Sustainability is based on the belief that to have a healthy business, we must have a healthy planet,” according to The Lycra Company, which has a redefined focus on developing fabric technologies that help green the fashion industry.

Revered worldwide for adding stretch in our step, The Lycra Company is paving a new path forward with recycled products, increased transparency, and enhanced durability.

Here, Julien Born, chief commercial officer at The Lycra Company, talks to WWD about its advances with eco-fabrics, stand-out collaborations, and its sustainability platform Planet Agenda.

WWD: Lycra has a wide-ranging portfolio of sustainable fibers and fabrics. What are some of the recent innovations Lycra created in the eco-fabrics space?

Julien Born: One of our main objectives is to reduce both our and our customers’ environmental footprint by developing lower-impact products and processes.

Some recent product innovations in support of our sustainability efforts include:

• Expanding our EcoMade family of Recycled Products: In the fall of 2019, we introduced Lycra® EcoMade fiber, made partly from pre-consumer waste, and demand has been strong. We are increasing our capability in this area with our plant in Monterrey, Mexico, now producing Lycra® EcoMade GRS certified product. We also have a goal to convert the bulk of our CoolMax® and Thermolite® fibers to EcoMade (recycled) versions by the end of 2021 and are well on our way to achieving that.

• Increasing Transparency: As we know, it is becoming increasingly important to be transparent about both what your products are made of and how they are made. Last month, 25 Lycra® fiber products were awarded Gold Level Material Health Certificates by the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute. This certification provides our customers with assurance about the safety of our ingredients and those of our suppliers and reinforces our commitment to green chemistries.

• Developing products with Enhanced Durability: One of the products that received certification is our new Lycra® Anti-Slip fiber. With the increased use of polyester, rayon, and other fiber blends in denim, seam slippage is a challenge experienced by mills, brands and retailers. This can result in product returns and consumer dissatisfaction over the quality and aesthetics of the garment. Seam slippage can also affect the wear life of garments after home laundering. The patent-pending Lycra® Anti-Slip fiber will help to prevent seam slippage and improve garment quality and appearance. This was just introduced at Kingpins24 in October, and we have received a very positive response from the market.

Another popular option with enhanced durability is our Lycra® dualFX® technology that not only helps jeans retain their shape throughout the day but over time, leading to longer wear life.

Julien Born

Julien Born, chief commercial officer at Lycra. 

WWD: How are Lycra’s fabrics differentiated in the sustainability market? What are some of its stand-out collaborations?

J.B.: We work closely with brands like American Eagle on denim innovations, including our Lycra® dualFX® technology that provides enhanced garment durability and extended wear life. These attributes are gaining importance, especially with Gen Z consumers, as they are more mindful of the impact of their purchases on the environment. And with business models such as clothing rental and resale on the rise, we need to design clothing for multiple owners/multiple lives. That’s where technologies like Lycra® dualFX® can help.

Another collaboration that demonstrates our commitment to sustainability is with the global retailer H&M, who recently launched its latest range of men’s wear and wome’ns wear sports jackets with Thermolite® T-Down EcoMade insulation. Developed as an eco-friendly sustainable alternative to down feathers, Thermolite® T-Down EcoMade insulation is made from 100 percent post-consumer recycled polyester. This sustainable fiber brings warmth and comfort to H&M’s on-trend designs.

WWD: How was Lycra affected during the pandemic? Did customers’ wants or needs change?

J.B.: We quickly adapted the ways we operated and communicated to ensure we remained virtually connected to our customers while still providing the level of service they have come to expect from us.

We have also taken steps to build upon our digital infrastructure to help sustain connections across our business. Back at the start of the summer, we launched a series of webinars to further connect with new and existing customers and supplement our traditional b-to-b marketing activity.

During this unprecedented time, we have also seen that customers remain steadfast in pursuing their sustainability goals. In fact, if anything, the pandemic has heightened awareness of the need to act. This is where options like Lycra® EcoMade fiber can help deliver both enhanced sustainability, as well as the comfort, fit, and performance benefits consumers desire.

WWD: How does Lycra define sustainability?

J.B.: Sustainability is based on the belief that to have a healthy business, we must have a healthy planet. Our sustainability platform, Planet Agenda, was launched back in 2008, and it touches every aspect of our business. We believe it can advance not just our own sustainability goals but those of our customers as well. Primarily, we achieve this by uncovering insights and developing products and technologies that support a more sustainable and circular approach.

WWD: What’s next for Lycra?

J.B.: During the pandemic, consumers have become even more mindful about their purchases, looking to invest in higher-quality garments that both last longer and have less impact on the environment. In response to these consumer dynamics, retailers place a greater premium on innovation and differentiation as they look to strengthen their competitive position.

This is where The Lycra Company can help by delivering a differentiated quality story focused on the performance benefits of our technology solutions. In addition, we continue to expand our portfolio of recycled products, focusing on innovations that extend garment wear life, as well as developing a variety of solutions for the circular economy — stay tuned for our latest offerings!

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