MATERIAL INNOVATIONS AS THE QUEST FOR MORE SUSTAINABLE INPUTS EVOLVES, THE INDUSTRY IS MEETING THE CHALLENGE.
Contents 09 11
Industry Experts Weigh In on What to Watch
Momentum Grows for Textile and Apparel Recycling
Unraveling Fiber Misconceptions
The Hemp Investment Conundrum
Searching for the Green in Hemp
Recycled Materials Get High-Tech Boost
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Shift to Bio-based Materials Puts Spotlight on Sugarcane
Home Textile Makers Respond to Market Needs
Backing Innovation, From the Ground Up
Thermore Chases 100% Sustainability Goal
The Disruptor Transforming India’s Natural Fiber Industry
Taiwanese Companies Collaborate on Sustainable Membrane Material Next-Gen Textiles: Worn Again, Ventile and Voormi Move Industry Forward
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What’s Needed for Biosynthetics to Replace Petrochemical Fibers? Covation Biomaterials to Deliver Performance Bio-Based Materials at Scale
Evolved By Nature Raises $120 Million to Expand ‘Activated Silk’ Initiatives
3M’s Water-Repellent Greige Yarn Targets Activewear
PrimaLoft Nets $530 Million in Sale
Protein-Based Process Could Extend Cellulosic Fabrics’ Life
VF Invests in Regenerative Wool
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s the industry continues its march toward circularity, and with it the intrepid search for less environmentally hazardous inputs, the innovation required is evolving to keep pace. Amid the rapidly changing textiles landscape, research and development, along with numerous collaborations has fostered an environment rife with investment and partnership. With many breakthroughs on the horizon, be it the greater adoption of recycled inputs or the beginnings of the true scalability of cutting-edge fabrications, an ability to meet the needs of industry, as its attempts to scale, is paramount. Much of the advancement revolves around bio-based materials as the industry looks to move away from petrochemicals and utilize more fibers derived from plants and agricultural waste. Deciphering which of these new methods is the least resource intensive is a task of nuance, however, as all renewable resources, and the processing they require, are not created equal. Another issue—and it’s a big one—is that the commercial share of biosynthetics is still very low. Infinitesimally so, in fact. Bio-based polyester, for example, made up just 0.03 percent of all polyester fiber produced globally in 2020. This report also takes an in-depth look at the burgeoning U.S. hemp industry. While legislation has made farming the crop more attractive and recent law changes have swung public sentiment in favor of the plant, there remain a daunting number of challenges and obstacles. One major one is logistics and infrastructure. As Rob Jungmann, of Jungmaven points out, “The hemp that’s grown here [in the U.S.], for the most part, I think entirely, if you want to make it into a fabric, you would probably have to send it back to
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China, spin it into a yarn and then bring it back.” Research shows incentives and capital investment are necessary to build out a U.S. production system to make the cycle from farm to product more feasible. As I noted above, our industry has long showed a collaborative spirit, and a sharing of expertise is one theme that runs throughout this report. As new companies with innovative products and processes come to market, legacy players have signed on to support these initiatives. Be it brands like Pangaia and H&M linking with Infinited Fiber, Renewcell and HeiQ intertwining resources or Recover partnering with textile sorting company Sysav to tackle the growing problem of textile waste, these joint ventures are a harbinger of the type of collaborations necessary to foster actual change in the sector. And this change is sorely needed. As Geno’s Lisa Kennedy notes, “As consumers become more educated on the origins of their clothing—for example, nylon’s roots in fossil fuels—they’re demanding transparency, traceability and responsible sourcing in fashion.” At the end of the day, textiles and materials is a business. As such, the goal will always be profit. But as consumers seek more climate-friendly production from the labels they shop, the industry is answering the call. I’d like to believe that the bottom line is not the determining factor for this sea change, but in the final tally, I’m not sure it matters, as long as we get there. With much of the globe wilting under record-breaking temperatures already this summer, it can’t come soon enough. Peter Sadera Editor in Chief Sourcing Journal
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INFINITED PICKS SITE FOR $420M FIBER FACTORY
nfinited Fiber Company plans to build a commercial-scale factory to produce regenerated textile fiber for apparel companies at the site of renewable materials company Stora Enso’s closed Veitsiluoto paper mill in Kemi, a Finnish city on the northern shore of the Baltic Sea. The size of the investment is estimated at 400 million euros ($420.73 million) and it is expected to create around 270 jobs in the area. The planned factory’s annual fiber production capacity is expected to be 30,000 metric tons–equivalent to the fiber needed for about 100 million T-shirts. Infinited Fiber Company’s technology enables cotton-rich textile waste to be transformed into a versatile, high-quality regenerated textile fiber called Infinna, which resembles the look and feel of cotton. Major international fashion and apparel companies–including Zara parent Inditex, PVH Europe, Patagonia, Pangaia, H&M Group and Besteller–have already committed to Infinna purchases through multiyear agreements as they look for materials that enable the industry to shift toward circularity. Infinited Fiber expects to export most of the output of its planned factory. Kemi’s port serves as an efficient link to the rest of the world. Infinited Fiber will convert a building housing a discontinued paper production line into an Infinna fiber factory. The factory engineering and project implementation, as well as the related financing negotiations, were commenced at the beginning of the year and are progressing well, the company noted. Infinited Fiber has also agreed on the provision of energy- and water-related services with utility infrastructure company Nevel. Once up and running, the factory is expected to provide direct employment for around 220 people, and for a further 50 through on-site support functions such as services, maintenance and logistics. The additional indirect employment impact is estimated to be around 800 jobs. The factory is anticipated to operate at full capacity in 2025. “Circularity is at the heart of our business,” Infinited Fiber CEO and co-founder Petri Alava said. “We aim to make use of existing resources in all that we do, which makes the historic Veitsiluoto industrial site a great fit for us. At the same time, we will be creating new export products and jobs. Finland has solid bioeconomy know-how and is very supportive of circular economy innovations. We see these as major strengths that enable Finland to become a leader in the creation of the new, circular economy-based textile industry value chain.” Infinited Fiber Company selected the Veitsiluoto industrial site after reviewing dozens of potential premises across Finland. Decisive factors supporting the decision included the site’s strong infrastructure, the availability of fresh water, renewable electricity and energy, efficient port services and local skilled labor. — Arthur Friedman
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Patagonia and HeiQ Get Minty Fresh ■ HEIQ AND PATAGONIA are taking their long-standing research collaboration to the next level with the introduction of a jointly developed odor control technology for textiles called HeiQ Fresh MNT. HeiQ co-founder and CEO Carlo Centonze told Sourcing Journal it took two years to develop HeiQ Fresh MNT, which he said is created from renewably sourced mint oil-derived textile technology to control how odors develop on textiles. Inspired by Patagonia’s determination to continuously improve the chemistry it uses, Centonze said the two innovative companies share a similar environmental and social philosophy that inspired their seven-year partnership. Patagonia gives the ideas and sets the principles, and HeiQ uses its expertise in specialty chemical formulation and application to textiles to create finishings that stand out for their sustainability and functionality. “Most of textiles [are] made out of polyester, almost 70 percent, and polyester has a big downside–it starts smelling very quickly when you wear it,” Centonze said. “When it starts to smell, studies have shown that consumers will wash it. If we can delay the smell perception consumers have of textiles, we can delay the washing decision.” He noted that washing uses electricity, which causes CO2 emissions, and laundered clothing leeches microfibers that infiltrate waterways and are “killing the ocean.” Washing also degrades textiles over time, “so if you wash less, your textile lasts longer,” Centonze said. “So add it all up, if we can control the odors, we can improve the life cycle assessment of a textile and we can lower the environmental footprint,” he said. “Our partnership with Patagonia has always been productive as they constantly stretch our innovative capabilities,” Centonze said. “It therefore comes as no surprise that we were able to discover the powerful properties of mint as an active ingredient for our next generation odor control technology. HeiQ Fresh MNT is further confirmation of our dedication to enhance people’s lives with sustainable innovation. With odor control you need to wash less, saving water, detergent, energy, microfiber and prolong[ing] the life of garments.” Patagonia, as the development partner, is the first to commit to the technology and will start to upgrade its products in the near future, but Centonze said HeiQ Fresh MNT will be made available to the overall market after some pilot testing, likely by the end of the year. — A.F.
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Industry Experts Weigh In on What to Watch S A RA H J O N E S
ashion and textiles’ fiber and material building blocks are anything but static. New market demands and consumer needs continually propel investment in research and development to improve on existing ingredients and production processes. From sustainability solutions to performance properties, here is what eight industry insiders see as the biggest breakthroughs of the last year and the innovations poised to move the needle in the future. “As consumers become more educated on the origins of their clothing—for example, nylon’s roots in fossil fuels—they’re demanding transparency, traceability and responsible sourcing in fashion. As a result, we’ve seen major brands like Lululemon turn to renewably-sourced ingredients—replacing fossil-derived nylon with plant-based alternatives in future products, reducing the material’s carbon footprint. The industry should keep a close eye on tech solutions including sustainably sourced alternatives that are increasingly becoming commercially available.” —Lisa Kennedy, senior director business development, Geno
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“We’re seeing lots of new versions of polyamide (nylon) on the horizon. For both sustainability and supply chain and price reasons, this is of interest, however there are a few technical hurdles yet to be solved in bulk production. Our brand uses a lot of nylon for its durability and tenacity, so this is of great interest to us.” —Alex Lauver, director of commercial innovation, Outdoor Research “With health and well-being becoming a priority for people since the pandemic, I was impressed with the brands who created materials designed to protect us better from disease and helped improve our day-to-day lives through technologies like temperature regulation, which allows for a better night’s sleep. I’m looking forward to seeing new innovations in this space, which can further support issues in both physical and mental health.” —Ben Felton, chief strategy officer, Material Exchange
“With health and well-being becoming a priority for people since the pandemic, I was impressed with the brands who created materials designed to protect us better from disease and helped improve our dayto-day lives through technologies.” — Ben Felton, Material Exchange
“A huge breakthrough is Natural Fiber Welding’s advances in the materials space in regards to scalability. With over 100 billion pounds of polyester plastic being used for textiles each year, NFW’s nutrient approach to materials offers a scalable solution to the plastic crisis. NFW has worked hard to build technologies that are compatible with already existing large-scale equipment and make our growth both capital efficient and disruptive. Scaling sustainably enables NFW and brand partners to fulfill the ultimate mission of delivering sustained positive global impact that greatly reduces emissions, eliminates toxic waste and that naturally enables product circularity.” —Dr. Luke Haverhals, founder and CEO, Natural Fiber Welding “In Bestseller, we’re working with so many innovators around textile-to-textile [recycling], such as Infinna from Infinited, NuCycl from Evernu, Cycora by Ambercycle and more. We’re on an exciting path towards commercial scale. I see this as a breakthrough. We are curious about the potential of PHA/ PBS as a bio-based version of polyester and plastic. With the correct feedstock and implemented into the right circular classification, they represent a potential solution to replace conventional polyester. We’re also excited about Ecovative’s Forager pure mycelium.” —Camilla Skjønning Jørgensen, innovation manager, Bestseller “The biggest breakthrough in material innovation continues to come from biobased antimicrobial, cooling and far-infrared technologies. This, paired with more sustainable fabrics such as food chain byproduct ma-
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terials—pineapple, milk, soy, etc.—help fill the wants of the consumer, who is actively looking for ways to contribute to their sustainability efforts without compromising comfort. We are continually watching the development and accessibility of these fabrics and technologies and look to add to our product line once available.” —Beth Mack, chief merchandising and marketing officer, Downlite “As over 84 percent of footwear and apparel still goes straight into a landfill and we progress from ‘peak oil’ to ‘peak plastics,’ the most impactful material breakthrough we see is the explosion of solutions in the biopolymer space. Methane capture and sequestration, plant-based PHA/PHB to fiber development, LDPE (low-density polyethylene) upstreaming to high-value TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane), the commercial application of PEF (polyethylene furanoate) to fiber, and the tremendous work on plant-based bio BDO (butanediol) to replace foam polymers, all lead the way to industry-changing chemistry development that will also change—and improve—life on planet earth.” —Barry McGeough, global vice president of innovation, Wolverine Worldwide “This year, reducing carbon footprint from transportation is one of our core priorities. While sustainable biomaterials are a great way to lower our dependency on fossil resources from a product perspective, regionalization of production and distribution is a key area of improvement to progress towards carbon neutrality. Our new operation in Italy is bringing us a step further on sustainability that also enables us to optimize delivery and production lead times to support a fast-paced industry.” —Adrian Lopez Velarde, co-founder, Desserto
“The biggest breakthrough in material innovation continues to come from bio-based antimicrobial, cooling and far-infrared technologies.” — Beth Mack, Downlite
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Momentum Grows For Textile and Apparel Recycling BIG DEALS AND INNOVATIVE COLLABORATIONS ARE PROPELLING THE INDUSTRY FORWARD. A RT H U R F R I E D M A N
he movement to fashion industry circularity has picked up momentum this year, especially in the realm of recycling and upcycling of textiles and apparel. New investments in technologies and collaboration along the supply chain are turning theory into practice and alleviating waste along the way. In the time since Eastman board chair and CEO Mark Costa and French President Emmanuel Macron jointly announced the company’s planned investment for a molecular recycling facility in January, Eastman conducted a selection process of three potential locations and chose to enter exclusive negotiations with Port-Jérôme-sur-Seine in Normandy. This site offers proximity of supply to waste polyester for feedstock, required space for an expansive facility and the necessary infrastructure for operations of this scale, said Eastman, which expects the facility to be operational by 2025. Eastman’s polyester renewal technology (PRT) is complementary to mechanical recycling and provides circularity for hard-to-recycle plastic waste that remains in today’s linear economy. This ma-
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terial, like colored or degraded PET or textiles, is typically incinerated because it either cannot be mechanically recycled or must be downcycled, the company said. With the technology’s efficient polyester yield of 93 percent and the renewable energy sources available in Normandy, Eastman said it can transform waste plastic into first-quality polyesters with greenhouse gas emissions up to 80 percent less than traditional methods. Eastman’s $1 billion investment will be a significant economic driver. The project will create employment for an estimated 350 people and lead to an additional 1,500 indirect jobs in recycling, energy and infrastructure. Infinited Fiber Company plans to build a commercial-scale factory to produce regenerated textile fiber for apparel companies at the site of renewable materials company Stora Enso’s closed Veitsiluoto paper mill in Kemi, a Finnish city on the northern shore of the Baltic Sea. The size of the investment is around $420 million and it is expected to create 270 jobs in the area. The annual fiber production capacity of the planned factory is expected to
“Recycling postconsumer garments at scale and with high quality is the holy grail and the challenge to solve if we want to move to a circular textiles industry, and sorting postconsumer textiles on composition and color at scale is an essential enabler to achieve that.” — Helene Smits, Recover
be 30,000 metric tons–equivalent to the fiber needed for about 100 million T-shirts. Infinited Fiber’s technology enables cotton-rich textile waste to be transformed into a versatile, high-quality regenerated textile fiber called Infinna, which resembles the look and feel of cotton. Major international fashion and apparel companies–including Inditex, PVH Europe, Patagonia, Pangaia, H&M Group and Bestseller–have already committed to Infinna purchases through multiyear agreements as they look for materials that enable the industry to shift toward circularity. “Circularity is at the heart of our business,” Infinited Fiber CEO and co-founder Petri Alava said. “We aim to make use of existing resources in all that we do, which makes the historic Veitsiluoto industrial site a great fit for us. At the same time, we will be creating new export products and jobs. Finland has solid bioeconomy know-how and is very supportive of circular economy innovations. We see these as major strengths that enable Finland to become a leader in the creation of the new, circular economy-based textile industry value chain.”
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Prioritizing the replacement of environmentally polluting polyester in textiles has led to Swedish Renewcell and the Swiss HeiQ signing a strategic partnership to manufacture circular HeiQ AeoniQ cellulose filament yarn from textile-to-textile recycled Circulose pulp supplied by Renewcell. The partnership enables the incorporation of recycled raw materials in what the companies described as “the most modern, climate positive and environmentally friendly yarn production process” to allow for 100 percent circularity in the textile industry. Capitalizing on their shared vision of a circular and bio-based textile industry, HeiQ and Renewcell have joined forces to commercialize circular and bio-based high-tenacity filament yarns as a viable replacement for fossil-based fibers like nylon and polyester at scale. Promising results in initial tests using Circulose as a feedstock for production of HeiQ AeoniQ yarn created an opportunity between the partners in their effort to transform the textile industry and position both companies as leaders in incorporating recycled raw materials in the yarn production process.
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“Circularity is at the heart of our business.” — Petri Alava, Infinited Fiber
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Circulose is a branded dissolving pulp product that Renewcell makes from 100 percent textile waste, such as worn-out jeans and production scraps. Dissolving pulp cellulose is what the industry uses to make viscose, lyocell, modal, acetate and other types of regenerated or man-made cellulosic fibers. The difference with Circulose is that it’s made from textile waste instead of wood. “Our 100 percent recycled textile pulp, Circulose, was born of the idea to do something better than dump or burn the millions of tons of waste this industry creates every year, while also decreasing the need for new high impact virgin materials,” Patrik Lundström, CEO of Renewcell, said. “Over the last two years, we have successfully proven the applicability of Circulose as a direct substitute to virgin cotton and wood as a raw material in fashion.” Lundström said the challenge of how to use Circulose as a direct substitute for oil in high tenacity performance fabrics has remained, until now. “Our partnership with HeiQ, a company that fully shares our vision, utilizes Circulose as a feedstock for the game-changing HeiQ AeoniQ yarn and positions us both for a massive breakthrough in the right disruptive direction for the global textile industry,” he added. “One-hundred percent textile-to-textile recycled, bio-based, biodegradable and with the physical performance of polyester and nylon, a Circulose HeiQ AeoniQ Yarn will excite any brand interested in climate and environment.” Carlo Centonze, co-founder and CEO of HeiQ, said with Circulose as one source of feedstock for its HeiQ AeoniQ, the company will be rescuing tons of textiles from ending up in landfills and preserving trees and forests. “We eagerly anticipate uniting our ingredient branding expertise to jointly convince brands of the huge advantages of replacing all synthetic, fossil-fuel based textiles and how embracing circularity is both in their interests as well as those of their customers and the planet,” Centonze said. HeiQ AeoniQ yarns are made out of cellulosic biopolymers that during growth bind carbon from the atmosphere while generating oxygen. This high-performance yarn
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is positioned to potentially substitute synthetic filament yarns that constitute some 60 percent of global annual textile output of 108 million metric tons. HeiQ AeoniQ yarns are designed for cradle-to-cradle circularity and can be recycled repeatedly while maintaining consistent fiber quality. The manufacturing process is expected to consume 99 percent less water than cotton yarns. Worn Again Technologies announced plans to build a new textile recycling demo plant in Winterthur, Switzerland. The company said it is in the final planning stages of an innovative demonstration plant that will showcase its ground-breaking polymer processing technologies for textile recycling. The facility will have the capacity to prevent 1,000 tons of textiles being incinerated annually, paving the way for industrial-scale operations. “We are delighted to see our technologies being leveraged to create a state-of-the-art textile recycling plant,” Torsten Wintergerste, chairman of Worn Again Technologies, said. “Building it in Switzerland gives Worn Again Technologies direct access to Sulzer Chemtech’s global R&D facilities and the Swiss textile industry. We will build an ecosystem of partners around this demo plant and drive forward the creation of a circular economy of textiles. Switzerland is an ideal location for Worn Again to realize the demonstration plant with all stakeholders in the shortest time period possible.” The new industrial-scale infrastructure will also help validate the closed-loop chemical recycling solution developed by Worn Again Technologies and its strategic partners. The process obtains PET and cellulose from non-reusable, hard-to-recycle textiles that constitute post-industrial and post-consumer waste. “We are excited to be taking the next step in making reliable, high-performance textile recycling a reality,” Erik Koep, CEO at Worn Again Technologies, said. “The construction and operation of this demonstration plant are the next major milestones in achieving our vision for textile circularity. We look forward to starting operations soon and see this as the first plant in a global network of processing facilities.”
“Over the last two years, we have successfully proven the applicability of Circulose as a direct substitute to virgin cotton and wood as a raw material in fashion.” — Patrik Lundström, Renewcell
The process purifies the products by removing dyes, contaminants and impurities, a step forward from traditional recycling methods. The result allows the company to deliver high-quality, virgin-like materials that can be reintroduced into supply chains to become new fibers, textiles and other products. Recycled cotton fiber producer Recover announced a new partnership agreement with textile sorting company Sysav to tackle the growing problem of textile waste and accelerate circularity in the textiles industry. As part of the agreement, Sysav will start to supply post-consumer waste (PCW), made up of 95 percent cotton, to Recover in 2022, with increasingly larger volumes expected in the following years. It comes as a result of a growing relationship between the two companies that began in 2020 and is the next step in the development of high-quality apparel and other textile products using Recover recycled fibers from PCW, the companies said. The agreement forms part of Recover’s strategy to invest in long-term purchasing contracts worldwide to lock up waste supply and will help to scale its PCM recycling. The company has set a goal of having PCW represent more than 40 percent of its inputs by 2025, which would amount to more than 85,000 tons of used garments. “Recycling post-consumer garments at
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scale and with high quality is the holy grail and the challenge to solve if we want to move to a circular textiles industry, and sorting post-consumer textiles on composition and color at scale is an essential enabler to achieve that,” Helene Smits, chief sustainability officer at Recover, said. “It has been a pleasure working together with Sysav in the past year to help optimize their technology and processes based on our needs and we are happy to now take the first step in achieving the ambitious targets Recover has set for PCW recycling.” Sysav is a recycling company in southern Sweden focused on recovering materials and energy while keeping goods out of the landfill. Sysav’s Siptex facility offers automated high-speed sorting of textiles by fiber composition and delivers quality-assured products. ReFab by Sysav is a product family of defined fiber types, colors and purity. The two partners aim to close the loop on fashion while upholding high quality and sustainability standards. “With the ReFab products, we are in the process to set a new industry standard for postconsumer textiles,” Stefan Poldrugac, business developer at Sysav, said. “The partnership with high quality recycler Recover is a milestone in this endeavor. Our mutual exchange of technical expertise proves that close collaborations throughout the textile value chain is key in
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turning the textile waste problem into circular flows of sustainable raw material.” Carbios, a developer of enzymatic solutions dedicated to the end-of-life of plastic and textile polymers, signed an agreement with On, Patagonia, Puma and Salomon to develop solutions that will enhance the recyclability and circularity of their products. An important element of the two-year deal will be to speed up the introduction of Carbios’ biorecycling technology. Carbios and the four companies will also research how products can be recycled, develop solutions to take back worn polyester items, including sorting and dismantling technologies, and gather data on fiber-to-fiber recycling and circularity models. Carbios noted that the challenge the four brands share is that their sustainable development goals can only partially be met by conventional recycling technologies that mainly target bottle-to-fiber recycling. Future regulations will require more circularity in packaging and textile, yet the market consensus is that there will soon be a shortage of PET bottles, as
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they will be used for circular production methods in the food and beverage industry. “This consortium model has proved to be very efficient based on the success of the milestones previously achieved in packaging,” Emmanuel Ladent, CEO of Carbios, said. “We are very pleased to partner with these prestigious brands, On, Patagonia, Puma and Salomon. Our common goal is to contribute to reducing the environmental impact of the textile industry by offering an industrial solution to recycle polyester fibers and help our partners to meet their sustainable development goals.” Carbios’ innovative process constitutes a technological breakthrough for the recycling of polyester (PET) fibers widely used in apparel, footwear and sportswear, on their own or together with other fibers. The biorecycling process uses an enzyme capable of selectively extracting the polyester, recovering it to recreate a virgin fiber. This technology makes it possible to recover the PET polyester present in all textile waste that cannot be recycled using traditional technologies.
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Unraveling Fiber Misconceptions NOT ALL BIO-BASED MATERIALS ARE CREATED EQUAL.
KAT E N I S H I M U RA
an-made cellulosic fibers (MMCFs) are seeing increasingly widespread adoption across the apparel and textile industries as brands and designers look to shrink their environmental footprints. Wood and plant-pulp-based fibers offer alternatives to synthetic polymers like polyesters and nylons—plastics, essentially, that are clogging up landfills at an alarming rate. But not all of these bio-based materials are created equally, according to Lenzing director of global business development Tricia Carey. “After more than two decades of educating and promoting wood-based cellulosic fibers, I find there are some misconceptions in the market,” she told Sourcing Journal. While “using a renewable raw material, like wood, provides a low impact alternative” to other conventional fibers on the market, “consideration must be made not only for the raw material, but also the production process.” Rayon, the generic name given to the MMCF family, is made using chemical solvents that dissolve wood pulps from trees like beech, eucalyptus and bamboo into a liquefied substance that is reconstituted and spun into fiber. Viscose represents the first generation of cellulosic fiber, invented in the late 1800s as an alternative to silk. During
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the mid-20th century, modal made its debut in stretchier, softer fabric used heavily in undergarments and loungewear. Meanwhile, Tencel lyocell, developed by Austria-based Lenzing 30 years ago, demonstrates similar performance properties and hand-feel to traditional cotton, and is made using a closed-loop process wherein the chemicals used to dissolve the pulp are reused—a differentiator from viscose, which has been fingered in recent years for the toxic runoff it creates. “Tencel lyocell has a closed loop production process with 99.8 percent of solvent recycled,” Carey said. MMCFs account for just 6 percent of all fibers produced, but lyocell has demonstrated a compound annual growth rate of between 20 percent and 30 percent per year, Carey said, making the innovation the industry’s largest growth opportunity. Its circular, efficient production process along with “low land use, favorable fiber characteristics, and compostability” contribute to its widening adoption, Carey added. Lyocell is versatile—it’s commonly blended with other fibers, from cotton to synthetics to increase stretch for applications like activewear, for example. Lenzing plans to up its production by another 90,000 tons of fiber this year across North America, Europe and Asia to meet increasing demand.
“As an industry, we should be innovating and investing in the next generation of feedstock for cellulose to support a more circular fashion system.” — Kathleen Talbot, Reformation
Despite deepening interest in lyocell, Lenzing is continuing to look beyond wood pulp’s potential. “It is an incredible time in our industry to combine technology and environmental impact to develop alternatives for dissolving wood pulp,” Carey said, pointing to its five-year-old Refibra platform. Taking on the issue of pre-consumer production waste, Refibra upcycles cotton scraps from the cutting room floor and renders them into pulp that is spun into fibers for brands like Timberland, Levis, Gap, Calvin Klein and more. “Additionally, we have been developing fibers using pulp from orange cellulose and hemp cellulose to prove there are future options,” Carey said. Brands like Reformation, which have impact reduction built into their business models, rely heavily on cellulosics as a means of advancing their sustainability goals, replacing other fibers that are more resource-intensive to produce or manage after their useful lives have ended. “If you look at Reformation’s material mix, we’ve used cellulosic fibers in place of conventional cotton and polyester since we started sourcing our own fabrics,” Kathleen Talbot, the California label’s chief sustainability officer and vice president of operations, said. “For us, it felt like an obvious choice if we wanted to avoid synthetics and invest in plant-based, rapidly renewable materials.” Reformation introduced a fiber standards guide to elucidate the differences between its different inputs and illuminate their benefits and pitfalls. The brand grades its fibers on a lettered scale with A-ranking “All Stars” and B-scoring “Better Than Most” being the materials used most heavily. Others are characterized as C-level, or, “Could be Better” or D—“Don’t Use Unless Certified” and E—“Eww, Never.” “Up to two-thirds of a garment’s sustainability impact happens at the raw materials stage—before it has been made,” Talbot explained, noting that almost one-third of the company’s total carbon footprint is generated through material sourcing. Reformation’s fiber standards consider “various inputs like water, energy, land use, eco-toxicity, greenhouse gas emissions, human toxicity, availability, price, potential for recyclability, and care implications—like microfiber shedding when washing.”
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Cellulosic fibers in particular are graded using two key considerations, she added: the source of the cellulose, and the chemical process used for production. “For example, fibers may be sourced from hardwoods in fragile ecosystems,” Talbot said, and that’s a no-go. By contrast, “rapidly renewable sources like eucalyptus trees that grow quickly and thick on low-grade land that doesn’t need irrigation, pesticides or insecticides” are ideal. Meanwhile, closed-loop production wins out over processes wherein chemical solvents are flushed out as wastewater. “For these two reasons, we think Tencel lyocell is the holy grail of fibers for fabrics,” she explained, earning an A grade alongside Refibra, recycled cotton and deadstock or
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vintage fabrics. The fiber shares similar performance properties to cotton, and one ton of lyocell can be created from half an acre of eucalyptus trees, a hearty and resilient genus that requires little to no irrigation. Processing requires about 155 gallons of water per pound of fiber produced—20 percent of the water input needed to process cotton. Other MMCFs are ranked “Better Than Most.” Tencel’s modal is sourced from beechwood trees that yield twice the amount of fiber of cotton plants, sustainably managed using less fertilizer. “Conventional modal and viscose may be sourced from hardwoods and is often a very energy and chemical intensive process,” Talbot said, so Reformation relies on requirements developed by the Forest Stewardship Council and Canopy’s Green Shirt program to assess its sourcing. Almost all (96 percent) of the brand’s fabrics fall under its A or B ranking criteria, and the brand aims to see that number grow to 100 percent by 2025. Reformation uses lyocell, modal and Refibra-based fabrics to create soft knits, bodysuits, dresses and tops, as well as denim blends. Meanwhile, most of the group’s woven fabrics are made from viscose. “We use viscose in our crepe and georgette fabrics as it has a unique hand feel and flattering drape, which has become core to our dresses,” Talbot said. Viscose filaments are long and continuous, not unlike silk—a different quality than other MMCF or cotton fibers. “For our viscose production, we work closely with Canopy to ensure we source from sustainably managed forests that are conserved, protected and restored,” she added. Reformation has signed onto the Changing Markets Foundation roadmap toward responsible viscose and modal sourcing, which involves the creation of a closed-loop process that prevents solvents from damaging the ecology. Talbot said she is also intrigued by research and development efforts by material innovators looking to use recycled materials as inputs for viscose fiber processing. “As an industry, we should be innovating and investing in the next generation of feedstock for cellulose to support a more circular fashion system,” she said, “and then we need to really help pulp and fiber producers scale.”
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“Like most of this work, we need to do more and move faster,” she added. Evrnu’s Stacy Flynn believes that her circular textile innovation startup is on the cusp of just such an advancement. The CEO and co-founder called the group’s NuCycl r-lyocell as a “breakthrough fiber.” “It is 100-percent cotton waste, converted into a new generation of lyocell,” she said, dubbing it “lyocell 2.0” for enhanced performance properties that rival polyester and nylon. “It’s the first time a plant-based backbone has been able to compete with petroleum-based polymers.” The fiber is also circular, Flynn said—“and that’s a really important piece of our equation.” Evrnu created a process that could reproduce fibers that Flynn claims are of the same quality or better than their first iteration, using its own output as feedstock.
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“If you’re going to get people to take a chance on something that’s got to be better than what they currently have access to.” —Stacy Flynn, Evrnu
“How do you get that polymer to do its job in more than one incarnation of clothing?” was the question her team sought to answer, and they found a solution in employing cellulosic production processes usually reserved for wood pulp. Evrnu’s NuCycl r-lyocell relies on solvents to dissolve post-consumer cotton textile and production scraps, in a process that Flynn said resembles paper-making. “Once it’s dissolved, you can pass it through a spinneret and shape the fiber,” she explained, “So you can actually engineer performance attributes into the new extruded fiber by reorienting those polymers.” Much of the cotton recycling that takes place globally relies on mechanical shredding, which ultimately shortens fibers and can make them less durable when re-spun. The output of mechanical recycling is often also put toward use in other industries, instead of back into the fashion supply chain. One of the biggest challenges in using waste textiles as feedstock is the need for a hyper-efficient, scalable sorting mechanism—a challenge that Evrnu is currently tackling. The company works with clothing recycling bodies that separate and grade inputs—with the highest grade, or easiest to recycle, being pre-consumer un-dyed cotton. Dyed material must go through a different chemical pro-
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cess to scour color from the fibers. “We worked with a technology partner to develop a near-infrared scanning technology that allows us to get a really accurate read on the actual fiber content of that garment waste,” Flynn said. Human sorters can work through about one ton of fabric per day, while the automated machine can separate and grade about eight tons per hour with a high degree of accuracy, she added. Evrnu is intent on bringing its innovation to the industry at large, having soft-launched a collaborative T-shirt with New York designer Carlos Campo this spring. The group is in the process of readying a state-of-the-art facility in the Southeastern U.S. that Flynn said will be capable of taking in 17,000 metric tons of pulp and extruding 2,000 tons of cellulosic fiber per year, and meanwhile, it is shopping the material to brands and retailers. But as with any new-to-market sustainable fiber, Flynn said consumer understanding of the process and its benefits will be “vital” to its advancement. “If you’re going to get people to take a chance on something that’s got to be better than what they currently have access to,” she said. Flynn believes cellulosic processing could hold the potential to create a new class of sustainable, high-performance fibers ripe for adoption.
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The Hemp Investment Conundrum LOGISTICAL OBSTACLES AND CAPITAL EXPENDITURES HOLD THE FATE OF HEMP PRODUCTION IN THE U.S. JASMIN MALIK CHUA
n 1994, Rob Jungmann was part of the group that founded the Hemp Industries Association. Its main goal: legalizing industrial hemp. The organization lobbied in D.C., going door to door for years, Jungmann said. Though it took longer than he had expected, Congress finally legalized industrial hemp with the 2018 Farm Bill. “I like to think I was one small cog of a wheel that helped get this legalized,” he said. Four years on, however, there’s a long way to go before U.S.-grown hemp product can reach store shelves at any sort of meaningful scale. Farmers, who in most cases will receive more money growing hemp for the CBD industry, are still learning best practices. Should they manage to harvest a suitable crop without running afoul of federal limits on THC concentration, they then still have to find processing facilities near enough that transportation costs won’t entirely wipe out their profits. Then, even if a brand invests in U.S.-grown hemp, it may be forced to ship it to another country to be spun into yarn. Which is why brands like Jungmann’s Jungmaven and Patagonia, for all their sup-
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port of U.S.-grown hemp, still source from abroad, mainly China. “They’ve been doing this for hundreds and hundreds of years,” Alli La Pierre, a materials developer at Patagonia, said. “When I went over and toured the facility and saw how it was done and saw the machines that the processing is completed on—the people running these machines, it’s almost as much of an art as it is [an] actual mechanical process. They know how to rake the fiber, they know how many passes it needs to go through. There’s so much technical learned technique in how to get the best fiber that we just don’t see that anywhere else. We haven’t had enough years trying.”
WHAT’S HOLDING HEMP BACK TODAY Bear Fiber is one of the few brands today selling apparel—crew socks—made with U.S. hemp. Made available for pre-sale in January, the sold-out product remains the only item listed in its store. Bear Fiber’s “first opportunity or challenge” was spinning, its president and co-founder Guy Carpenter said. A high-qual-
ity yarn requires uniform fibers of equivalent thicknesses and “We just don’t have that [consistency] in America,” Carpenter said. “If you look out across a cotton field, you can look at 500 acres and all the plants are within an inch of each other in height and they’re all going to have 19 to 22 bolls of cotton on them,” Carpenter, speaking at North Carolina State University’s Evolving Textiles Conference this spring, said. “The consistency that comes to the fiber from the evolution of the agriculture has allowed our entire textile industry to develop. We’re not there yet with hemp, but we can get there, we’re going to get there.” Jungmann also mentioned the problem of spinning U.S. hemp. To him, though, the “big missing part” is the dearth of facilities that can spin the fiber into yarn. “The hemp that’s grown here [in the U.S.], for the most part, I think entirely, if you want to make it into a fabric, you would probably have to send it back to China, spin it into a yarn and then bring it back,” he said. “When that gets filled in and we’re able to spin it here in the States and make a yarn here in the States, that’d be great.” La Pierre, however, said some spinners
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in the U.S. are attempting to work with hemp—they’re just not seeing the best results. Domestic spinners who were excited about hemp at first “are starting to get a little exhausted” from years of poor-quality fiber. That so many weavers, knitters and cutand-sew manufacturers have moved out of the U.S. adds another layer of difficulty. “It’s also really difficult to figure out how all of those will fall into place to make it easier,” La Pierre said. “There’s kind of this like dichotomy between we want to use this fiber, this fiber has such incredible potential for soil regeneration, like it has all of these great planet benefits, but how do we keep our impact small for transporting it or for the processing, the energy that goes into all of these other steps outside of growing it and processing it,” La Pierre added. “It would be easy to say ‘Yes, we would use so much more hemp [if we had fiber domestically and processing domestically],’ but the reality is so much depends on where it’s coming from and how it fits into the rest of the pieces of the supply chain and how far it has to go.”
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WHAT CAN BRANDS DO Making domestic hemp viable in the U.S. will require “a big push” from brands, La Pierre said. The startups looking into processing and the farmers growing hemp are “doing this all in this bubble where they’re not making a ton of money right now,” she said. “This is all in the hope that someday this becomes profitable, that there is something like an established amount of money for certain quality hemp, that there’s a grading system in place like we have for cotton so they know how much the farmer is going to make at the end of the season,” she added. What exactly support looks like will vary from brand to brand. If a company is just focused on everyday apparel, they might want to invest in a processor that’s working on degumming. Given how environmentally intensive current degumming processes can be, La Pierre suggested focusing either on refining the fiber so that it doesn’t require degumming—Patagonia launched a workwear denim line last fall made with non-degummed hemp—or on establishing a more sustainable degumming process. “I think that’s going to go a much longer way for you as far as getting something quickly into your supply chain that’s going to work for you,” she said. For brands that view hemp as a sustainable fiber and wish to make marketing claims about its benefits, research and peer-reviewed experimentation “is going to be a really big deal,” she added. In other cases, supporting domestic hemp can be as simple as writing a letter of support so that those doing the on-the-ground work can receive a federal grant. “It’s hard to tier them as far as what’s most important, but I would say honestly, providing money when you can, supporting, investing in startups, in processing and where it makes sense and research where it makes sense are like two of the big ones,” La Pierre said. “I can’t speak for other brands, really, but the fact that we do have clout in the industry, and we do talk to so many different people and we do talk to other industry partners, being a network for some of these super small independent startup companies that don’t have this level of connection to
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this global and domestic supply chain, just being a point of contact connecting people to pieces they might be missing has been hugely invaluable, I think, to a lot of these companies. Offering to give an introduction or send an email, I think that also goes a long way and is equally as important.” Like La Pierre, Jungmann called for further brand investment in hemp processing, specifically into decortication and spinning. For those growing hemp, the CBD industry “seems to be where they’re making the most money,” he said. Beyond that, hemp can be turned into biochar, used as insulation, made into “hempcrete” and even mixed with plastic. “So, if you’re growing, it’s like ‘Well how can I turn this into a profit the easiest way and the quickest way?’ and those seem to be easier ways than the textiles at the moment,” he said.
INTEGRATING FIBER INTO APPAREL Given hemp’s premium price, most hemp apparel sold today is actually a blend with other fibers, particularly cotton. Despite its central hemp focus, Jungmaven only launched its first 100 percent hemp tee—“a dream come true,” he said—in 2012, seven years after Jungmann launched the brand and nearly two decades after he founded his previous brand, Manastash. Today, the tee costs $98, well above Jungmaven’s introductory price, $44. “It’s like if you own a car lot, not every car is a Mercedes,” Jungmann said. “But doing the blends—I mean I wish everything was 100 percent hemp, but it does keep it interesting. I enjoy wearing all the different blends of T-shirts, if I didn’t, I wouldn’t make it. And again, it’s just a great way for us to be able to offer different price points.” Though Bear Fiber’s debut product is only 21 percent hemp, Carpenter said brands should use 30 percent hemp fiber or more to keep the positive physical attributes associated with hemp—strength, durability, abrasion resistance. The fiber does possess other advantages, such as UV resistance and antibacterial properties, but Carpenter advised companies to not claim these benefits unless they have specifically tested the end product. “The colors you dyed with or the finishing
“There’s kind of this like dichotomy between we want to use this fiber, this fiber has such incredible potential… but how do we keep our impact small for transporting it or for the processing, the energy that goes into all of these other steps outside of growing it and processing it.” — Alli La Pierre, Patagonia
methods you used may well have affected those attributes themselves,” he said. Similarly, La Pierre said Patagonia, which simply tells consumers hemp “has a low impact on the environment,” is hesitant to fully tout hemp’s environmental benefits—the fiber is believed to sequester carbon, remove pollutants from the soil and bring nutrients from lower levels of the soil up to the surface—before it can back them up. A joint study Patagonia conducted a couple of years ago with New Belgium Brewing and Colorado State appeared to confirm that hemp does in fact purify the soil, she noted. But, once the experiment was over, she said, “a lot of questions” remained. “Where are those pollutants going? Are they in the stalk of the plant? Is it evaporating into the air? What is happening? Is it just the root system bringing nutrients up from the bottom levels to the top? So, there’s still some questions, I think, around how the plant is doing this and there are research groups across the country and across the world that are asking these questions and trying to validate these at a scientific level,” La Pierre said. Though hemp’s environmental benefits didn’t play a large role in Manastash’s initial rise in the ‘90s, Jungmann said sustainability began to play a larger role when Jungmaven rode a wave of pro-Made in USA sentiment—Jungmaven manufactures in the U.S.—during the Great Recession and 2010s. With climate change now increasingly impacting consumers’ day-to-day lives, Jungmann believes interest in eco-friendly products is on the rise. “I mean, we’re experiencing new weather all around the world,” Jungmann said. “We had 118 degrees [in Oregon] last June… and hardly anybody has air conditioning…. They keep saying this is once-in-a-lifetime weath-
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BEAR FIBER’S CREW SOCKS ARE 21 PERCENT HEMP.
er. I think people are beginning to go ‘This is not normal.’” For all hemp’s benefits, La Pierre said that China’s practical monopoly on hemp fiber makes it “scary” for Patagonia “to only have one place to go for a fiber.” “In general, we like to have a diversified portfolio and… in case anything goes wrong in the world, have other options where we can source things,” she said. “It’s really scary to be in a position where this is the one place where you get all of these things. I think that’s why there’s been quite a lot of push around taking a look at domestic hemp fiber and figuring out how we bring processing here.”
Searching for the Green in Hemp WHILE CONSIDERED AN UP-AND-COMING FIBER, THE HEMP INDUSTRY IS STILL FACING NUMEROUS CHALLENGES. C H U C K D O B RO S I E L S K I
our years after the 2018 Farm Bill, the U.S. hemp industry is still working out the kinks. Since first applying for a permit to grow hemp in August 2016—the Agricultural Act of 2014 allowed the cultivation of agricultural hemp on an experimental basis—Gary Sikes has personally experienced many of the myriad ways a hemp crop can veer off course. In 2018, the North Carolina farmer couldn’t find a processor to take the “little bit” of crop he managed to salvage following the “double whammy” of Hurricanes Florence and Michael. Another year, the crop flowered at knee height—since hemp plants flower according to the daylight they receive, seeds taken from northern latitudes will stop growing earlier than further south. A different variation, meanwhile, grew to more than 16 feet. “Beautiful plants if that’s what you’re looking for,” Sikes said, but not ideal for textile use. Sikes was one of more than a dozen hemp experts on hand to discuss the hopes and challenges of the United States’ nascent hemp industry at North Carolina State University’s Evolving Textiles Conference this spring.
FINDING THE RIGHT STRAIN Like Sikes, David Suchoff, an alternative
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crops extension specialist and assistant professor in NC State’s department of crop and soil sciences, has spent years trying to figure out how to best grow hemp in the Southeast. “Probably one of the largest limitations,” he said, is a lack of regionally appropriate varieties. A daylight sensitive crop, hemp will continue to grow so long as it receives a certain amount of light. Once it drops below that threshold, its stem—the part of the plant relevant to textile fiber—stops growing and it shifts into its reproductive phase and flowers. For farmers in the Southeast using hemp strains adapted to northern latitudes, this means the crop will flower early, at a less-than-ideal height. Both Suchoff and Larry Smart, a professor with Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, highlighted Chinese hemp varieties for their ability to grow late into the season. In New York, Smart noted, they can continue growing until they’re killed by frost, with some yielding 17 to 20 metric tons per hectare. “That’s probably what we need for this industry to be profitable,” Smart said. The two professors identified a same central problem with these Chinese strains: they tend to “go hot.” Though the 2018 Farm Bill technically legalized hemp production, it set a stringent limit on how much THC any crop can contain. The exact consequences for surpassing the federal THC concentra-
“We can’t expect a farmer to grow a crop if they don’t know where they can process it and absolutely if they don’t know that they can profit from it.” — David Suchoff. North Carolina State
tion limit—0.3 percent—vary from state to state. North Carolina, for example, has not adopted its own rules and so operates under those set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Sikes said. “They’re very lenient for fiber in that we can actually just remove [the flower and] leave that in the field,” he added. “So, we can harvest the fiber part of it and leave that flower in the field.” If a crop surpasses 1 percent THC concentration, however, the farmer can receive a negligence violation, Suchoff warned. Should they receive three violations in a five-year period, the farmer could lose their license to grow for the next five years. Researchers like Smart are currently working on ways to weed out seeds that are more likely to produce too much THC. One of his students, he said, has even developed a means of screening hemp seedlings to see which ones are likely to only produce CBD and not THC. Using this technique, Smart said his team, with the help of International Hemp, has been working to scale up the seed of these low-THC plants for commercialization.
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Suchoff noted another problem he has observed with the Chinese strains. “Many,” he said, did not have good germination rates, including some as low as 40 or 50 percent. “If you’re buying a pound of seed, half that seed isn’t going to germ, which is unacceptable,” Suchoff said. For most crops, he noted, germination rates are “anywhere from mid- to upper 80s to the 90s.”
OVERCOMING LOGISTICAL FARMING CHALLENGES Farming a crop that has been out of rotation for decades brings with it its own difficulties. Take herbicides for example. In the Southeast, where the warm and wet growing season translates to “very aggressive” weed growth, the lack of label herbicides for hemp exacerbates the matter, Suchoff said. On top of that, he added, the narrow spacing between rows—“about seven and a half inches”—means the farmer can’t come in with equipment to suppress weeds as they sprout. “It doesn’t take long for weeds to either reduce yields in our crops or render yields
HEMP FIBERS DRYING IN THE SUN.
completely unharvestable,” Suchoff noted. “Really all they can do is select fields that have a low weed seed bank, but that’s very challenging to find, or they can hope that they get good canopy closure and good growth from their crop,” he said. “Now, we can absolutely get good canopy closure from fiber hemp and kind of shade out the weeds, but we need a lot of help early on in those first few weeks in the season, when there’s still a lot of bare ground… where weeds can start to pop up.” Another aspect of weed prevention, crop rotation, presents added complications. Farmers have relied on rotation plans that have long excluded hemp. Those who are interested in growing the crop will now need to determine where exactly hemp might fit in. “Researchers and farmers have developed crop rotation plans for three, five, 10 years,” Suchoff said. “We do this for a number of reasons. Oftentimes, we want to avoid issues such as buildup of pathogens or diseases in fields that have many susceptible crops. We also want to ensure that we are kind of buffering ourselves from downturns in markets for specific crops or if there are crop failures. The last thing we want is to see is a farmer growing hemp after hemp after hemp.” Finding the right machines to harvest hemp poses its own challenge. “We need better harvesting equipment, especially for textiles,” Sikes said. The farmer noted that such machines are in development in Europe and other countries currently. “I’m looking forward to getting my hands on that and… being able to better manage the harvest,” he added. Sikes also highlighted the need to make hemp price competitive with commodity crops. “We have got to make this attractive for the farmer because if he doesn’t grow it, there is no industry,” he said. “Prices now are prices we’ve never seen before for the farmer and why is he going to grow a new crop and take that risk, when he can plant corn and soybeans and make more money than he’s ever made?” Sikes asked. “So that is going to be a difficult hurdle to overcome.”
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BUILDING THE INFRASTRUCTURE Even if hemp farmers can find the right strain and grow the perfect crop, they will then face the challenge of finding a processor close enough that they won’t lose all their profit on transportation. “More processing infrastructure has got to take place,” Sikes said. “And that is dependent upon industry funding…. We’re starting to see that come through…. I think we have a good opportunity with hemp to recognize that it’s got to be grown close to where it’s going to be processed. It’s not going to be something we grow here and ship somewhere out in the Midwest or around the country. That’s not feasible. So, hopefully that relationship will lead to share profits from the end of the supply chain back to the farmer.” Suchoff also called for building out hemp processing infrastructure, noting that North Carolina has just “a few” decorticators and degumming facilities. “We need more,” he said. “We need this system to be a lot more regional in the sense that we need to be able to have processors in terms of decorticators and degumming facilities nearby, so that farmers aren’t having to haul their raw stem material halfway across the state,” he added. “In having to do that, they’re going to quickly eat away at any profit associated with that crop just through the trucking and gas fees.” Suchoff acknowledged that building out the infrastructure for hemp farming can be a “chicken-and-egg issue,” where farmers on one side and processors and manufacturers on the other are both hesitant to set up shop absent the other. Ultimately, however, he said he tends to think processors, manufacturers and “end users” will have to “step forward” and invest. “I can guarantee you that if a processor is nearby, and there’s profit to be made, farmers will grow the crop,” Suchoff said “But we can’t expect a farmer to grow a crop if they don’t know where they can process it and absolutely if they don’t know that they can profit from it.”
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Recycled Materials Get High-Tech Boost THE PATH TO USING MORE RECYCLED MATERIALS IS BEING CLEARED FROM THE GROUND UP. KAT E N I S H I M U RA
ashion’s ecological impact has come into sharp focus over the course of the past decade. Now, brands, retailers and their suppliers have come to realize that the path to sustainability is not linear, but circular. When it comes to material innovation, it’s not enough to iterate on existing materials and processes, stakeholders have come to believe. Instead, the industry needs to look to its own waste as feedstock for the future. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the realm of recycled polyester. For years, brands have bestowed this misnomer on fibers and fabrics made from post-consumer plastic bottles or ocean waste, only recently evolving labeling to the more accurate “RPET,” or recycled petroleum. Keeping used and unwanted clothing out of landfills depends on polyester textile recycling, which is still largely in its nascent stages. “For us to be able to really create a circular ecosystem, we have to be able to recycle that textile back into new raw material,” Erik Koep, CEO of Worn Again, a U.K.-based recycled polyester startup backed by H&M, Swiss engineering firm Sulzer and manufacturer Oerlikon, told Sourcing Journal. While recycling resilient, plastic-based fibers sounds simple enough—melt down and extrude, voila!—the challenge lies in the fact
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that polyester is often blended with other materials. Worn Again’s solvent-based system focuses specifically on poly-cotton blends, which is “a much more complicated process technically” than dealing with mono-materials, Koep said. “Instead of solving for one material, which may have three or four independent variables, you’re trying to solve two materials simultaneously, which adds to the complexity of what you’re doing tremendously.” The company takes post-consumer garments or production scraps, “and we’re dissolving it down, pulling out all the impurities, splitting it apart and solidifying the two components so that they can go back into the supply chain,” the founder explained. “We are able to essentially extrude both of those streams back into polyester chips, and separately, cellulose precipitate.” Polyester chips can be pelletized and extruded into new yarns. Meanwhile, “There are actually a wide variety of potential applications for the cellulose,” Koep said. Liquefied cellulose pulp can be used to make new materials like paper, “but we tend to focus on the fibers simply because that’s where a lot of the interest is.” Worn Again’s chemical process represents just one rung in a complex new supply chain. “Instead of the linear model, we’re trying to create a circular model, and it’s not some-
“The reality is that if we’re recycling less than 1 percent of textiles right now, we have a long way to go…and there’s tremendous demand for this.” — Erik Koep, Worn Again
thing that we can do by ourselves,” Koep said. Earlier this year, the company announced the creation of the Swiss Textile Recycling Ecosystem, a collective of like-minded enterprises including feedstock providers Sallmann (ISA) and Serge Ferrari, coordinated by Swiss Textiles. Textile collection and sorting will be managed by TEXAID, Rieter will support short-staple spinning, Monosuisse will create PET fiber and retailer CoOp will use the output for its stable of brands. Worn Again is in the process of constructing a demonstration plant in Winterthur, Switzerland, with the goal of processing 1,000 tons of material per year. The innovator has created “a robust process that can deal with a wide variety of feedstock,” Koep said. Its challenge now is to develop an extensive, efficient source for that supply. “Textiles are typically sorted for reuse and resale, and now we’re asking the sorters to start sorting by material type as well for textile recycling,” he explained. “It requires capital investment, it requires commitment, it requires training.” “There’s a lot that we’re asking of people
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upstream from us,” he added. “The benefit is that we’re providing a market for materials that otherwise would end up in a landfill or an incinerator.” Koep believes the biggest challenge facing polyester recyclers like Worn Again is developing working synergy with stakeholders across industries. “We want to make sure that we’re growing as fast as we can, with everybody growing with us,” he said. “It’s important that our growth plans align with those of our suppliers and our customers.” A growing number of retail groups and fashion houses have made public commitments to source materials more responsibly, but they may not have a way to live up to those promises if the recycling space can’t accelerate quickly enough. “The reality is that if we’re recycling less than 1 percent of textiles right now, we have a long way to go,” Koep said, “and there’s tremendous demand for this.” Accelerating Circularity founder and president Karla Magruder echoed, “When it comes to chemically recycled polyester from post-consumer textiles, many of the technologies for that are not yet commercial.”
THE GREEN MACHINE.
Like Worn Again, other industry players are in the process of building out demonstration plants to test, validate and ultimately begin to scale their innovations. The non-profit group follows the work of more than 100 different mechanical and chemical recyclers, Magruder said, and there’s been no shortage of investment in the space. “I would say that if there’s anything that is holding it back, it’s the nature of development—it just takes time,” she said. “These are new technologies—they need to be proven out, and then you’ve got to build facilities”—a slow-going effort, especially during an era of supply chain shortages. Magruder believes that polyester recycling in a number of forms—be it chemical, mechanical, or hydrothermal—has the potential to revolutionize material sourcing. But “the circular system is going to need the fuel to make it run right,” in the form of “post-consumer textiles that have been sorted and pre-processed in a way that meets the needs of the recyclers.” Automated sorting could provide a solution, she believes, pointing to groups like TOMRA, a material recovery body that helps industries take back their waste using advanced technology. “There are some other organizations that are out there working on automated sorting, so we need to shine a light on those groups just like we’re doing with chemical recyclers,” she said. “There are new parts of the industry that we have to acknowledge when we move to circularity, which didn’t exist in a linear supply chain.” Material group Unifi, maker of ocean plastic fiber Repreve, is a part of Accelerating Circularity’s consortium of organizations looking to tackle the issue of recycling post-consumer polyester textile waste. “The infrastructure for the collection of bottles has been in place for years,” Chad Bolick, vice president of global accounts, acknowledged. “However, with textile fabric and garment waste, the entire supply chain is having to be built from the ground up—and this takes time.” There are three major hurdles that must be cleared before materials can be distilled and new fibers can take shape, he added. “Collection, sortation and deconstruction”— processes largely driven by other stakeholders. Cost will also represent a challenge in
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the material’s early stages of commercialization, Bolick said, “but mainly due to the misconception that recycled materials are less expensive than virgin products.” Driving down price will come with scale, and that “starts with building the infrastructure needed to support the efforts,” he said. “Once that is in place, education is key. All players involved need to explain the process, goals, and benefits” of recycling polyester, in order to spur buy-in from the industry at large. “The challenges that the industry is facing are so complex, so they also need complex solutions,” Christiane Dolva, H&M Foundation Planet Positive Strategy lead said. The fast fashion retailer’s charitable arm has been working with the Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel (HKRITA) for more than five years on an innovation known as the Green Machine, which takes in polyester-cotton blended fabrics and spits out content that can be put toward new uses. The hydrothermal process uses “heat, water, pressure and biodegradable chemicals to separate the fibers,” Dolva said. “It decomposes the cotton into a cellulosic powder, and then it separates the polyester without compromising its quality so that it can be recycled into new yarns and become new fabric.” The HKRITA team is researching a number of different options for the cellulosic powder, including re-spinning it into cellulosic yarn—a process currently being explored by a Japanese manufacturer. The powder, which is highly water-absorbent, is also being tested in partnership with an Indian cotton supplier as a moisture-boosting soil additive. The first commercial Green Machine landed in Indonesia in 2020. Operated by textile supplier Kahatex, it now has the capacity to process about 1.5 tons of fiber per day, and its output was tested at retail in a tracksuit by H&M Group-owned brand Monki. Turkey-based denim maker Isko has licensed the machine and is gearing up to install one in its facilities, “and there are a number of conversations with different brands that are interested,” Dolva said. A feasibility study commissioned by an international group of stakeholders including HKRITA, Dakota Industrial, H&M Foundation and Vans and The North Face owner VF Corp. is now underway, which will determine the viability of launch-
“With textile fabric and garment waste, the entire supply chain is having to be built from the ground up—and this takes time.” — Chad Bolick, Unifi
OPERATIONS AT UNIFI.
ing an extensive Green Machine recycling network in Cambodia. While the Machine appears to have taken flight, Dolva said that widespread adoption will likely depend on economies of scale. “The price premium paid by first movers is related to scale and volumes, because everything needs to be tested out,” she said. “When you do a capsule collection or pilot, the price premium on that is probably higher but that’s also an investment in a step-bystep process of scaling.” She hopes to see the machine’s output eventually reach an accessible price point for the mass market, but like
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other recyclers, the Green Machine is now contending with the challenge of sourcing feedstock. “The Green Machine is one piece of the recycling puzzle, but it also requires a lot of other pieces in terms of collection systems and sorting systems,” Dolva said, and HKRITA’s researchers are turning their attention to automated garment collection and sorting. “I think our realization there is that with our ambition to provide tools and drive the industry towards planet positive future, we need to kind of embrace the complexity,” she added. “There’s no single silver bullet.”
OCTOBER 26-27, 2022 OREGON CONVENTION CENTER L E A R N M O R E A T:
Shift to Bio-based Materials Puts Spotlight on Sugarcane SUGARCANE POLYMERS HAVE CAUGHT FASHION’S ATTENTION, AND ITS MINIMAL IMPACT ON THE ENVIRONMENT COULD MAKE IT A PREFERRED RESOURCE. V I C K I M. YO U N G
ugarcane could be finding itself in the sweet spot. While the use of bio-based materials isn’t new, bamboo for example has been used to create different goods for eons, fashion’s growing interest in renewable materials that reduce the dependence on fossil fuels has sparked a renewed interest in innovative ideas. In fashion, footwear brand Allbirds first shined the light on a Brazilian sugarcane midsole called SweetFoam to create the first carbon negative green EVA. Relying on rainwater and not irrigation, the Brazilian sugarcane is a fully renewable resource that grows quickly and removes carbon from the atmosphere in the process, according to Allbirds. In addition to its use as a midsole, the footwear brand in 2018 also produced the first flip flop made from sugarcane. The latest manufacturer to adopt the use of the perennial grass is Gelmart International, a private label intimates and loungewear maker that is taking its sugarcane learnings to the next logical ideation. Gelmart in August rolled out the first bra cup made with 80 percent bio-based materials. The product, under the label Kindly for Walmart Inc., took three years to perfect and
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relies on a proprietary blend of recycled nylon, spandex and elastic in addition to sugarcane. Gelmart worked on the game-changing innovation to assist Walmart in its goal to provide a bra that met consumers’ desire for an eco-friendly intimates line. The next step for Gelmart, also for the Kindly brand, is the use of sugarcane to create a fabrication that can be used for other items in the intimates category, such as thermal underlayers. “We know that bio-based materials are a big focus right now,” Eve Bastug, Gelmart’s chief product officer, said. She noted that Gelmart is working with a company that takes the sucrose from the sugarcane and metabolizes it into a Gelmart-specified, proprietary formulation to create a nylon salt polymer that can be dyed and then spun into a yarn that’s blended with other fibers, such as spandex and nylon, for durability. “The [sugarcane percentage] for the blend depends on the type of the product that you are making,” Bastug said. “The yarn can be dyed, and the beauty of this is it requires a short time in the dyeing process, which means the energy needed is reduced. The fabrication is also more breathable.” Bastug said Gelmart is working on a prototype in the thermals category, using a yarn
“The properties depend on other fibers that it is mixing with, and so it becomes like any other blended yarn.” — Eve Bastug, Gelmart International
blend that’s knitted on a circular seamless Santoni knitting machine. The product line is expected to be available this fall. Bastug declined to provide specifics of the line, other than that Gelmart is working with a company in Ecuador for its production. “The products are knitted in a tube. The tubular format means the waste is minimal,” she said. “We are looking to continue to evolve this product to expand it to bralettes and underwear in the near future.” Because of its newness in the market, Bastug and her team are conducting different tests to gauge how versatile the fabric can be. The early read is that the new fabrication’s qualities mean it can be used to replace many of the existing nylon and cotton in the marketplace. Fabrications used in loungewear and underlayers tend to be synthetics, such as polyester blends. Bastug’s testing of sugarcane yarns indicate that the fabrication can be used in other apparel categories, as well. In addition to experimenting with different color options, the Gelmart team is also testing jacquards and different weaves, such as waffle knits. Bastug added that Gelmart is also testing yarn blends and coloration. One idea is taking recycled polyester polymers dyed in one color, a sugarcane yarn dyed in another color, and then blending the two into a spun yarn to achieve a third color tone without the need for another dyeing process. And because the coloration occurs at the polymer stage before it is spun, the yarn color is considered steadfast and holds up through multiple washing cycles. Bastug said the yarn she is working with— and testing now—is fairly durable, with the same viability of nylon, and has a “cottony hand feel” in the finish. “The properties depend on other fibers that it is mixing with, and so it becomes like any other blended yarn. We have also tested for pilling, which we have not seen. There’s no fuzz even after a few washes,” she said, adding that the inclusion of modal does tend to result in some pilling. Looking ahead, Bastug has also sampled a fabrication where the yarn was made into a heavier-weight material. “On the bras, I knitted the fabric heavier, but on the underwear, I needed the fabric to be lighter. You really need the fabric for the bras to be a little bit heavier because you’re molding it so the [side] wings have more support,” Bastug said.
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Brazil is currently the world’s top producer and exporter of sugarcane. The U.S. Department of Agriculture pegged Brazil’s 2021-2022 sugarcane crop at an estimated 635 million metric tons. Much of the textiles created today is from sugarcane bagasse, the fibrous material containing cellulose that’s left over after extracting sugarcane juice. The waste material was once discarded, incinerated, or used as a biofuel. In the apparel industry, the bagasse has been used to create rayon fibers, such as viscose, modal and lyocell. Sugarcane also has uses for commercial interior textiles. Carnegie in 2013 began using sugarcane to create interior textiles under its proprietary Biobased Xorel line for upholstered walls and panels and wallcoverings, as well as window options and dividers. For Biobased Xorel, sugarcane is turned into ethanol, which is then made into polyethylene pellets. The pellets—about 60 to 85 percent of the composition is from sugarcane—are then transformed into a yarn that gets woven, turning it into a fabric textile. The use in interiors shows the durability of the sugarcane-derived textiles. A Certified B Corp since 2014, Carnegie has been at the forefront of material innovation. It is set to launch an 85 percent biobased Xorel for outdoor textiles in October.
A PREVIEW OF THE NEW KINDLY THERMALS USING SUGARCANE-DERIVED YARN FROM GELMART INTERNATIONAL FOR WALMART.
HOW SUPIMA IS IMPROVING TRANSPARENCY AND TRACEABILITY As the conversation for creating responsible and sustainable products grows, many brands and retailers are shifting gears and focusing on transparency and traceability. Marc Lewkowitz, president and CEO at Supima, tells Sourcing Journal how the luxury cotton company helps its partners set a new standard for sustainability while reducing the industry’s waste problem. Sourcing Journal: As a top-tier cotton, Supima has always been at a premium. What has been the impact of cotton’s record-high prices lately on an already luxury product? Marc Lewkowitz: Price has always played a key role in sourcing discussions. With the recent market volatility and price increases, there has been a shift in the conversation toward value instead of just being price driven. The reality of the market during dramatic shifts makes managing costs and prices inherently more challenging. This requires a disconnect with traditional pricing practices and margin setting as they are not responsive in this market. What product categories are your brand and retail partners focused on now and how do you help them capitalize on sales? M.L.: Existing Supima partners continue to focus on home textiles and apparel segments, and range from small regional companies with a tight focus to multi-nationals that have immensely complicated and distributed global supply chain networks. By utilizing Oritain™, our new origin verification platform, our partners will have real verified supply chain transparency and traceability, enabling truthful and focused conversations around the responsible choices and decisions made to drive better outcomes. Supima recently announced a strategic partnership with TextileGenesis to establish a new industry benchmark platform for authenticating cotton. How will this new partnership help set a new standard for responsibility in the global textile industry and consumer marketplace? M.L.: With the surge in interest and the need to address public-facing sustainability claims, there is a greater demand to bring deeper learning insights in transparency, traceability and authentication that fundamentally validate the data and product around which claims are made. Connecting forensic science-based physical verification from Oritain™ with the immutable digital product-level traceability across the platform has created a new industry benchmark for next-level proven product authentication. Thus, these systems empower a
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There has been a shift in the conversation toward value instead of just being price driven.” complete and open mechanism for verified responsible sourcing in an end-to-end approach. Consumers are increasingly focused on the environment. How is your company working to reduce the industry’s waste problem? M.L.: Supima cotton is a limited, rare and exclusive fiber that has a higher premium market value. Intrinsically, this ensures that products made from the fibers result in better product lifespans and longer use. One of the areas with the biggest opportunities for positive change is agriculture. Through the support of agriculture (the grower community and their products), best practices, research, shared learnings and a focus on producing a robust and verdant agricultural landscape, the efficiency of resources and positive impacts will be maximized. Are there any new innovations in Supima cotton? M.L.: There is constant development work done and some of the new advances included specialized yarns with a hollow core that allow Supima cotton fabrics to perform in advance technical ways that facilitate dry wicking, quick dry, and thermoregulation without the need for synthetics. Also, outerwear fabrics are advancing with Supima in water resistant and waterproof iterations providing premium natural outerwear options How does Supima partner with other brands and retailers? M.L.: Supima welcomes partners across the supply chain that share our focus on responsibility, transparency, authenticity and the highest levels of quality. These collaborations drive positive outcomes, innovating through best practices that enhance value and achieve a platform for equitable success.
Home Textile Makers Respond to Market Needs PERFORMANCE LEATHER EVOLVES IN STYLE AND SUSTAINABILITY. JENNIFER BRINGLE
ver the past decade or so, one of the hottest buzz words in home textiles has been “performance.” Upholstery makers have advanced technology to create fabrics that offer the same lush look and feel of conventional textiles, but with the added bonus of stain resistance, and in some cases, bleach cleanability. But when it comes to leather, the concept of performance becomes a bit trickier. Stain repellants can only do so much on natural hides, and while faux leathers better resist spills, they also usually lack the comfort and hand of natural leather. But that has started to change. Over the past few years, performance leather has become one of the hottest upholstery options in the furniture industry. Whether on outdoor furnishings to achieve an indoor-style look or inside the home where consumers want leather that will stand up to the rigors of children, pets, and spills, the material has become one of the most talked about commodities. Performance leather makers have developed innovations that improve not only the look and feel of their products, but also their sustainability and impact on the environment.
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One of the leaders in this push is also one of the most longstanding performance leathers available—Toray’s Ultrasuede. Developed in the early 1970s, the material—which mimics the look and feel of suede with ultra-fine fibers—quickly became popular in the fashion industry, most notably in clothing by the iconic designer Halston. Nowadays, Ultrasuede is still used in apparel, but the company’s biggest markets are residential and contract furnishings, as well as the automotive and airplane industries. And the brand’s parent company, Toray, has made a major push to evolve its fabrics to make them more environmentally friendly. The company began recycling its polyester for use in Ultrasuede in 2010, and in 2015, they made the move to plant-based polyester, with the ultimate goal of making a 100 percent plant-based product. “Even though they were recycling their own polyester, they wanted to make it even further eco-friendly,” says Helen Brier, manager, Ultrasuede, Toray International America. “They decided to use a plant-based polyester. The fibers are made from biodegradable waste, such as natural byproducts recovered from food processing plants, including sugar.”
Fibers leftover after the extraction of the sweet juice from the sugar cane plant are upcycled to create the ultra-fine fibers used in Ultrasuede. Brier said the company is slowly incorporating the plant-based fibers to maintain the integrity of the material, but they hope to have a fully plant-based product in a few years. “Right now, we’re at 14 percent plantbased polyester,” she said. “By the end of 2022, we’re doing another introduction, which would be 30 percent plant-based. Then in another two years or so, we’re planning to go to 100 percent.” Sustainability has become a driving force behind innovation at performance leather maker Ultrafabrics, as well. The company recently partnered with Lenzing, makers of sustainable wood-based Tencel fibers. The collaboration is just the latest step in the company’s years-long commitment to improve sustainability through product innovation. “We started with the launch of Velar Bio, which is our first bio-based collection,” said A.R. Swan, director of marketing, Ultrafabrics. “And with that we made a commitment
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to move towards either bio-based or sustainably sourced recycled materials in 50 percent of our new products by 2025, and in 100 percent of our products by 2030.” Swan said around 35 percent of the company’s line is made using sustainable fibers from Tencel and another company, with the goal of continuing to expand that usage. “We’re looking kind of across the spectrum at a lot of recycled back cloths, recycled fibers, sustainably sourced fibers, different things that we can continue to add with that, but Tencel’s been the biggest move of late,” he said. Innovating the look and feel of the product has been an important initiative for Ultrafabrics, too. While they offer plenty of high-impact materials that look almost like neoprene, they’ve also added styles that offer a more natural leather look and feel for residential applications. “We can make it look like almost any type of leather—a distressed leather look or more of a clear aniline leather,” Swan said. “Our traditional Ultraleather looks just like a straight leather hide. We even have a collection called Pony that looks like horse hair.”
ULTRASUEDE MIMICS THE LOOK AND FEEL OF SUEDE WITH ULTRA-FINE FIBERS.
Swan said the company has seen an increase in demand for the more technical version of their material from the automotive industry, while the home market still wants a more natural look and feel. “It’s really driven by the market,” Swan said. “Automotive is seeing a bit of a shift, and residential obviously loves the traditional leather-like looks. So it’s really about trying to find what’s driving the market and going to R&D to develop what those markets want.” Synthetic leathers aren’t the only performance game in town. JBS Couros recently introduced EVO, a finish that can be applied to aniline, semi-aniline, and pigmented leathers to improve durability and stain resistance. “The EVO range has double the resistance in relation to regular leather,” said Guilherme Motta, president of JBS Couros. “Moreover, it does not exhibit the hard, plasticized aspect of similar products on the market.” Along with stain resistance, EVO was designed to help improve sustainability, too. The company said EVO allows home furnishings makers to tap into the benefits of kind leather, which improves traceabili-
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ty and clean production by using the most desirable parts of a hide’s surface to produce leather. The process minimizes waste production because leftover sections are then used as raw materials in other industries such as pharmaceuticals and beauty. JBS Couros introduced four collections in the EVO line during the recent Interwoven market in High Point, North Carolina. Three 10-12-millimeter-thick styles (Titano, Atlanta, and Chrono) made their debut, along with 12-14-millimeter-thick Urano. Whether it’s a synthetic leather or a finish that gives natural leather improved durability, performance continues to be in high demand for the home furnishings industry. But that performance is no longer enough—today’s customers increasingly want to know the product they’re using isn’t going to pollute the planet, as well. And leather companies continue to innovate to meet that dual demand. “Sustainability is on everybody’s mind,” Swan said. “So you have to make that commitment to improve the sustainability of your product.”
“Sustainability is on everybody’s mind. So you have to make that commitment to improve the sustainability of your product.” — A.R. Swan, Ultrafabrics
HOW SORONA’S INNOVATIONS ARE ADDING TRANSPARENCY TO THE APPAREL VALUE CHAIN Comfortable, sustainable products have been in high demand for quite a while now, causing brands to think of new innovative ways to keep up. Here, Alexa Raab, global brand and communications leader at Sorona®, explains to Sourcing Journal how Sorona® expanded its collaborations to create the finest comfortable sustainable fabrics in addition to launching new sustainable initiatives. Sourcing Journal: What are some specific material innovation breakthroughs your company has recently had? Alexa Raab: Our current focus on innovation is centered around traceability and transparency. In the past two years, we’ve launched the Common Thread Fabric Certification Program and the Preferred Mill Network. These were critical steps to support sustainability efforts and add transparency to the apparel value chain, and we’ve seen an overwhelmingly positive response from apparel brands, designers and mill partners. With these programs, we’ve created a streamlined system for gaining access to a global catalog of mills offering the full collection of sustainable Sorona® fabrics—Agile, Aura, Luxe, Profile and Revive. These certified fabrics are scientifically tested for a minimum percentage of bio-based Sorona® content and a range of performance characteristics, including comfort stretch, softness, shape recovery, vibrant color retention and more. In fact, more than 43.7 million garments are already sporting the hang tags for these sustainable fabrics. Sorona® has been expanding collaborations, first with Lenzing, another innovator of natural and sustainable materials, and with JP Modatex India. Anything new in the pipeline? A.R.: We believe the best way to impact positive change is at scale. Through the years, we’ve had some incredibly meaningful collaborations with other fiber companies, and we continue to explore these opportunities to offer the best possible sustainable fabric options. Our primary areas of focus are expanding into new regions, like the launch of a capsule collection with LIVE! in Brazil and the U.S., and into new applications, such as car mats made with Sorona®. Beyond fashion, sustainability has become more important in the home. How has Sorona® expanded into this realm? A.R.: Using Sorona® for clothing and carpeting naturally starts a conversation about reducing our reliance on fossil fuels and
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Our current focus on innovation is centered around traceability and transparency.” considering bio-based materials. Whether it’s in the home or in another application, part of what is exciting about the new CovationBio is being able to offer biomaterial innovations for a variety of applications including personal care, humectants, footwear and more. How does the Sorona® DuPont technology help brands and retailers deliver on the comfort today’s consumers demand? A.R.: One of the most exciting parts of using Sorona® in your garments is that it naturally delivers a mechanical stretch with a soft feel. I think consumers expect clothing that not only looks good, but feels good, too. The Covid pandemic put an increased emphasis on health and wellness. What long-term impact will this have on the textile and apparel markets, and how is Sorona® responding? A.R.: One part of the Covid pandemic that we hope sticks around is a commitment to movement and comfort. I think we all know that athleisure is a trend that shows no signs of stopping—and why should it? Our partners are using Sorona® for spandex replacement in capsule collections. Sorona® enables exceptional stretch and recovery and is fade resistant, so your clothing can last longer. Ultimately, this means purchasing less and once you may be ready to pass your clothing on, they are in better shape for the next wearer.
Backing Innovation, From the Ground Up REGENERATION.VC PARTNER KATIE HOFFMAN DISCUSSES HER FIRM’S PORTFOLIO COMPANIES AND THE NEED FOR CLIMATE-SMART INVESTMENTS. V I C K I M. YO U N G
egeneration.VC is a venture capital firm founded by Dan Fishman and Michael Smith that’s focused on early-stage investments aiming to mitigate the effect of climate change in the consumer goods sector. It counts actor, philanthropist and activist Leonardo DiCaprio and renowned architect William McDonough as investors and strategic advisors. Also on the advisory board are Bonobos founder Andy Dunn, former NATO Supreme Allied Command in Europe Wesley Clark, and supermodel Petra Nĕmcová. Here, Regeneration’s Katie Hoffman, partner and investment committee member, talks with Sourcing Journal about the company’s portfolio and investment criteria. Sourcing Journal: You have a background building and investing in climate-smart programs that drive measurable environmental impact. What attracted you to specialize in this area? Katie Hoffman: I have a background in environmental science. The more I studied the science, the more I realized the nature of the environmental and economic crisis humanity is facing. Climate change is the result of many factors, many of which are directly linked
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to linear economic development. To build prosperity in a climate constrained world, we must reimagine economic growth, and how we measure value. Building and investing in sustainable opportunities is one of the greatest economic opportunities of our lifetime. The UN estimates that $5 trillion to $7 trillion per year between 2015 and 2030 is needed to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) globally. When I first decided to specialize in this area, there were very few professionals working on bringing data-driven environmental, social and governance into the financial markets. Today, the amount of innovative and green investment opportunities continues to grow, and so does the number of committed investors. It is my goal to continue to ensure that science is a core tenet of measurement as we build and move more capital into solutions. SJ: Tell me a bit more about Regeneration.VC? KH: We are an early-stage fund focused on companies eliminating waste and pollution in consumer markets. The firm was born out of a vision to bring science-based strategies and circular design to capture the enormous economic opportunity presented by climate change and biodiversity loss. We focus on in-
novations that reimagine or reintegrate manmade materials into production systems to minimize or eliminate stress on biodiversity, with a goal of returning resources to living ecosystems to support new biological growth. Our partners, advisors, and team hold deep technical expertise across sectors, and share in a deep commitment to invest in and scale solutions that will generate the highest environmental, social and economic returns. SJ: Your firm closed on a $45 million venture capital fund to invest in circular and regenerative materials in March. Tell me about Regeneration.VC’s investment criteria? How do you measure financial and ecological returns? KH: Our Fund focuses equally on financial and non-financial returns when we evaluate companies. We primarily invest in companies that have deep, defensible material, technological or business model innovation across a few key consumer sectors—consumer packaged goods, food and agriculture, and apparel. Within this scope, we are particularly focused on companies that are tackling design, use and reuse of materials and products. When we evaluate companies, we ensure they fit into our thematic categories, have promising market traction, and team leadership that has the technical and business acumen necessary to scale. We measure financial returns along the standard lines in the venture market, and have an excellent team with decades of expertise in venture and private equity investing. Ecological returns are measured based on a tool I created with our in-house team called the Regenerative Evaluation Gauge (REG). REG pulls from 100+ methodologies and frameworks and over a thousand metrics to evaluate a company’s footprint across five key impact themes: carbon footprint (Co2E), resource footprint, toxics, waste, and human. Each category has corresponding subcategories and are calculus benchmarked to common and aligned scientific measurements that correspond to the areas of impact a particular company presents. Our due diligence and monitoring process is managed by our in-house team, with external support from a third party that is associated with the Sustainable Accounting Standards Board and IRIS.
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SJ: When you spoke at SJ’s Sustainability Summit in June, you noted that single solution and single outcomes are less attractive, but might be an option if they can fit into a platform-oriented company. Would this then be a possibility down the road after Regeneration.VC has invested in more platform-based firms? KH: We have invested in several companies that have highly specialized solutions, like Cruz foam, which uses waste streams to synthesize a non-toxic, bio-based alternative to polystyrene (Styrofoam). While Cruz is starting with a specific solution set, the opportunities for their expansion into other areas as they expand their capacity for material innovation are significant. When we evaluate and invest in companies, we are always looking for the capacity of the underlying innovations and the team to expand and outsize both impact and financial returns. SJ: Tell me about your firm’s investment in apparel brand Pangaia, which uses recycled materials such as textiles from seaweed, insulation called FLWRDWN made from wildflowers and fabric infused with peppermint oil to maintain its freshness. Is it an apparel brand that knows how to use material science to drive environmental impact or a material science firm that just happens to focus on apparel? KH: Pangaia is a materials science company, and a platform for circular and regenerative material innovation. The firm started and continues to be an apparel brand, sourcing and integrating their continuous material and process innovations into their clothing. Pangaia has also recently launched a plantbased protein bar and continues to explore product expansion that leverages their material expertise while meeting growing consumer demand for quality products. The cross-sector model is quite innovative for a start-up, and it is a big reason we joined the incredible roster of investors to participate in the Pangaia Series A. The company is constantly iterating, testing new materials, and engaging in partnerships that can drive transformative environmental and economic impact. Pangaia has continued to invest in their innovative partners, like Kintra Fibers, a materials science company that
“We focus on innovations that reimagine or reintegrate manmade materials into production systems to minimize or eliminate stress on biodiversity, with a goal of returning resources to living ecosystems to support new biological growth.” — Katie Hoffman, Regeneration.VC
has developed a proprietary bio-synthetic alternative to fossil fuel-based polyester (PET). In addition to using non-toxic and bio-based inputs, the team at Kintra has designed their materials with a compostable chemistry to address the microfiber pollution crisis. SJ: Regeneration has a portfolio firm called VitroLabs, which creates lab-grown leather. French luxury firm Kering earlier this year became an investor and began working with it to help it develop leather alternatives. Tell me a bit more about this and do you think this is the future for luxury? KH: VitroLabs is a very exciting company in our portfolio. Through their innovative cell-based method that requires a simple non-harmful swab from a cow, VitroLabs synthesizes material that is interchangeable with real leather. Through this process, VitroLabs can eliminate one of the most toxic and harmful parts of the supply chain in leather production—husbandry. Animal husbandry is the single largest source of deforestation across the globe, resulting in mass biodiversity loss, increase in forest fires, and destruction of communities. From cradle to grave, leather has the highest impact/kg of all materials used in fashion. Luxury brands have largely not adopted vegan leather alternatives due to the inauthentic look and feel, resulting in a luxury market that largely continues to engage in degrading environmental practices. VitroLabs solves this challenge, and shows incredible promise given the nature of their partnerships with groups like Kering. SJ: Fashion’s denim sector has often been cited as one of the worst offenders on the environmental front, notably the water waste in the dyeing process. Regeneration has invested in Colorifix, which reimagines the dyeing process by taking out the use of chemicals and counts Swedish fast-fashion giant H&M as the lead investor in its $22.6 million Series B round. Can you explain a bit about the use of microorganisms—essentially bacteria—in the dyeing process? And how do you evaluate a company like Colorifix in determining whether to invest? KH: First and foremost, beyond just denim, fashion as a sector is accountable for using
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more than 8,000 chemicals across the value chain—and is also one of the leading contributors to Greenhouse Gas Emissions globally. The risks to human health and ecosystems that result from such a toxic footprint are harming us now, and will have impacts for generations to come. That is why companies like H&M are focused on investing in solutions to solve for key challenges across their value chain. According to UNEP, around 20 percent of global industrial water pollution is from dyeing and textile treatment—not to mention the difficulty in quantifying the impact on human health (labor to consumer) from exposure to such chemicals. Colorifix is a solution that allows us to stop the crisis of toxicity and minimize impacts on fresh water related to dyeing at the source. At the core, they are a biotechnology business, and we see them as a category leader given their revolutionary, patented dyeing technology technique, which uses genetically modified pigment-producing microorganisms. The company develops synthetic biology techniques to recreate natural pigments and manufactures novel fermenter hardware. Beyond their technology, business model, and incredible team, they have illustrated success with existing clients and continue to expand their base, with a diverse color palette that can dye a variety of materials ranging from cotton to synthetics. We work closely with their team as they continue to measure their environmental impact, and have been impressed with their level of dedication to conducting continuous scientific and third party analysis of their operation in alignment with the highest global standards. SJ: Dick’s Sporting Goods was one of the launch partners for Arrive Outdoors (AO), which is also a Regeneration portfolio company. AO provides turn-key rental and resale services. What exactly are AO’s services and, from an investment perspective, how would you measure emissions savings? KH: Arrive Outdoors provides rental and resale-as-a-service (‘RaaS’) for the $460 billion U.S. outdoor recreation industry. The company is focused on servicing major retailers and consumer brands, like Dick’s, but also manages a proof-of-concept website allowing customers to rent
items from their existing warehouse in Gardena, California. RaaS is the core of the business. Customers visit a white-label page on the retailer partner’s web domain to carry out their transaction. AO fulfills the order, provides customer service for any issues, and manages reverse logistics. The returned product is cleaned by AO and restocked in preparation for the next customer. Through this model, products can generate [multiple rental cycles] and demonstrate key environmental advantages over virgin production and sale. When the rental lifetime of products is exhausted, the item can be sold on reuse marketplaces, further extending product lifetime. We participated in the seed round and have been actively working with their team to implement measurement protocols across our REG metrics—which includes emissions. The team is dedicated to coordinating logistics, especially around shipping, that can plug into more efficient transportation systems. There is a challenge with emissions related to fulfilling orders and reverse logistics, but the benefits outweigh the costs when you evaluate the returns associated with minimizing virgin material use and other material waste.
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SJ: Obviously, the vision of the management teams at the companies that Regeneration invests in are a key component of your investment criteria. How do you make sure that they share your firm’s values for remediating toxins out of our environment? KH: We only invest in management teams that have made it through our diligence process, which focuses extensively on how the company aligns with our thesis as a fund, and also plan to measure and report on their impact over time. We know that companies at the stage we invest will have a lot of work to do, and that is where we add value. We must feel strongly that the teams we are working with are willing to collaborate with us as they grow, and report proactively on a set of impact protocols on a quarterly and annual basis. We ask companies to sign a letter of intent around impact reporting and continued commitment to measure and excel in that regard. It has been exciting to work closely with our portfolio companies to support them as they integrate concrete environmental processes and practices at the earliest stages of development. We know they will be prepared as the market and regulations continue to demand transparency and compliance around ESG and climate risk.
IS YOUR BRAND’S SUPPLY CHAIN READY FOR CERTIFICATION? Seeking out innovative materials that adhere to escalating sustainability standards is one thing, but ensuring traceability in the end-to-end process is another. In establishing a strict chain of custody, apparel brands can better grasp the impact they have on the environment, and better track their own sustainability goals. Rick Horwitch, chief of supply chain and sustainability strategy, Bureau Veritas, gives a peek into the testing, inspections and certification (TIC) services company’s inspection process, and what brands should know prior to the start of any certification. Sourcing Journal: What are some of the biggest trends in raw material innovation that your clients have discussed with you? Rick Horwitch: There has been a significant increase in fabric blending and combining multiple sustainable fibers (i.e., recycled material, especially polyester) in the textile production process. Organic cotton, vegan, fruit leather, etc., and biodegradable packaging materials are also used more often. Can you go into further depth of the testing and certification services Bureau Veritas offers textile clients? R.H.: Bureau Veritas Consumer Products Services is a fully accredited certification body for both Textile Exchange (GRS, RCS and OCS) and GOTS. The process is straightforward. The site obtains certification, purchases certified material and then applies for certification for their product. In addition, our brand and retail clients are requesting that we collect and review documentation received from their suppliers to support the gamut of sustainable claims made on the products. For an apparel brand looking to improve sustainability initiatives, what should they fix prior to testing or certification? R.H.: Traceability is key. All of these sustainability-related claims are based on maintaining a strict chain of custody not only between actors in the supply chain, but within the facility. Procuring restricted substance list/manufacturing restricted substance list (RSL/MRSL) compliance chemicals and raw materials could be such initiatives where the documentation from origin could help before testing/certification. Focusing on sourcing the right materials, whether it is organic cotton and BCI-certified cotton, or prioritizing recycling and reuse of water and waste, can be other low-hanging fruits. What has been a recent advancement for Bureau Veritas that has helped bolster material innovation? R.H.: In 2020, we launched our Clarity platform, which helps
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Facility audits are essential to ensure companies are following current best practices to prevent, identify and correct the root cause(s) of these defects.” our customers assess and manage their ESG impacts (including material impacts) and map and verify their supply chains. Bureau Veritas provides testing, certification and verification services on a global basis, which allows our customers to work with a single service provider who can give global scope, consistency of execution, technical governance, data capture and analytics. How can brands better mitigate fiber defects during production? R.H.: There are multiple techniques, but it all depends on what defects exist in the first place. With this said, the increasing costs of sustainable materials make fiber defects even more costly. Facility audits are essential to ensure companies are following current best practices to prevent, identify and correct the root cause(s) of these defects. What challenges or limitations, if any, have been holding material innovation back lately? R.H.: There are many cases. In one recent example, I’ve seen suppliers trying to produce synthetic leather via “DMF-free” polyurethane (PU), but the performance issues of the material are still holding this production back. In another example, the outdoor industry is currently experiencing limitations in what they can use due to the restriction on C6-based water-repellant fluorocarbons and other coating material.
Thermore Chases 100% Sustainability Goal THERMORE HAS RAMPED UP ITS LEVEL OF INNOVATION TO MATCH CONSUMER DESIRES TO ELIMINATE THE USE OF DUCK FEATHERS IN INSULATION. JASMIN MALIK CHUA
pioneer in the insulation space for 50 years, The Thermore Group is getting closer to its aim of offering an exclusively sustainable product offering. Specializing in research, development and production of high-quality thermal insulation for outerwear apparel, Thermore has now converted over 97 percent of its goods sold into insulations made of either fully or partially recycled fibers. “Customers have recently changed their purchasing behaviors and habits as durability, eco-sustainability and a cruelty-free approach to raw materials became crucial,” said Andrea Delachi, marketing and communications director at Thermore. “But despite the efforts of the apparel industry to move towards a more sustainable and cruelty-free approach, 10 years ago reputable surveys reported that 80 percent of cold-weather clothing was still insulated with duck feathers. This was mainly due to the lack of a synthetic solution that provided the same look and loft as down.” Thermore has since ramped up its level of innovation to match consumer desires to eliminate the use of duck feathers in insulation. The company provides a current product range of rolled fabrics under five labels: Classic, Ecodown, EVOdown, Freedom and Thermal Booster.
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The insulation producer also offers six variations of its free-fiber products called Ecodown Fibers, which were first released in 2018 and are 100 percent recycled from post-consumer plastic bottles. The Ecodown Fibers are designed to offer loft insulation that traps heat and delivers a soft touch, while remaining ultra-light and highly packable, Delachi said. In June, the Bluesign-certified company unveiled its latest innovation with the EVOdown Recycled offering. This version of the popular EVOdown fibers is made of 100 percent recycled fibers from PET bottles, building on Thermore’s first-ever recycled insulation in the early 1980s, which originated from the same bottles. The fabric is designed to bridge the gap between free fibers and traditional padding, delivering an ultra-soft hand feel that grants consistent thermal coverage over the entire garment and can help wearers boost their productivity. The new product, which Thermore bills as “half fibers, half insulation, fully recycled,” is built to make the outerwear manufacturing process easier as well. Following a standard recycling procedure, flakes from the PET bottles are melted and spun into new fibers, which are then used to produce the thermal insulation in cold-weather jackets. Every jacket insulated with Thermore allows recycling of up to 10 bottles, the company says.
“Customers have recently changed their purchasing behaviors and habits as durability, eco-sustainability and a cruelty-free approach to raw materials became crucial.” — Andrea Delachi, Thermore
This newest version of EVOdown consists of what Thermore says is “millions” of free fibers encapsulated by two containing outer layers. Thermore says consumers will benefit from the lightweight and silky touch of EVOdown-made garments, as well as its ease of care. This brand-new EVOdown has evolved to meet the specific needs of various markets, offering something for everyone, according to Delachi. “This has always been the biggest challenge indeed: providing the right product to fulfill most of designers’ requirements and even dreams,” she said. Although Thermore has a testing process to determine the effectiveness of its thermal materials, Delachi remained mum on the details, describing Thermore as an insulation producer that functions like a tech company. “You see how much tech companies still protect their technologies: Companies that innovate can never be 100 percent transparent on R&D processes or they will lose their competitive edge,” said Delachi. “There’s quite a lot to be protected in order to continue growing our business and avoid that our technology and know-how is compromised.” Like many of today’s tech companies, Thermore touts a team ripe with staff under 30 years old. The company says these
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employees enable it to better keep up with trends and new innovations in an industry that is still largely occupied by traditionalists. “Young talents are the best opportunity to receive a different vision on markets and trends. Young people have a fresh view on what’s going on and a creative and enthusiastic approach on business and strategies,” Delachi said. “All businesses have to think about the future. Investing in young talents can ensure Thermore to commits to the potential of having longstanding staff and to stay ahead of the curve in terms of research and development.” Thermore’s website reflects this mentality with its Wizard questionnaire, which recommends specific insulation based on a user’s series of responses. The quiz prompts users to provide answers about the type of products they sell, the loft level required in their garment, their current insulation use, their interest in recycled fiber and their manufacturing location among others. While the company remains tight-lipped about potential releases beyond EVOdown Recycled fabrics, Thermore says it has plans to dedicate more resources to the development of green products in the coming seasons. Delachi said the insulation producer has eco-friendly technology at the forefront of its development initiatives for the Fall/ Winter 24/25 season and beyond.
THERMORE HAS WORKED TO BRIDGE THE GAP BETWEEN FREE FIBERS AND TRADITIONAL PADDING.
‘SMART’ TEXTILES USING 37.5 TECHNOLOGY OFFER THERMOREGULATION COMFORT In the global trend for a simpler, safer and more comfortable life, consumers are looking for innovative products. Smart textiles, like those that feature 37.5 Technology, increase the versatility of a consumer’s wardrobe. Here, Scott Whipps, EVP, global apparel, Cocona Labs, explains how the company’s 37.5 Technology works with the wearer’s body to provide dynamic thermoregulation, allowing consumers to be more comfortable in a wider range of conditions. And why adding 37.5 Technology to a product line increases product performance and adds a point of differentiation. Sourcing Journal: Is there a misconception on what “thermoregulation” actually means? Scott Whipps: Yes. Very few true thermoregulation technologies on the market manage core body temperature. They focus on skin temperature, which is not necessarily correlated to human comfort or increased athletic performance. Evaporative cooling (or sweating) is your body’s primary mechanism for thermoregulation or stabilizing your body’s core temperature. 37.5 Technology provides true thermoregulation benefits by removing humidity and optimizing your body’s natural evaporative cooling process—to help keep you cool when you’re hot and warm when you’re cold. 37.5 Technology’s ability to help
Smart textiles, like those that feature 37.5 Technology, increase the versatility of a consumer’s wardrobe.”
your body manage humidity within your microclimate and stabilize core body temperature is proven to increase comfort and performance. How does 37.5 Technology enhance athletic performance? S.W.: An independent study done at the University of Colorado’s Human Physiology and Sports Medicine Department demonstrated that a shirt made with 37.5 Technology enabled an athlete to perform up to 26 percent longer by reducing their rate of core temperature buildup during high activity. The peer-reviewed study was later published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine. This proven performance translates to benefits
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for the recreational athlete and others looking for increased comfort and versatility in day-to-day activities as well. What types of textiles can utilize 37.5 Technology? S.W.: 37.5 Technology can be incorporated into virtually any textile material, from fabrics, foams, insulations, even prints on waterproof breathable membranes. Extensive testing shows that the addition of 37.5 Technology into these materials has no impact on material physical properties (color fastness, snagging/pilling resistance and wash stability, among other key fabric characteristics). Designers can create the same products they normally would but with an added level of performance and consumer benefits. 37.5 Technology rises above other branded fibers and finishes as the only thermoregulating technology that is natural, permanently embedded, and available with both enhanced biodegradation and recycled yarn options. Considering 85 percent of textiles end up in landfills, how does Cocona Labs make its products more sustainable at end of life? S.W.: Textile waste is one of the most critical sustainability issues facing the industry today. While recycling would be the better end-of-life option for these textile products, the vast majority are discarded, increasing stress on landfills and creating pollution. Starting this year, all 37.5 staple fibers and filament yarns now include an additive that allows them to biodegrade at enhanced rates once placed in landfill conditions. This new offering does not affect recyclability or the comfort or performance that 37.5 Technology provides. Third-party laboratory testing under ASTM D-5511 in an accelerated landfill environment showed almost complete breakdown of 37.5 polyester fiber to natural materials in two years. Unlike traditional polyester and nylon yarns that will sit unchanged in landfills for centuries, 37.5 yarns will now break down over a matter of decades.
The Disruptor Transforming India’s Natural Fiber Industry BY SHEDDING A LIGHT ON A ‘BLIND SPOT’ IN THE TEXTILES MARKET, RESHAMANDI HAS BEGUN TO REVOLUTIONIZE THE DOMESTIC MARKET. M AY U S A I N I
he fiber supply chain in India is transforming. The natural textile space has been one of the fastest-growing segments in the approximately $100 billion domestic textile market. When Mayank Tiwari first started ReshaMandi as founder and president in 2020, it was meant to be a disruptor in the silk industry, using technology to link farmers, weavers, retailers and other stakeholders, including the consumer. It has evolved quite a lot in a short period however, and now operates in the entire natural fiber ecosystem. The digital platform has revolutionized how the industry connects. “The natural fiber industry provides the livelihood to numerous farmers, artisans and weavers. Today, we work with 60,000 farmers, more than 10,000 weavers, over 7,500 yarn manufacturers and 3,500 retailers to improve their productivity, impact their bottom line and eventually be instrumen-
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tal in improving the quality of their lives,” Tiwari explained, adding that the disparate and often isolated stakeholders found a way to connect with technology. But it was also a doorway for the metamorphosis of his company, undertaking research and the use of a variety of natural fibers, including cotton, and others like coir, jute and banana, all of which have been garnering interest as sustainability and eco-friendly fabrics catch the consumer imagination. “China and India together account for about 90 percent of total natural fiber production,” he said, adding that one of the ways to “grow India’s share in this is to improve quality and productivity, as well as the variety of natural fabrics.” The pivotal shift is that natural fibers are eco-friendly and are healthy on your skin. “It is breathable, allowing your skin to breathe—whether it is silk or any other natural fiber—it has its own properties and people are becoming far more conscious of it,” Tiwari observed.
“The need was to create a more diverse market, using technology to make a disruption in terms of cost and to do it on the ground.” — Mayank Tiwari, ReshaMandi
“The need was to create a more diverse market, using technology to make a disruption in terms of cost and to do it on the ground. We are not a European brand—sitting in Europe and trying to source from India—but rather working on the ground helping the farmer connect, as much as the weaver or the retailer—so people understand that though there is technology and an app in my hand, there is a human face to this,” he said. “The biggest factor is that there is someone out there who is ready to listen to you. Ask a mill owner if he treats his yarn manufacturer with respect—he will never do it because is working through a trader in between and doesn’t even know who the yarn manufacturer is. And that has been our challenge—and the benefit at every step for the stakeholders.” The idea of using waste and making fabrics more functional has been part of the focus, imparting anti-microbial, stain repellent and UV resistance to create differentiated products in natural fibers for apparel and home applications. “The processes are followed carefully, with eco-friendly dyeing, printing and finishing,” he said.
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“For example, silk production is a waste-intensive process. We work with spinning mills to convert this waste into spun silk and blend it with cotton, bamboo and other natural fibers. We have also mixed a variety of other natural fibers like banana, linen and hemp to make new fabrics. Some of the resultant fabrics are also lustrous, lightweight and breathable, while being a pocket friendly alternative to 100 percent silk.” While farmers and weavers are excited about the technology, and the access it brings them, Tiwari said that one of the bottlenecks was the way change was being brought to them. “They were always referred to as ‘poor farmers’ or ‘poor weavers’ – but at the end of the day many of them are businesspeople also, aware of what needs to be done to create a target and cater to a market. They just needed better tools and to understand that revenue and profits can go up,” he said. Consistency from India has always been a challenge–and particularly so from the natural space where it is hard to replicate the same exact fabric. Tiwari said the idea was to reduce the reliance on exports, fo-
RESHAMANDI WORKS WITH 60,000 FARMERS, MORE THAN 10,000 WEAVERS, OVER 7,500 YARN MANUFACTURERS.
cus more on indigenous yarn and have all these very disorganized stakeholders come together. The way to go about it is to have an organized player, not only helping the stakeholders increase revenue, but also providing credit and growing their transaction history, he explained. A graduate of the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT), Mumbai, and with the company headquartered in Bengaluru, Tiwari said that he was transforming what has been a “blind spot” in the market. Understanding textiles, building technology and achieving the required upscaling has been one of the biggest challenges. Is it working across the value chain? Vinay Narang, a retailer in New Delhi who owns Raasa, a fabric store, said there was no doubt. “Earlier, I had to travel across India for sourcing—the consumers needed specific textiles, and I would go to different states to source
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them. With this way of cross connecting on a platform, I have been able to open a new store—despite Covid—and quality assurance and traceability has become much easier. Consumers have changed as well—they are looking for more natural fabrics,” he said. Tiwari has plans to include more unique fibers. Stepping up research and development, his vision is clear. “Recently we were a sponsor at Lakme Fashion Week,” he said. “I would like to sponsor a Paris or a New York Fashion Week event or show, so that designers across the globe can give traceability to all their customers.” Although certifications are multiplying, both globally, and in India. Tiwari said that he can provide video footage and QR codes of the farmers with an assurance of traceability—and as the need for knowledge and awareness of your supply chain increases, this only becomes more valuable.
Stretch fibers are a key ingredient for better fitting, more comfortable jeans. The LYCRA Company’s The Science of Fit™ concept is taking stretch a step further with high-quality stretch fabrics that not only provide comfort but also additional performance benefits. As Ebru Ozaydin, the company’s strategic marketing director, denim and ready-to-wear, put it, “Adding function to fashion is The LYCRA Company’s reason for existing.” Here, she details some of LYCRA® brand’s latest innovations to meet denim shopper demands. Sourcing Journal: One of the biggest issues with selling jeans is achieving a perfect fit for every shopper. What LYCRA® solutions help brands deliver flattering and comfortable denim for all? Ebru Ozaydin: Traditionally sized jeans will not fit every consumer because there is a range of body types within any one size. Body shape can even fluctuate throughout the day, which can lead to wearer discomfort. Patent-pending LYCRA® ADAPTIV fiber has unique properties that enable garments to adapt to
Adding function to fashion is The LYCRA Company’s reason for existing.” different body shapes within a size. This means jeans can deliver a custom-like fit that increases wearer comfort and confidence. At rest, the fiber’s compressive holding force delivers the right fit, shape and control. And when the wearer is moving, the fiber provides improved comfort and a second-skin effect that keeps the garment in place. This innovation also offers brands the possibility of reducing costly returns due to poor fit. Denim remains a wardrobe staple, but athleisure’s popularity continues to grow. How can stretch materials convince shoppers to more frequently opt for jeans over leggings or sweatpants? E.O.: Athleisure’s explosive growth shows that it has embraced innovation and offers consumers what they desire most: exceptional comfort, fit and functional performance. That gives perfect feedback from the end consumer on their needs and pain points to offer denim with comparable benefits. For example, the consumer was looking for a customized fit solution at a reasonable cost, and we developed LYCRA® ADAPTIV fiber. The stretch element in denim remains vitally important to offer diverse solutions for all ages, genders, body shapes and sizes.
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What features are denim shoppers looking for when it comes to stretch? E.O.: The consumer has an ultimate desire: the perfect pair of jeans. But denim needs vary by consumer segment. We strive to have a solution for each consumer need or pain point. For example, we’re seeing low-rise jeans becoming popular again. We believe LYCRA® ADAPTIV fiber technology is the ideal solution for this trend because of its adaptive stretch properties. Another example is the powerful trend of “smart casual.” This reflects the consumer’s need for comfort and desire for dressing up, further fueled by the transition from remote to hybrid working necessitating the need for more office-appropriate looks, without sacrificing comfort. We offer the solution of LYCRA® DUAL COMFORT technology, which was launched at Kingpins Amsterdam in April. This offers in-demand functional benefits like all-day comfort with moisture-wicking performance that keeps the wearer cool and dry. This technology can also be made with LYCRA® T400® EcoMade fiber, one of our most successfully sustainability fibers, containing recycled and renewable content. How are you working with your brand partners to promote the LYCRA® difference? E.O.: Our hangtag is a powerful marketing tool to drive preference for the LYCRA® brand. We enjoy nearly 90 percent awareness with consumers worldwide, who recognize and value the LYCRA® brand name. They view our brand logo as a symbol of quality that can act as a purchase driver. We encourage brands to order our complimentary hangtags that explain our fibers’ benefits to consumers. We also work with brands and retailers on marketing collaborations that highlight the value of LYCRA® fiber in their collections. Our branded fibers can help drive the differentiation that our customers are seeking as they look to highlight the performance features of their offerings.
LYCRA® BRAND INNOVATIONS GIVE DENIM PERFORMANCE PROPERTIES
Taiwanese Companies Collaborate on Sustainable Membrane Material PORLITE’S DURABLE WATER REPELLENT ABILITY MEANS IT CAN ENDURE AT LEAST 30 LAUNDERING CYCLES AND IS RAIN-RESISTANT. A RT H U R F R I E D M A N
WAFUNE Textile, a Taiwan-based manufacturer of functional fabrics, has teamed with polymer producer Phoenix Innovative Materials to develop Porlite, a sustainable polypropylene (PP) membrane. HWAFUNE chairman Jackson Chang said he started to take interest in PP membranes because the lifecycle of the material, from the production of the membrane and the manufacturing of the fabrics to the disposal of the clothing, is more in line with increased environmental awareness than membranes made of PU, TPU and PTFE. When heated to high temperatures during the manufacturing process, PTFE will generate PFOA, which is classified as a possible human carcinogen. In addition, greenhouse gas is produced when fabrics containing this material are incinerated, HWAFUNE noted. In the past three years, HWAFUNE and Phoenix worked closely on the manufacturing, testing and modification of the membrane. Besides functionality, HWAFUNE also considered the needs of consumers during testing, such as waterproof, moisture permeability and the appearance of fabric after washing. Porlite, which is produced through
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non-toxic manufacturing processes in Taiwan, features 10 billion pores arranged in an orderly manner on the membrane. The pores are smaller than water molecules and bigger than air molecules, meaning the fabric can resist water penetration, even under pressure, while maintaining breathability. In addition, Porlite can also transport moisture from the clothing to the atmosphere by diffusion through the membrane, providing moisture permeability and breathability during high-intensity exercises and workouts when consumers tend to sweat. In line with the HWAFUNE’s commitment to sustainability, Porlite’s durable water repellant (DWR) properties mean it can endure at least 30 laundering cycles and is rain-resistant for a period of time. “I can guarantee that Porlite is capable of replacing existing functional fabrics and can fully address high-end brands’ product development requirements,” Chang said. Both the PP membrane developed by Phoenix Innovative Materials and the Porlite fabric created by HWAFUNE are manufactured in Taiwan. The goal is to establish bio-based manufacturing processes by using natural materials such as weeds as raw materials and to provide biodegradable products in 10 years.
While sustainability demands continue to drive sustainability initiatives, the consumer’s post-pandemic pivot to health is driving wellness innovations. Tim Huesmann, sales director at Tat Fung Textile Co., Ltd, parent company of Panther Denim, tells Sourcing Journal how they’re ramping up to minimize waste and CO2 emissions for more environmentally friendly products in addition to creating products that provide comfort and wellness to consumers. Sourcing Journal: From a material perspective, how are you supporting your downstream partners in becoming more sustainable? Tim Huesemann: We believe that offering a wide range of sustainable options is essential to every buyer, which is why we offer so many. Firstly, we offer sustainable options for all available materials. For example, we have recycled, BCI,
Our factory is fully integrated, and dyeing, finishing and materials contribute to shaping our textile designs and input choices.” organic cotton and our bio-friendly polyester in our Bioreduce collection, which is our latest technology that accelerates the biodegradable speed of polyester. Secondly, we have strong development in regenerating fibers and bio-friendly spandex. Lastly, we have our own collection, which is heavily focused on fashion and sustainability. Denim is on a mission to lower the impact of dyeing and finishing. How is this priority shaping your textile designs and input choices? T.H.: Our factory is fully integrated, and dyeing, finishing and materials contribute to shaping our textile designs and input choices. However, we do have some very avant-garde finishes like Diamond Denim Finish® (DDF). Additionally, we continue exploring and developing the low-impact dyeing and finishing method to minimize the waste used and CO2 emission, not only in the dyeing and finishing stage, but the garment washing stage as well.
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During the pandemic, Panther has developed solutions like antimicrobial denim. As we come out of the Covid era, how will health consciousness continue to shape your fabric developments? T.H.: While health consciousness is important, we expect that well-being is going to take the place of hygiene. People are embracing the “normal” life again and the demand for functional and beauty denim will likely increase.You might be curious about beauty denim. Well, we have collagen-based denim that is good for skin and even vitamin-infused denim. Sounds very mysterious, but they are real. How is Panther helping denim makers create collections that speak to consumers’ continued love affair with comfort? T.H.: We recently launched our new denim collection with LYCRA® ADAPTIV fiber in collaboration with The LYCRA Company. The new collection is the future of stretch denim as it eases the stress of stretch on denim, bringing the stretch fabrics to a new era. Panther gives clients a better understanding of its process from R&D to finished fabrics by presenting its products as concepts. What are you introducing for 2023? T.H.: One of our latest concepts is Geocolor, which uses a natural source for dyeing without any salt. It also comes with good color fastness and high reproducibility. We have done many tests and are happy to inform you that it is GOTS certified and ZDHC registered. Are there any new announcements that you can share with us? T.H.: We are excited to announce that our Vietnam production has started, therefore Panther denim is no longer limited to single origin. We are currently in the process of designing our Vietnam collection, and plan on launching it soon.
PANTHER DENIM FOCUSES ON SUSTAINABILITY, WELLNESS
Next-Gen Textiles: Worn Again, Ventile and Voormi Move Industry Forward VOORMI, A MANUFACTURER OF TECHNICAL APPAREL, ANNOUNCED WHAT IT CALLED “THE NEXT HORIZON IN THE FUTURE OF CORE CONSTRUCTION TECHNOLOGY.” A RT H U R F R I E D M A N
he circular textile economy is rapidly approaching, with companies such as Worn Again Technologies and Ventile taking key steps along the journey. At the same time, innovators like Voormi are set to introduce materials aimed at performance and weather protection.
WORN AGAIN TECHNOLOGIES Worn Again Technologies revealed plans to build a new textile recycling demo plant in Winterthur, Switzerland. The company said it is in the final planning stages of an innovative demonstration plant that will showcase its ground-breaking polymer processing technologies for textile recycling. The facility will have the capacity to prevent 1,000 tons of textiles being incinerated annually, paving the way for industrial-scale operations.
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Worn Again Technologies’ demonstration plant will be constructed near to one of the startup’s technology partners, Sulzer Chemtech, in Winterthur, which it said represents a crucial step toward upscaling and commercializing the company’s recycling process technology. “We are delighted to see our technologies being leveraged to create a state-ofthe-art textile recycling plant,” Torsten Wintergerste, chairman of Worn Again Technologies, said. “Building it in Switzerland gives Worn Again Technologies direct access to Sulzer Chemtech’s global R&D facilities and the Swiss textile industry. We will build an ecosystem of partners around this demo plant and drive forward the creation of a circular economy of textiles. Switzerland is an ideal location for Worn Again to realize the demonstration plant with all stakeholders in the shortest time period possible.”
“It ultimately came down to equipment limitations. This Gen2 machinery truly opens up the world for us in terms of capability.” — Timm Smith, Voormi
WORN AGAIN TECHNOLOGIES PLANS TO BUILD A NEW TEXTILE RECYCLING DEMO PLANT IN WINTERTHUR, SWITZERLAND.
The new industrial-scale infrastructure will also help validate the closed-loop chemical recycling solution developed by Worn Again Technologies and its strategic partners. The process obtains polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and cellulose from non-reusable, hard-to-recycle textiles that constitute post-industrial and post-consumer waste. “We are excited to be taking the next step in making reliable, high-performance textile recycling a reality,” Erik Koep, CEO at Worn Again Technologies, said. “The construction and operation of this demonstration plant are the next major milestones in achieving our vision for textile circularity. We look forward to starting operations soon and see this as the first plant in a global network of processing facilities.” The process purifies the products by removing dyes, contaminants and impurities, a step forward from traditional recycling methods. The result allows the company to deliver high-quality, virgin-like materials that can be reintroduced into supply chains to become new fibers, textiles and other products.
VENTILE Performance textile manufacturer Ventile has launched a new fabric as part of its Eco range to further meet customer demand for blended fabrics with a highly ecological composition. The new fabric, Ventile Eco 200, is a cotton and lyocell blend set to replace its earlier Eco 290. The new material fabric weighs
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in at 200 grams per meter and boasts a 600-millimeter hydrostatic head rating, one of the highest in the range, the company noted. Eco 200 is available in white and olive and has been developed to absorb dye coloring in such a way as to give an even color distribution across both fibers. At the same time, the company is introducing Ventile Eco 280 Organic. The canvas fabric delivers a new hand, as well as rounding off the weight range in the Ventile Organic collection. This will initially be available in caramel and is expected to be popular
VENTILE ECO 200
for designers looking to develop structured jackets and trench coats. “Ventile is built upon developing premium textiles that support sustainable developments in the industry,” Ventile brand director Daniel Odermatt said. “We are proud to continue to push forward our range of fabrics and launch incremental additions in line with customer trends. Development of such fabrics takes many skilled craftspeople and we are looking forward to seeing the response from our customers.” Ventile fabric is now treated with a PFCFree durable water resistant (DWR) finish as standard after the company announced its move away from methods that use PFCs.
VOORMI Voormi, manufacturer of innovative technical apparel, announced what it called “the next horizon in the future of Core Construction technology.” Following a multi-year investment in advanced machinery, the company’s affiliate technology provider, SWNR Technologies, is now offering its textiles with advanced functional cores. “When we launched the first generation of Core Construction Technology, there was so much excitement and speculation about where the technology could go,” said Timm Smith, chief technology officer at Voormi. “What followed was a multi-year development project aimed at realizing the full potential of core-knitted textiles.” According to Smith, while the first generation of Core Construction products was designed to bring superior performance and weather protection to fleece and other thermal layers, the long-term vision was to enable the insertion of even more complex functional substrates into the broader knitwear market, as well as the explore opportunities beyond apparel.
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“From the beginning, fine-gauge knits, technical yarns and the insertion of advanced substrates have all been key areas of focus for us,” Smith said. “It ultimately came down to equipment limitations. This Gen2 machinery truly opens up the world for us in terms of capability. With brand new patterning and multicore insertion capabilities, there’s no reason why every yard of knitted fabric in the world shouldn’t contain a multi-functional core.” In addition to a host of new products to be released over the coming year under the Voormi brand, the company has kicked off a number of pilot projects in non-apparel sectors, providing enhanced functionality in industries ranging from automotive applications to e-textiles.
VOORMI’S CORE CONSTRUCTION TECHNOLOGY FEATURES AN INTEGRATED HEAT SHIELDING, SPLASH-PROOF CORE.
HOW UMORFIL® TURNS FISH SCALES INTO SOFT FIBERS In developing the UMORFIL® Bionic Fiber series, the Taiwanbased Camangi Corporation aims to help reduce food waste and pollution by upcycling fish scales and extracting collagen peptide amino acids from them. The UMORFIL® technology then bonds the amino acids with materials like cellulose fiber, polyester and nylon to make super-soft fabric that can be applied across home textile, innerwear, denim, activewear, fashion and shoes. Tracey Hsu, marketing and sales manager of Camangi Corporation, the developer of UMORFIL® Bionic Fiber, further explains the benefits of UMORFIL® Bionic Fiber and the material’s characteristics. Sourcing Journal: What was the inspiration behind the UMORFIL® Bionic Fiber, and how has Camangi improved on it since its inception? Tracey Hsu: People often desire to achieve balance and comfort both in physical and mental ways, and their apparel choices reflect that balance. Dr. James Hou, the founder of Camangi Corporation and the inventor of the UMORFIL® technology and Bionic Fiber series, was inspired by his son, who had a skin problem that prevented him from wearing many cloth-based fabrics. Dr. Hou started to create textile materials with the hope that his son could feel more comfortable, and he accomplished that goal. All UMORFIL® materials have since passed the medical level of skin sensitization and irritation testing (ISO 10993), and are now used in a range of textile products like denim, innerwear, home textiles and footwear. How does this product improve the features of apparel textiles for when they are finally worn? T.H.: The UMORFIL® Bionic Fiber series is created from peptide amino acids extracted from fish scales, and the fibers have properties similar to silk and wool and offer capabilities including natural deodorizing, anti-UV protection and more. The series includes the bionic viscose UMORFIL® Beauty Fiber®, which can be blended and interwoven with all kinds of staple fiber and filament yarn like cotton, linen, lyocell, silk, wool and a variety of synthetic fibers that all provide different texture for different applications. The bionic nylon UMORFIL® N6U® is a new type of nylon which can provide a more skin-friendly and better-protection textile material. And finally, brands can design the fabric with natural champagne gold color with bionic polyester UMORFIL® T, which has a moisture rate 3X higher than regular polyester.
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If we can upcycle fish scales to create new materials, it will be an important milestone in the development of a circular economy.” How has the demand for UMORFIL-added products helped curb the waste problem in apparel and fashion? T.H.: We can help reduce waste at the beginning of the product life cycle. Aquaculture fisheries provides a stable source of protein for humans, especially on the coastlines of Asian countries, providing a continuous supply chain system from the South China region, southwestern Taiwan and Southeast Asia. These aquaculture fish are cleaned by the fish factory, where the fish scales are removed as waste. Based on data from the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization, fish scales constitute between 1 percent and 5 percent of the total fish weight. If factories just buried the discarded scales in the land, there would be a huge amount of food waste from fish products that would cause soil acidification. And if they burned them, it will also cause air pollution. Therefore, if we can upcycle fish scales to create new materials, it will be an important milestone in the development of a circular economy. When we upcycle the scales and extracted amino acid to create the UMORFIL Bionic Fiber series, the natural bionic features can help reduce the food waste and pollution issue on earth, and enhance the comfort and durability performance of textile products.
What’s Needed for Biosynthetics to Replace Petrochemical Fibers? REPLACING FOSSIL-FUEL-BASED SYNTHETICS WITH FIBERS DERIVED FROM PLANTS AND AGRICULTURAL WASTE COULD HELP BRANDS HIT THEIR CLIMATE TARGETS. JASMIN MALIK CHUA
ashion brands are scrambling to hit their ambitious climate targets as the planet heats up. Substituting fossil-fuel-based synthetics with materials derived from plants and agricultural waste could help. “‘We at Textile Exchange view biosynthetics as an important material within the synthetic fiber category,” Kate Riley, the sustainability think tank’s synthetic fibers and materials strategy lead, told Sourcing Journal. “When managed responsibly, we believe that these materials can not only help lead the transition away from the extraction of virgin fossil-based resources but [also] play an active role in a regenerative and circular future for the industry.” Virgin petrochemical-based fibers such as polyester and nylon account for the majority of global fiber production and its attendant greenhouse-gas emissions, Textile Exchange noted in a report published earlier this year. If the fashion industry wants to stick to the 1.5-degree Celsius pathway as laid out in the
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Paris Agreement, it must also pivot away from fossil-fuel extraction and toward “holistically assessing” available alternatives, whether existing preferred materials such as recycled synthetics or biosynthetics made from corn, sugar beet, sugarcane, wheat and other natural, renewable sources. The catch—and it’s a big one—is that the commercial share of biosynthetics is still very low. Infinitesimally so, in fact. Bio-based polyester, to name an example, made up 0.03 percent of all polyester fiber produced globally in 2020. Bio-based polyamide, or nylon, had a market slice of 0.4 percent. For those numbers to increase, companies need to ramp up their collaboration and knowledge sharing, Riley said. Not all biosynthetics are created equal, which means they must be treated with “care and nuance.” When it comes to inputs, there is no one perfect source. Assessing the impacts of corn versus sugar beet versus agricultural residues therefore requires an individualized approach based
“When managed responsibly, we believe that these materials can not only help lead the transition away from the extraction of virgin fossil-based resources but [also] play an active role in a regenerative and circular future for the industry.” — Kate Riley, Textile Exchange
on region, production methods and technological application. A traditional life-cycle assessment approach may also not cut it, Textile Exchange said. Sussing out the ramifications of a biosynthetic material requires going beyond greenhouse-gas emissions and examining factors such as water, soil health, biodiversity and livelihoods. Crucially, the Higg Material Sustainability Index of a specific supplier’s biosynthetic should not be used as a general assessment of all biosynthetics of its ilk. In any case, both the availability and quality of data for biosynthetics are currently limited, the report said. Another nuance: Biosynthetic doesn’t always mean biodegradable. A bio-based material uses a feedstock that is renewable rather than fossil-fuel-based. A biodegradable one, on the other hand, can be broken down by microorganisms into carbon dioxide and biomass. So far, only a few bio-based syn-
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thetics are also biodegradable, which can be an advantage when it comes to fiber and material leakage into the environment, such as with microfibers. Design for durability and recyclability should still be the first choice, however, the report said. Riley said brands don’t have to choose between biosynthetics and recycled polyester. For the industry to reach its goal, “every tool in our tool kit” is necessary. This could eventually require the development of recycled biosynthetics to help close the loop, too. Further collaborative action is needed to overcome the challenges of the climate crisis, she added. “With the publication of this guide, we hope to further drive the industry toward developing, scaling and implementing solutions,” Riley said. “It is important that we have material choices available which are 100 percent bio-based, as well as contributing to solving the climate challenges we face.”
WORKERS CUT SUGARCANE IN A FIELD IN THAILAND.
TAKING A PREDICTIVE, CLIENT-FIRST APPROACH TO CHEMICAL INNOVATION While sustainability is an obvious chief concern everywhere in the materials supply chain, different companies require different solutions in their attempt to go green. As such, building out customized chemical innovations that cater to a brand’s material needs can help accelerate more specific sustainability initiatives. Allan P. Short, president and founder of green specialty chemicals provider Verdant Innovations, a Cellulose Solutions company, further explains the company’s mission to provide chemicals created uniquely for individual product types—all formulated using plants, soil and natural energy from the Earth’s resources. Sourcing Journal: What have been some of the biggest trends in raw materials that your clients have recently been asking for? Allan P. Short: The entire industry is focused on green and sustainability initiatives, with the U.S. leading the way with bills and policies written to prohibit hazardous chemicals from consumer products. There are over 200 active bills today across 16 states. This is being driven by the consumer—from the youngest generation to the oldest—all concerned for human health and safety, and protecting the environment. Verdant Innovations has a predictive R&D team to meet clients’ more specific needs. How does this drive innovation? A.S.: Our internal global R&D team has teamed with an extended global network of top scientists to focus on the future requirements for the industries we serve. This R&D team focuses on conducting extensive research, working with global government agencies and scientific data while examining suspected hazardous materials to stay one step ahead. We also work closely with our clients’ R&D teams, testing with their own products to drive improvements, quality and margins with green chemistry. Explain the customization process that Verdant Innovations typically goes through with its textiles/apparel clients? A.S.: The customization of specialty chemicals provides extensive benefits to clients versus buying a standard chemical “off the shelf.” We take a holistic approach to analyzing a company’s operations, developing chemical innovation based on their specific products, manufacturing processes, machinery used and what chemistry is already in use. Our analysis delivers options for improvement, whether it is replacing one to a few components of current chemistry, or replacing all with 100 percent green. We also offer machinery and process optimization within our services. For hemp production, we work with farmers and developed a new proprietary process that produc-
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The customization of specialty chemicals provides extensive benefits to clients versus buying a standard chemical ‘off the shelf.’” es higher quality and quantity of the material. This ultimately improves the farmers’ profits and provides the manufacturers with a higher-quality hemp material for production. What role does the Fibre-Pure™ solution play in helping textile companies develop more sustainable, innovative products? A.S.: Cellulose Solutions has a history of creating specialty chemicals for the paper and pulp industry, and has evolved to introduce select green chemicals for the personal care and food product industries. We specifically created Verdant Innovations to deliver 100 percent green chemistry for farmers, mills, manufacturers and retailers for material production and treatments for finished goods. This chemistry pushes the textile and non-woven industries a step forward in meeting green and sustainability initiatives, while providing product safety authenticity with proven and cost-effective solutions. What, if anything, has been holding material innovation back? A.S.: The cost of entry for material innovation is often high for companies with the desire to move to 100 percent green products. We have developed cost-effective solutions through our exclusive chemical innovation to overcome this, and we deliver a higher-quality product in the process. Our clients’ ability to produce more with fewer and safer chemical materials has also offset the costs, delivering stronger margins.
Covation Biomaterials to Deliver Performance Bio-Based Materials at Scale THE SOLUTIONS COMPANY AIMS TO CREATE SUSTAINABLE BUILDING BLOCKS FOR CUSTOMERS TO MAKE INNOVATIVE BIO-BASED PRODUCTS ACCESSIBLE GLOBALLY. A RT H U R F R I E D M A N
ovation Biomaterials, a global company offering bio-based solutions, has launched as an independent business after Huafon Group acquired DuPont Biomaterials. Combining decades of world-class science and engineering expertise with new investment and manufacturing capabilities, Covation Biomaterials aims to create the sustainable building blocks for customers to make innovative and high-performance, biobased products accessible globally. “As a supplier of bio-based materials solutions, we are an important gateway into a more circular economy,” said Michael Saltzberg, Covation Biomaterials CEO. “Sustainable supply chains must begin with sustainable materials and our science allows our customers to end their overreliance on petroleum. By collaborating with forward-thinking value chain partners and brands globally, we will continue to push the boundaries of innovation and sustainability to deliver high-performance biomaterials at scale.” Covation Biomaterials said its products improve performance, protect the environment and with its customers will find new ways to
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use science and engineering to meet the growing global demand for sustainable materials. “We are thrilled to be joining the Huafon Group, a highly successful materials company that is uniquely positioned to expand the reach of our current products and help us accelerate the introduction of new offerings and technologies to the market,” Saltzberg said. The new company builds on a legacy and successful suite of products currently available in the market. This includes Sorona, a partially bio-based polymer that answers the global call for sustainably sourced carpets and fabrics. Sorona is suited for creating attractive, high-performance apparel and soft, durable carpeting. Susterra is a 100 percent plant-based, high-performance building block that reduces the need for petroleum-based components while enhancing end-product attributes. Its applications range from footwear and outdoor apparel to coatings, inks and functional fluids, while Zemea, a plantbased and biodegradable material, helps brands reach sustainability goals without compromising quality or performance. It’s available in multiple formulations, meeting exacting standards in a variety of high-vol-
ume markets, from personal care and home care, to pharmaceuticals and enhancing flavors and foods. Covation Biomaterials also said it has a rich product pipeline of bio-based solutions that it will bring to the market. “We have long admired the work by this team of biomaterials scientists and developers who are developing industry-leading, sustainable materials available at scale,” said Feifeng You, vice president of the Huafon Group and Covation chairman. “The addition of Covation Biomaterials to the Huafon Group will bring bio-based materials to an even larger global customer base and drive the materials sector toward a sustainable future. We are excited for the bright future of this business.”
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Based in Newark, Del., Covation Biomaterials builds on DuPont’s legacy of groundbreaking scientific innovation and novel solutions at scale across multiple industries, including apparel, carpeting, cosmetics, food and packaging. Headquartered in Ruian, China, Huafon Group is one of the largest manufacturers of polyurethane (PU) materials in the world with a broad product portfolio in adipic acid, polyester polyols, spandex filament, microfiber material, TPU and polyamide. Huafon Group has more than 14,000 employees and owns multiple subsidiary companies globally in chemical, metals, finance, logistics, information technology and trade.
COVATION BIOMATERIALS LAUNCHED AS AN INDEPENDENT BUSINESS, FOLLOWING THE ACQUISITION OF DUPONT BIOMATERIALS BY THE HUAFON GROUP.
HOW TENCEL™ INVENTIONS ARE REDUCING FASHION’S IMPACT Since TENCEL™’s launch 30 years ago, the fiber brand has prioritized providing solutions for the fashion industry’s needs. Today, companies’ challenges largely revolve around sustainability—including climate change, water consumption, chemicals and material use. As Caroline Ledl, head of production management at Lenzing, explained, TENCEL™ fibers have a reduced carbon footprint and are manufactured using a closed-loop system that recycles water and chemicals. She spoke to Sourcing Journal about some of Lenzing’s latest material developments and sustainability moves. Sourcing Journal: Lenzing is investing in sustainable innovation, and one of your recent endeavors is carbon-zero TENCEL™. What is next for these fibers, and is there a point at which all TENCEL™ produced will be carbon neutral? Caroline Ledl: In early 2022, we opened the largest lyocell production plant in Thailand where we plan to start producing carbon-zero TENCEL™ Lyocell. This shows our commitment to our carbon reduction strategy and carbon-zero products. The plant is using 100 percent green energy for the production of TENCEL™ Lyocell, and we will be able to reduce the footprint of the carbon-zero fibers further. Looking ahead to the future, we clearly envision having only carbon-zero TENCEL™ fibers; to achieve this we are on a path of reducing our emissions and are working with our suppliers to also reduce their footprints. Our TENCEL™ Lyocell with REFIBRA™ technology has been available as a carbon-neutral fiber since end of 2021. We are very excited to be able to combine two of the key trends with circularity and carbon emission reduction. Another recent material launch was indigo-spun dyed TENCEL™ Modal. While indigo is typically used by the denim world, why should companies outside the denim category consider using these fibers? C.L.: TENCEL™ Modal with Indigo Color technology is an incredible innovation for indigo application—saving water, chemicals and energy while being able to achieve wash-down effects. What is especially remarkable is that the fibers are very versatile and can also be used in circular or flat knits, where classic indigo dyed yarns aren’t commonly used due to crocking challenges. This opens up new applications for indigo wash effects and achieves great looks both in wovens and knits. Lenzing’s Limited Edition initiative has used unconventional pulp inputs to create TENCEL™ Lyocell. What is the opportuni-
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We are on a path of reducing our emissions and are working with our suppliers to also reduce their footprints.” ty in expanding beyond wood for cellulosic fiber production? Would you produce these types of materials on a larger scale? C.L.: With the TENCEL™ Limited Edition, we want to show the possibilities of innovation in fiber production going beyond a laboratory scale, encouraging start-ups, innovators and universities to see us as a partner and offer the textile industry a new and fresh opportunity in the field of cellulosic fibers. So far, the two materials used orange waste pulp from OrangeFiber and hemp pulp sourced in Europe are only available on a small scale in limited volumes, but these are fresh ideas which might lead to bigger programs in the future. In the near future, textile-to-textile recycling is our main target, but there might be a future for commercial programs in some years. For that to happen, technologies and availability needs to further improve, but we are glad to be part of an exciting movement. Your recently launched Tree Climate fabric collection is made for the outdoors. Why is TENCEL™ a prime choice for performance materials? C.L.: TENCEL™ Lyocell specifically has great performance properties like moisture management or cooling effects. In blends with typical performance fibers like polyester, the Lyocell fibers will improve the breathability of the fabrics and garments, which gives a pleasant feeling to whomever is wearing them.
Evolved By Nature Raises $120 Million to Expand ‘Activated Silk’ Initiatives “WE BELIEVE THERE IS VAST UNLOCKED POTENTIAL IN UTILIZING SILK PROTEIN TO PRODUCE INNOVATIVE AND SUSTAINABLE PRODUCTS OF A HIGH QUALITY.” G L E N N TAY LO R
ven amid concerns about an economic downturn, businesses across the apparel and fashion ecosystem are still securing new funding to improve all points of the supply chain, and that includes raw materials. Evolved By Nature (EBN), a company creating a proprietary library of biomaterial-based molecules from natural silk protein, recently closed $120 million in Series C financing, led by Teachers’ Venture Growth (TVG) and Senator Investment Group. The funding brings its total funding to $211 million. The company’s “Activated Silk” molecules serve as renewably sourced sustainable chemicals, bioactive ingredients and novel therapeutics for use in markets including apparel, personal care and medicine. The molecules are designed to advance human health, product performance and the circular economy, the Boston-based company says.
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This financing will help EBN rapidly commercialize its Activated Silk technology, which is described as “pure silk in liquid form,” and aims to move global markets away from their dependence on synthetics and fossil fuel derivatives and expand the boundaries of regenerative medicine. EBN, which is backed by Chanel, among others, had been expanding in recent months, closing a $70 million Series B funding round in December, and opening a full-scale manufacturing facility in Walpole, Mass. in May. The company said it has produced 150 metric tons of Activated Silk this year, a 500 percent increase over 2021. EBN projects it will reach an Activated Silk production capacity of 900 metric tons of per year in 2024. Based on the firm’s calculations, this would represent 150 million square feet of biodegradable, polyurethane-free leather and sustainable finishing
“We’ve crossed a critical planetary boundary. Overuse of fossil fuel-derived petrochemicals has altered the biochemistry of the human body and the planet’s life support systems.” — Dr. Greg Altman, Evolved By Nature
chemistry for 195 million pieces of performance apparel. This would also produce 900 million jars of petrochemical free skincare, or a replacement for 7,200 metric tons of non-biodegradable petrochemical surfactants regularly washed into waterways. Additionally, the financing is designed to advance global sales for EBN’s sustainable alternatives to the petrochemical coatings used by the leather and textile industries. In the past year, its biodegradable, high-performance finishes have been adopted by fashion brands including Anya Hindmarch, nylon mills including Alpine Creations and Apex Holdings and leather tanneries including Richard Hoffmans GmbH & Co. KG, Cyclica S.R.L. and Curtidos Bengala. With more capital, the company is aiming to progress its launch of Activated Silk skin barrier-enhancing ingredients in both brand-owned and third-party personal care products. These ingredients serve as natural replacements to fossil fuel derivatives like petrolatum and harsh, synthetic chemicals like retinoids. In parallel, EBN will pursue the discovery of therapeutics that effectively improve the skin and treat often overlooked conditions. “We’ve crossed a critical planetary boundary. Overuse of fossil fuel-derived petrochemicals has altered the biochemistry of the human body and the planet’s life support systems,” Dr. Greg Altman, Evolved By Nature co-founding CEO, said in a statement. “With TVG’s support, we can now reimagine new therapeutics and global supply chains that foster healthier relationships between industries and ecosystems, focusing first on skin treatments and high-performance coatings for leather and apparel.” Alongside TVG and Senator Investment Group, additional participants in the round include existing investors Chanel, Mousse Partners, Jeff Vinik, The Kraft Group, Roy Disney and Emerald Development Managers. “We believe there is vast unlocked po-
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tential in utilizing silk protein to produce innovative and sustainable products of a high quality that will advance the health of people and the planet,” added Olivia Steedman, executive managing director of TVG. “Evolved By Nature has a compelling vision to break through new scientific boundaries to reduce our reliance on problematic chemicals and build better, more sustainable supply chains in the process. We’re delighted to partner with them in executing this vision and growing their operations globally.”
EVOLVED BY NATURE’S ADVANCED SILK, WHICH THE MATERIAL INNOVATOR TRANSFORMS INTO “PURE SILK IN LIQUID FORM.”
A JOURNEY TOWARD INNOVATIVE BIO-RESPONSIVE TEXTILES Due to the continued demand for comfort from consumers and the need for innovative materials from brands, textile developers have had to step up their game. To combat this, Hologenix created CELLIANT, a bio-responsive textile that converts body heat into infrared energy and is different from other thermoregulation textiles on the market. Stephen Kelly, director of global business and supplier development at Hologenix, inventors of CELLIANT, tells Sourcing Journal how they’re ramping up enhanced fabrics and materials to meet consumers’ needs. Sourcing Journal: Explain how CELLIANT’s bio-responsive textiles convert body heat into infrared energy? Stephen Kelly: CELLIANT is a blend of bioceramics infused into a carrier fiber or yarn, which can capture escaping body heat, convert it to infrared energy and reflect that energy back into the body. The tissue and muscle then absorb that infrared energy (even through multiple layers of fabric) resulting in improved local circulation, making more tissue oxygen available to the cells. What are some of the functional benefits that CELLIANT can provide to enhance fabrics? And what sets your product apart? S.K.: CELLIANT goes beyond its numerous functional benefits to provide the physiological value from increased local circulation. Instead of the benefit being a property of the fabric, CELLIANT fabrics are benefiting the body itself. Brands and retailers are relying on materials to be a differentiator. How do you work with them to develop fibers that fit their specific needs, and how do you get that message across to the consumer? S.K.: In assisting brands develop new products, we are helping them infuse wellness into their product to differentiate themselves. Getting the message to the consumer is really about education. We work to train our partners, provide content and the science proving CELLIANT’s efficacy, so they have the knowledge and materials they need when marketing their new product. We also work hard to promote CELLIANT and the benefits of infrared to consumers directly. With activewear still in demand, how is CELLIANT ramping up to meet consumers’ continued demand for comfort? S.K.: Our technology has been around for 20 years, so we’ve always been in this space of improving performance, recovery
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As we continue to innovate, we’re finding even more industries for these benefits to make a difference in people’s lives.” and comfort. That said, we’re continuously innovating. When it comes to comfort in apparel, we have our new award-winning CELLIANT Viscose that is sustainable and offers soft fibers that blend well with wool, cashmere and others. We’ve seen many activewear brands pivoting to include recovery and loungewear collections, so our earth-friendly viscose is perfect for that. How does CELLIANT test products to ensure they are meeting the highest quality standard? S.K.: We work with our partners to analyze products that contain CELLIANT, using up to four tests designed to ensure quality and efficacy: Ash Testing to confirm CELLIANT minerals are present in our partners’ products, Emissivity Testing to ensure CELLIANT-powered products emit infrared at significant levels, Transcutaneous Oximetry Testing to prove CELLIANT-powered products increase tissue oxygenation, and Hyperspectral Imaging Testing to show an increase in tissue oxygen saturation. Explain CELLIANT’s versatility as a fiber, and its applications both within the fashion industry and beyond. S.K.: The main reason for CELLIANT’s versatility is the cascade of wellness benefits that come from the physiological benefits of infrared energy, which include increased local circulation, improved cellular oxygenation and faster cell recovery. As we continue to innovate, we’re finding even more industries for these benefits to make a difference in people’s lives. Exciting things are on the horizon.
3M’s Water-Repellent Greige Yarn Targets Activewear ADDING TO ITS PRODUCT MIX OF TEXTILE SOLUTIONS, THE NEW YARN BRINGS GREATER EFFICIENCY TO FABRIC MANUFACTURING AND DYEING PROCESSES WHEN COMPARED TO PADDING ON REPELLENT. A RT H U R F R I E D M A N
dding to its product mix of textile solutions, 3M has introduced 3M-Specified Water Repellent Greige Yarn. The yarn is specially crafted for the development of durable, moisture-managing fabrics, which in turn allows apparel manufacturers to create dual-action, water-repellent and moisture-wicking activewear and flyknit shoes that can perform in demanding outdoor settings. The new product joins 3M’s other fabric-based innovations, such as 3M Thinsulate insulation and Scotchgard Protector. The 3M-Specified Water Repellent Greige Yarn is pretreated with Scotchgard Protector, 3M’s durable water repellent (DWR) additive. The new yarn brings greater efficiency to fabric manufacturing and dyeing processes when compared to padding on repellent, according to 3M. 3M in-house testing indicates it can save time and cost on production, increase throughput, minimize water and chemical waste on fabric, reduce chalk mark com-
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plaints, deliver uniform color treatment and eliminate the need for wet finishes on fabric. “With this new yarn, we’re helping mills overcome common challenges they face with regard to inconsistent treatment, namely investing extensive time and money in finding the right recipes for formulas for each fabric,” said Robert Polik, senior application engineer at 3M. “Since conditions can differ from batch to batch, the mills typically obtain unstable outputs. But our treated yarn solves for this problem by simplifying the process and, in turn, providing greater ease and efficiency to fabric manufacturing.” When held to the testing standards of the AATCC (American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists) and the ISO (International Organization for Standardization), 3M-Specified Water Repellent Greige Yarn received among the highest possible ratings for spray testing, anti-wicking and flex durability. As part of 3M’s robust innovation pipeline, 3M-Specified Water Repellent Greige Yarn arrives on the heels of 3M Thinsulate Xerogel Insulation. Launched in 2021, 3M
3M-SPECIFIED WATER REPELLENT GREIGE YARN IS CRAFTED FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF DURABLE, MOISTUREMANAGING FABRICS.
Thinsulate Xerogel Insulation has already won an ISPO Textrends 2023-24 Top Ten Award, recognizing the latest textile innovations for sports and outdoor apparel. By utilizing 3M-Specified Water Repellent Greige Yarn as well as 3M Thinsulate Insulation and Scotchgard Protector, mills can develop stable DWR textiles, innovative moisture-managing fabrics and advanced water-repellent knits. In addition, brand specifiers can use them to create new lines of dual-action, water-repellent and mois-
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ture-wicking activewear, innovative outdoor gear and water-repellent flyknit footwear. “We’re really excited about bringing 3M-Specified Water Repellent Greige Yarn to the market,” Polik said. “It’s an innovative solution that’ll open new doors for mills to develop new textiles and for global brands to create activewear and outdoor gear with robust, repellent performance.” More 3M textile-based innovations are projected for release at the end of 2022 and early 2023.
BUILDING ON COTTON’S NATURAL BENEFITS
Sourcing Journal: Cotton’s innovation happens at the seed level. What are the most exciting recent developments in genetics and breeding? Kater Hake: The seed contains the instructions that guide the cotton plant’s development, yield and response to stress. Previously, breeders combined the best parents, created thousands of offspring, and walked the field in search of the few offspring superior to the parents. Currently, breeding is being supercharged by investments in medicine, engineering and computer sciences. Selection of optimum breeding parents is based on their genetics and past performance. Inferior seeds are identified before planting by chipping off a corner and testing its genome. Engineers and computer scientists have created high throughput phenotyping that measures temperature, leaf wilting, plant size and yield, which augments the breeder’s feet and eyes. Cotton scientists are using gene editing to make cotton less visible to moths and less attractive to nematodes. In the future, breeders will be able to improve root uptake of water and nutrients without digging up each plant. The textile industry and farmers will benefit from cotton that is even more resilient to climate and pests. Cotton is known for products like T-shirts and towels, but the fiber is very versatile. What are some lesser-known uses for cotton that brands should consider? Meghan Holliday: We know cotton is an ideal fiber for the home used in cotton sheets, blankets and towels, but cotton upholstery is gaining traction too. Beyond apparel, cotton is also a viable fiber in shoe uppers, providing a natural element in a historically synthetic product. Cotton shoe uppers—ideally suited for both fashion and athletic footwear— can be implemented with or without technology to enhance performance characteristics.
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More companies are becoming interested in cotton for performance wear.” How is Cotton Incorporated’s Product Development Laboratory helping the industry continually push the limits on cotton fabrics? What are some of the latest discoveries from your R&D? Mary Ann Ankeny: We are continually working to develop sustainable performance finishes that enhance cotton and provide added benefits. PUREPRESS™ technology is a patented formaldehyde-free durable press technology that will not only keep your clothes smooth but enables them to last longer with higher abrasion resistance and strength. Our TOUGH COTTON™ technology, which promotes garment longevity, has been available for knit and woven fabrics and can now be applied to yarns, enabling the abrasion-resistant finish to be incorporated into a garment where it is needed and will provide the most benefit. Cotton has been blended with graphene, creating a lightweight fabric that reflects infrared energy to the wearer to improve warmth and comfort. Ahead of the curve, Cotton Incorporated has reformulated all our moisture management technologies to be fluorine-free while meeting established performance criteria. Synthetics are often used for performance wear, but Cotton Incorporated research found that shoppers desire natural fibers for active and outdoor apparel. What is the case for cotton in workout gear, and what innovations are giving cotton more performance benefits? Jennifer Lukowiak: More companies are becoming interested in cotton for performance wear. Cotton workout gear is more comfortable, less irritating and more breathable than its synthetic counterparts. Cotton washes clean of odors, too!* By adding a moisture managing treatment to cotton—such as WICKING WINDOWS™ or TransDRY™ technology—consumers can get the best of both worlds: natural performance.
*McQueen, Dr. Rachel et al. The Retention and Build-up of Body Odor in Cotton Fabrics: A Field Trial. U of Alberta, 2012.
Cotton cultivation dates back thousands of years, but opportunities still exist to enhance the natural fiber’s performance characteristics and crop health. Here, Cotton Incorporated executives Kater Hake, vice president, agricultural and environmental research; Meghan Holliday, associate director, nonwovens marketing; Mary Ann Ankeny, vice president, product development and implementation operations, textile chemistry research; and Jennifer Lukowiak, director, supply chain marketing, discuss the latest developments in cotton—from seeds to sewn garments.
PrimaLoft Nets $530 Million in Sale NEW OWNER COMPASS DIVERSIFIED HAS BIG PLANS TO GROW PRIMALOFT’S ESTIMATED 3 PERCENT SHARE OF A $3 BILLION TOTAL ADDRESSABLE MARKET. G L E N N TAY LO R
rimaLoft, Inc., a provider of branded, high-performance synthetic insulation and materials used primarily in consumer outerwear, is under new management. Middle-market business holding company Compass Diversified acquired PrimaLoft, Inc. parent PrimaLoft Technologies Holdings, Inc. for an enterprise value of $530 million from private equity firm Victor Capital Partners. Compass Diversified (CODI) already owns and operates 10 businesses worth a combined $3.1 billion, including tactical apparel brand 5.11, footwear fit performance technology provider Boa Technology, quick-turn manufacturer Advance Circuits and packaging and insulation company Altor Solutions. Following the close of the transaction, expected to close this summer, PrimaLoft will continue to be led by its current leadership team. Based in Latham, N.Y., PrimaLoft was established in 1983 by Albany International Corporation in response to a U.S. Army request to develop a synthetic insulation for soldiers that replicated the warmth and weight characteristics of traditional goose down fabric, but also remained warm when wet. In addition to maintaining high perfor-
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mance in wet conditions, the portfolio of PrimaLoft synthetic insulations is designed to power products that can both mimic natural down aesthetics and provide the freedom to design garments ranging from stylish puffers to lightweight performance apparel. PrimaLoft prides itself on delivering insulations that can enable better sustainability characteristics through the use of recycled, low-carbon inputs. One of PrimaLoft’s jacket insulation alternatives is its patented ThermoPlume product, which the company says features comparable performance to down insulation when dry, superior performance to down insulation when wet, can be made with 100 percent recycled raw materials and can be integrated into the traditional down manufacturing process. The company operates with the ethos, “Relentlessly Responsible,” as a means to create and deliver high-performance products while reducing impact on the environment. PrimaLoft has diverted 614 million plastic bottles from landfills since 2015, pioneered biodegradable and carbon-negative fiber polymers, and reduced emissions by up to 70 percent for its proprietary line of insulations made with P.U.R.E. manufacturing technology. The material innovator said 91 percent
“We have built enduring partnerships with key customers through our ability to consistently deliver innovative products that elevate sustainability and performance.” — Mike Joyce, PrimaLoft
of company sales are from products with at least 50 percent recycled content. PrimaLoft’s reach extends across more than 950 global brand partners including Nike, Adidas, Lululemon, Athleta, Patagonia, Polo/Ralph Lauren, Prada, J.Crew, L.L. Bean, Arc’teryx, Stone Island and Boll & Branch. The company also offers a licensing program, providing its technologies and branding to an expanded set of non-woven and other textile markets. Currently, CODI says PrimaLoft product has room to gain significant market share, pegging its current share at less than 3 percent of the $3 billion total addressable market. PrimaLoft generated $76 million in annual revenue on $32 million in adjusted earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA), representing approximately 40 percent EBITDA margins. Since 2017, the company’s revenue compound annual growth rate (CAGR) basis has risen 16 percent per year. Additionally, the company’s high free cash flow has enabled PrimaLoft to keep capital expenditures down to just 1 percent of sales, or less than $1 million. PrimaLoft president and CEO Mike Joyce said in a statement that Compass Diversified shared the material company’s commitment to building a sustainable future through innovation. “We believe PrimaLoft is well-positioned to continue its purpose to unleash the full potential of people, products, and planet, as we address the need for sustainable product innovations in the apparel industry, and beyond,” Joyce said. “We have built enduring partnerships with key customers through our ability to consistently deliver innovative products that elevate sustainability and performance, and we look forward to leveraging CODI’s world-class platform to continue to push the synthetic materials market forward.” Joyce also highlighted the brand’s work under Victor Capital, which “has been a driving force behind the ability of our team to develop, advance and amplify our mission to deliver high performance products that reduce impact on the environment. The power of the PrimaLoft brand has grown exponentially during our time together, and our suite of products now includes technologies and sustainability platforms that have further established our position as a leader within our global industries.”
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William Blair & Company is serving as lead financial advisor to PrimaLoft along with Baird. Blank Rome LLP is PrimaLoft’s legal advisor. Victor Capital first acquired a majority interest in PrimaLoft in 2017, while the insulation manufacturer’s management team maintained a “significant” investment in the business. Upon the CODI sale, PrimaLoft management will still own 9 percent of the total business. Upon the acquisition, PrimaLoft employees will receive some proceeds from the sale from the PrimaLoft Prosperity Plan, which Victor Capital and the material company’s management put in place to ensure all employees would benefit financially from the growth of the business. “PrimaLoft has all the attributes we look for in an acquisition and once closed, will add to CODI’s track record of acquiring industry-leading, innovative businesses with strong competitive advantages,” Elias Sabo, CEO of Compass Diversified, said in a statement. “PrimaLoft is a market leader and possesses significant intellectual property, operates in a large, growing addressable market and has a world class management team led by Mike Joyce. In addition, PrimaLoft is a high-growth and high-free cash flow generating business that operates at the forefront of sustainability and is fully aligned with CODI’s mission of conducting our business in a responsible and ethical manner while delivering superior investment results,” Sabo continued. “We’re excited to support PrimaLoft’s next phase of growth.”
PRIMALOFT, INC., A PROVIDER OF BRANDED, HIGH-PERFORMANCE SYNTHETIC INSULATION AND MATERIALS USED PRIMARILY IN CONSUMER OUTERWEAR, IS UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT.
CORDURA® ADVANCED FABRICS: ‘EXPECT MORE, WASTE LESS’ Considering its name, it’s not surprising that CORDURA® Advanced Fabrics are on the cutting edge of material innovation. Here, Cindy McNaull, brand business development director, discusses new materials and their advantages.. What are Cordura’s latest material innovations? From an ESG and stewardship perspective, we recently launched our new CORDURA® re/cor™ Recycled Nylon 6,6 (RN66) technology, urging the industry to “Expect More, Waste Less.” Compared to virgin Nylon 6,6 fiber, the production of CORDURA® re/cor™ RN66 fiber produces 83 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions, consumes 82 percent less energy and uses 57 percent less water. CORDURA® re/cor™ RN66 fiber is made from 100 percent pre-consumer material and is 100 percent GRS (Global Recycled Standard) certified. Our recent capsule with Sapphire Finishing Mills Limited re-imagines CORDURA® NYCO Fabric for today’s urban living and crossover lifestyles. Inspired by iconic utility silhouettes such as Gold Rush-era workwear overalls, Americana-inspired cowboy classics and smart casuals, the collection includes 20+ CORDURA® NYCO Fabrics (canvases, twills, rip-stops), varied weights (180 to 350 GSM) and finishes (mechanical and chemical including wax coating, DWR, insect repellent and more). Explain CORDURA® re/cor™ Recycled Nylon 6,6 (RN66), its variations and textile applications, and current supply chain partners. In development for two years, CORDURA® re/cor™ Recycled Nylon 6,6 (RN66) fiber is suitable for heavier deniers (210d and above) for products such as bags and packs, luggage, outerwear, apparel reinforcements, accessories and footwear. The portfolio has 30+ unique combinations of weave and on-trend colors, all ‘durable, responsible and innovated to last.’ Our initial collection partner is Dong Jin International, the first Korean fabric mill to achieve STeP by OEKO-TEX® certification. At the recent Techtextil Show in Frankfurt, C.F. WEBER, our long-standing CORDURA® brand authorized mill partner, was the first to debut European manufactured CORDURA® re/cor™ Recycled Nylon 6,6 (RN66). Suitable for both gear and bags, these C.F. Weber developments were produced in Germany and were launched initially in black and in three different weave types. Our strategic partner mill Tiong Liong Corporation (TLC) was the first to debut CORDURA® re/cor™ RN66 for the footwear industry at Outdoor Retailer Summer Show.
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Durability and reliability are more important than ever, representing a shift in purchasing attitude.” How is CORDURA® branded signature durability being adapted for both workwear and fashion, and their fusion? Today’s consumers are drawn to timeless products that make us feel safer, more comfortable and in control, and ingredient branded fibers such as CORDURA® serve as performance anchor points. Durability and reliability are more important than ever, representing a shift in purchasing attitude. The crossover lifestyle trend where consumers seek multi-purpose products that can be used for work, leisure and travel pursuits has grown. One example of this fusion is the launch of Dovetail Workwear’s latest DX Ranch collection featuring both CORDURA® Denim Fabric and CORDURA® NYCO Fabric. Built for working the land, but equally at home in the city! Can CORDURA® fabrics be explored and accessed online? With an easy-to-use digital interface, our CORDURA® Fabric Finder lets companies access certified CORDURA® fabrics for a wide range of commercial products, from bags, packs, accessories and footwear to active sports apparel and workwear. This collaborative platform provides CORDURA® strategic partner mills with a showcase for their newest collections, award-winning fabrics and sustainable innovations. Featuring fabrics from across 15 different CORDURA® Advanced Fabric technologies, the CORDURA® library showcases a varied and growing selection of certified CORDURA® fabrics.
Protein-Based Process Could Extend Cellulosic Fabrics’ Life A NEW BIOPOLISHING TECHNIQUE AIMS TO EXTEND THE LIFE OF SUSTAINABLE MANMADE TEXTILES. KAT E N I S H I M U RA
anish biotechnology company Novozymes debuted new technology recently that lessens pilling and fuzziness on fabrics made from cellulosic fibers such as viscose, modal and lyocell. Tree-based fibers have risen to prominence in recent years, capturing 6 percent of the overall textile market share, Textile Exchange data showed. Outpaced only by polyester and cotton, the newer class of fabrics faces quality issues that impact their longevity. While consumers are interested in more sustainable fabrications, cellulosic garments can begin to look worn after just a few washes. These practical concerns can deter even eco-conscious consumers, Novozymes said. The company’s new Fiberlife process utilizes enzymes to remove loose fiber ends, called microfibrils, from the surface of finished fabrics. When friction hits these microscopic filaments, they can ball up, creating a rough texture that leaves whites and colors less bright. The enzyme wash can take place before, during or after dyeing fabrics, creating a clean fabric surface that lasts at least 60 washes, it said. It can improve quality for digitally printed garments that need a smooth surface for ink to cling to.
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The process offers the “wash and wear durability that consumers demand, prolonging the time the garments look and feel new,” Novozymes global marketing manager Dina Lipp said. “This is a better solution for the fashion and broader textile industry, consumers, and the planet.” The natural, protein-based bioprocess also reduces the use of water and chemicals needed for the production of cellulosic fabrics, Lipp added. “We see a big potential for textile manufacturers to extend the longevity of [cellulosic] fabrics, ultimately offering consumers longer-lasting garments made of fibers from nature,” global business development manager Pedro E. G. Loureiro said. Reducing the fashion industry’s environmental impact depends on making clothing that lasts longer, and consumer buy-in is key to advancing the widespread adoption of sustainable fabrics. The project was created to support Textile Exchange’s Climate+ Strategy pushing the industry toward a 45-percent reduction in CO2 emissions by 2030 and water-conserving processes. Strengthening the appeal of renewable wood-based fibers can also help the sector move away from polymer-based synthetics, Novozymes said.
“We see a big potential for textile manufacturers to extend the longevity of [cellulosic] fabrics, ultimately offering consumers longerlasting garments made of fibers from nature.” — Pedro E. G. Loureiro, Novozymes
HOW POLARTEC IS INCREASING ITS SUSTAINABILITY INITIATIVES
Sourcing Journal: What are some specific material innovation breakthroughs your company has recently had and what are their implications for the fashion industry? Steven Layton: Today, we’re focused on evolving our textiles into more sustainably made versions of themselves. We’re finding ways to increase the amount of recycled or natural-based inputs while also increasing the performance characteristics for which Polartec is famous. Functionality, such as temperature regulation, moisture management, supreme comfort and a quality feel that endures long after many fabrics are discarded, offers the type of premium durability fashion customers are looking for to improve their sustainability footprints. Toward the end of last year, Polartec announced one of its latest sustainability-related initiatives, the elimination of PFAS in its DWR treatments across the line of performance fabrics. Where is this initiative today? S.L.: We have successfully transitioned to all non-PFAS DWR treatments. While this makes for a concise statement, it’s a broad effort. We have 18 different fabric platforms– base layers, mid-layers, sweater weights, outerwear and of course, fleece, all requiring their own unique and specific solutions. It’s a journey that began in 2017. This means today Polartec can offer all our fabrics with non-PFAS durable water repellence (DWR) and the same durability and water resistance as before.
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Today, we’re focused on evolving our textiles into more sustainably made versions of themselves.” Polartec has been turning recycled plastic bottles into garments for 30 years. How has this process evolved and are there any new innovations? S.L.: Polartec (previously known as Malden Mills) was one of the first to figure out how to turn yarn spun from recycled plastic bottles into a viable and wearable fleece. A great feature for sure, but I don’t know if it compares to the fiber and fabric quality of today. However, it was important to kick-start this new medium that has become a huge part of the modern supply chain. Today, we continue to evolve by innovating raw materials and tinkering with construction techniques. This is the only way to realize the possibility of hard-to-make fabrics, like high-performance wicking base layers (which are now being made with recycled content). What is something that Polartec always considers before producing new innovative materials? S.L.: At our core, Polartec is a science-based solutions provider. We are constantly asking the question of how we can engineer a solution to a problem faced by end-users. Whether it’s warmth without weight, reducing microfiber shedding or bio-mimicking the body’s evaporative cooling process, we’re looking to engineer solutions that can enhance the user experience. Fortunately, many of our customers view the process through a similar lens. By creating and collaborating, we can keep an innovation pipeline consistently flowing with new ideas–ideas with the potential to develop into creative new materials.
Photograph by Poloartec
Since its founding, sustainability has been at the forefront of all Polartec’s initiatives. For over 100 years, Polartec has been committed to solving problems at the source while pushing toward a sustainable future that performs at levels previously untapped, and the company is committed to developing fabrics used in the most challenging environments worldwide. Polartec proceeds to find innovative ways to engineer solutions to problems faced by end-users, and by collaborating with customers and the world’s leading brands, continuing the innovation pipeline consistently flowing with new ideas. As Steve Layton, president of Polartec, puts it, “We continue to evolve by innovating raw materials and tinkering with construction techniques.” Here, he tells Sourcing Journal how Polartec is continuing to develop more sustainable textiles and fabrics that will improve the way products are designed and used while also increasing durability and performance.
VF Invests in Regenerative Wool THE MULTIBRAND OWNER HAS INKED A STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIP WITH ZQRX. KAT E N I S H I M U RA
F Corp. is contributing to a transparent supply chain for regenerative wool. The Vans, Supreme and The North Face owner made a “significant investment” in the Savory Institute’s new strategic partnership with New Zealand Merino Company’s ZQRX wool platform. ZQRX, which provides brands with a comprehensive index of hundreds of regenerative farmers, will join Savory’s Land to Market program as a strategic partner. The program’s soil and land assessment methodology tracks soil health and biodiversity on farms and certifies products for more than 70 member brands. The collaboration enables ZQRX, which scores its farmers based on 15 key performance indicators, to deepen its understanding of farm land impact using Land to Market assessment standards. Those values are designed to shepherd farmers through their regenerative journeys. As a foundational partner of ZQRX, which launched in 2020, VF Corp vice president of global sustainability Jeannie-Renne-Malone told Sourcing Journal that the company is “committed to advancing regenerative agriculture practices and working in collaboration with our brands to bring this work to life.” The effort will help its Smartwool and
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Icebreaker wool outdoor apparel brands further relationships with regenerative producers, accelerating the regenerative agriculture industry “by providing more support for farmers, and importantly focus on measuring outcomes.” “We believe this is key to advancing the sustainability goals of the corporation and our brands, and ultimately provide positive results for people and the planet,” she said. Icebreaker president Jan Van Mossevelde said the label aims to strengthen ties with ZQRX “and the positive outcomes that we’re able to achieve as a result.” Using the platform to connect with farmers has enabled Icebreaker to ensure that it meet its environmental and ethical standards. Sister brand Smartwool will “continue our quest to manufacture 100-percent climate positive wool,” said president and CEO Jennifer McLaren, who believes the addition of Land to Market standards to the ZQRX framework will help the company drive “forward our sustainability commitments.” The Savory Institute and Land to Market will provide wool farmers with training and resources to help them better manage their land, according to the institute’s chief commercial officer, Chris Kerston. Farms can use these tools to improve biodiversity and resilience in the face of extreme weather events.
Producers will be able to offer “at-scale regenerative material options to brands” and improve profits, he added. Megan Meiklejohn, Land to Market’s senior vice president of supply chain innovation, echoed that the “collaborative efforts… will further support farmers in establishing regenerative management and provide them with the tools that they need to drive measurable impact.” The goal, she said, is to get fashion using more regeneratively grown materials. The partnership will bolster ZQRX’s existing framework, which is “centered around constant improvement,” New Zealand Meri-
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no CEO John Brakenridge said. In building new resources for wool growers and brand partners, the organization will be able to “identify tangible actions and areas for betterment, ultimately driving more impactful ecological outcomes.” Dave Maslen, general manager of markets and sustainability for New Zealand Merino, said the synergy between the “two globally leading programs allows us to create a game-changing movement for our growers, brand partners and consumers worldwide.” The partnership “propels us all another step forward in driving meaningful change,” he told Sourcing Journal.
THE SAVORY INSTITUTE AND LAND TO MARKET WILL PROVIDE WOOL FARMERS WITH TRAINING AND RESOURCES TO HELP THEM BETTER MANAGE THEIR LAND.
MOLECULAR RECYCLING FOR THE TEXTILE INDUSTRY Having recently invested $1 billion to build the world’s largest material-to-material molecular recycling plant in PortJérôme-sur-Seine France, Eastman’s commitment to recycling and sustainability is clear. Ruth Farrell, general manager, textiles, explains how Eastman leads by example. Sourcing Journal: How will this new plant scale up Eastman’s circularity and sustainability efforts? Ruth Farrell: Once it’s operational by 2025, the plant will recycle approximately 160,000 tons of hard-to-recycle polyester waste annually. The operations will sort, depolymerize and produce recycled PET from hard-to-recycle polyester waste at a single location. This has garnered support from French President Emmanuel Macron plus leading global brands that share a commitment to solving the world’s material waste problem and view molecular recycling as a pivotal tool for achieving circularity. But we do not only use molecular recycling for polyester. For the textiles industry, we make Naia™ Renew cellulosic fibers using Eastman’s patented carbon renewal technology (CRT). CRT is an integrated, molecular recycling technology that breaks down waste plastics, such as post-consumer carpet fiber and plastic packaging materials into basic molecular building blocks for the manufacture of cellulose acetate yarn and fiber. Naia™ Renew is produced at our Kingsport facility in the United States. What are misconceptions about chemical or molecular recycling? R.F.: There are often misconceptions that recycling means accepting a lower quality product. With molecular recycling, we break down waste materials to their molecular building blocks so we can guarantee no degradation on quality. It’s circularity without any compromise. In creating Eastman’s Naia™ Renew cellulosic fiber, we can absorb a wide variety of waste materials from different industries, including materials that have previously been very difficult to recycle while using traditional mechanical techniques (such as post-consumer carpet fiber). We target waste streams that are unable to be recycled by conventional means to avoid undesirable end-of-life options. This lets waste materials be recycled an infinite number of times with zero degradation of quality, performance or appearance. How has usage of Eastman’s Naia™ Renew spun fibers been expanded since their launch?
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Molecular recycling is circularity without any compromise.” R.F.: Because we’re committed to creating circular solutions at scale, in 2020 we expanded our portfolio of sustainable fibers to give designers and brands the freedom and versatility to create stunning collections without compromising quality, comfort or our planet’s precious resources. Naia™ Renew is produced from 60 percent sustainably sourced wood pulp and 40 percent hard-to-recycle waste material in a closedloop process where solvents are recycled and reused. The manufacture of Naia™ Renew also enables a measurably reduced water and carbon footprint over the fiber’s life cycle and is certified biodegradable and compostable to third party standards. What did Eastman’s 2022 consumer study on loungewear find? R.F.: Consumers want loungewear garments for all types of activities—traveling, shopping and running errands—and 66 percent said they want more sustainable loungewear. It’s here that our Naia™ cellulosic fiber offers clear advantages. Naia™ Renew offers a wide array of design and fabric options. It’s inherently soft, quick drying, and with reduced pilling, is ideal for loungewear. It blends well with other eco-friendly materials (e.g., modal, lyocell, recycled polyester) to produce sustainable fabrics ideal for casual wear like tops, dresses, t-shirts, comfy pants and sweaters—as well as cozy home textiles products.
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