Reimagining plastic hangers

A pack of ten grey hangers artfully photographed on a mirror that is reflecting the blue sky

Our team is geeking out over ( r e )ˣ clothes hangers, and not just because each pack reduces two pounds of ocean plastic pollution! 🌊 Read our Q&A with the founder to find out why her hangers are so special.

♻️ Hi Paulina! First off, how do you pronounce the name of your brand?

Paulina Quintana: It’s pronounced “re-to-the-x.” When deciding on a name I wanted to highlight “reduce, reuse, recycle” but having heard this outdated mantra since the 80’s, I wanted to clap back at it, just a little. We've got to step it up! Restore, rethink, repurpose, reinvent, reconstruct, redistribute, reorganize…

♻️ What led you to start ( r e )ˣ?

I’ve always had two careers: teaching and designing. I began with teaching, and when my niece was born I started making kids clothes. One thing led to another, and within two years Barney’s had picked up my line! I designed for 13 years until the 2007 recession hit. Then we pivoted to flash sales, as many brick-and-mortar stores were closing.

A divorce later, I found myself back in the classroom. Being around kids is the best medicine for an aching heart! Once I was back on my feet, remarried, and looking to stay home with my teenage children, I knew I wanted to combine design with something that gave me the same feeling of “justice” that I got when I was teaching.

My step-son turned me on to Bureo, a company that recycles fishing nets from my native Chile and makes them into skateboard decks. My mind was blown! I knew I wanted to design something like that.

Pine green recycled ocean plastic hangers on a wooden pole; a seaweed green tunic hangs from one of the hangers

♻️ Why did you choose to design a hanger?

I used a lot of hangers to send my clothing line to big box stores. Hangers are ubiquitous and considered a throw away item. The number of flimsy plastic hangers that get broken and discarded on a yearly basis is staggering—8 billion! There are probably very few of us who have never broken a plastic hanger.

♻️ What shortcomings were you trying to solve with your design?

First and foremost, I wanted to create a hanger that would never break. There's no point in creating the same flimsy hanger but with recycled materials. Our hangers are 50% thicker than most plastic hangers and the pant rod is 25% wider.

Virgin plastic hangers are notorious for snapping at the hook's base. To address this issue, we designed a bridge at the base of the hook so that it can withstand all the push and pull of a jam-packed closet.

A gif of a weak yellow hanger buckling under the weight of jeans and a strong hanger

We also wanted to make sure that clothes wouldn't slip off, so we made all the bars have ridges. Lastly, we made sure that we could hang jeans using the “fish” hooks (a nod to our ocean origins).

♻️ Why did you choose to make your hangers out of ocean plastic?

I definitely thought about other materials: corn, avocado pits, oyster shells, etc. But I was born in Chile, a country with so much coastline, and raised in L.A. The ocean is part of my DNA. My connection to it is best described by Pablo Neruda's poem The Sea, which starts with:

I need the sea because it teaches me.
I don’t know if I learn music or awareness,
if it’s a single wave or its vast existence,
or only its harsh voice or its shining
suggestion of fishes and ships.
The fact is that until I fall asleep,
in some magnetic way I move in
the university of the waves.

♻️ That's beautiful. Do you have plans to collaborate with Ocean Plastic Technologies again?

Absolutely! Aside from developing new products, we're currently figuring out how to expand Ocean Plastic Technologies' network of Micro Recycling Plants. They're a great partner. Our ethos is the same. When it comes to a material like recycled plastic, it's really important that there's traceability.

Paulina Quintana holds a pack of bright yellow recycled plastic hangers

These hangers are available in five great colors. Find them here!

Text by Mutia Adisoma
Photo of Paulina Quintana courtesy of ( r e )ˣ
All other photos and gif by Gerald Riedler

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