Advanced materials and specialty chemical firm Eastman Chemical Co. is moving on to “greener” pastures. The company recently launched its latest sustainable product, Naia, a cellulosic yarn made from wood pulp, which is primed for applications across women’s wear and intimate apparel markets. Naia is touted for its comfort, ease of care, soft hand and characteristic luster that distinguishes it as a silky, sustainable luxury product. Previously, the firm released Vestera, a biodegradable fiber made from cellulosic resin derived from sustainably harvested trees and produced in a “near” closed-loop system for natural and disposable consumer products.
Here, Ruth Farrell, the global marketing director, textiles, at Eastman Chemical Co., talks to WWD about Naia and the climate of the sustainable fashion market.
WWD: What is the technology behind Naia and how is it differentiated in the market?
Ruth Farrell: Naia is a cellulosic yarn made from wood pulp sourced from sustainably managed plantations. Eastman’s closed-loop production process for Naia allows recycling and reuse of safe solvents and water — the result is a yarn with a low environmental impact, which meets the sustainability needs of the industry.
WWD: Is the demand for traceable and sustainable apparel led by consumers, brands, or both? How has the sustainability movement influenced consumer culture and ideology?
R.F.: Brands from across the apparel and textile industry have made a number of serious commitments about reducing their environmental footprints, retooling their supply chains, using 100 percent sustainable fibers, etc. However, all of those commitments will be unsuccessful without having a committed consumer base along on their sustainability journeys. Our consumer research shows that about 14 percent of consumers around the world say they always purchase and pay a premium for sustainable apparel. Our belief is this figure will continue to increase with awareness-building and education at the consumer level on sustainability in textiles and the options available to the consumer to make sustainable choices.
WWD: What is behind the industry’s shift toward creating high-performing luxury apparel?
R.F.: There shall always be a market for high-quality and luxury apparel. Eastman conducted some research last year that shows that as Millennials grow older, there is a trend for this category of shopper to look for high-quality and durable garments. This is particularly relevant for shoppers who are looking for sustainable options, which is good news for Naia.
WWD: Has Eastman identified any notable material trends?
R.F.: Beyond sustainability, we have seen the growing importance of comfort as a primary purchasing driver. Our research shows that less than half of global consumers are satisfied with crucial aspects of comfort such as softness, moisture management and breathability.
WWD: What’s next for Eastman?
R.F.: We are very excited to increase our focus on the women’s wear segment and we are working with mills around the world on sustainable fabrics that are high on quality and also responding to key fashion styles such as “barre noire,” “sloungewear” and “urban freestyle.” At Première Vision, our booth showcased fabrics and garments on-trend with these fashion styles and we shall continue to develop innovative fabrics with our mills in these spaces.
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