the Not for Profit Sector | Host of "Executive with a Cause" Podcast

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