Rugged Seas repurposes old hauling pants into backpacks, totes, and more
Taylor and Nikki Strout had been designing hoodies and T-shirts for the local fishing industry since 2011, but they wanted to do more. They wanted something symbolic of the trade that could draw attention to a lifestyle so often associated with Maine. “We were trying to think of what all the fisheries use that’s sort of a symbol of all the fishermen,” says Nikki, whose husband, Taylor, is a commercial fisherman. That’s when they thought of hauling pants and how they could repurpose old, tattered bibs into another utilitarian product. “We thought about bags, and it kind of took off from there,” says Nikki. This year the Strouts began selling totes, backpacks, clutches, and hats made with recycled bibs under the name Rugged Seas. Pratt Abbott washes the donated bibs, and Lewiston-based Rogue Wear manufactures and prints the products. Additionally, the Strouts work with Guy Cotton—a Massachusetts-based company that has been making hauling pants for decades—to recycle any leftover materials.
At first, the Strouts were selling their products through Instagram, but Nikki couldn’t keep up with demand. The couple planned to postpone their website launch because of the pandemic, but Nikki had a hunch: “I kept saying, ‘We shouldn’t wait. I know that it’s such bad timing, but people need something positive.’”
As the threat of COVID-19 grew in March, their website went live. Now, they have eight wholesale accounts and struggle to keep enough bibs on hand for production. For every item sold, a portion of the profit is donated to the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association and the Maine Lobstermen’s Association. “Our ultimate goal is to be able to [recycle bibs and donate funds] for other fishing communities throughout the country that need this sort of help and attention,” says Nikki.
READY TO RECYCLE?
Due to demand, the Strouts are constantly in need of bib donations. “Even if it’s torn up, we can always find a little square we can use for something,” says Nikki. “Don’t throw them away. We can use them.” Anyone who donates bibs receives a discount on gear. Drop-off sites are available at all Hamilton Marine locations across Maine, or visit ruggedseas.com to find out how to mail your bibs in.