As consumer demand for environmentally friendly fashion apparel swells, textile manufacturers, mills and brands are aligning product development practices with a singular purpose: to produce materials and finished goods that are sustainable. This means using more post-consumer waste in recycled fibers and blends along with other practices.
But consumers also expect apparel that is comfortable, has a perfect fit and performs well. In response, ingredient companies such as The Lycra Company are bringing to market innovations and technologies that meet these demands as well.
The company noted that the “consumer desire for garments from every category that are comfortable, fit well and deliver lasting performance is greater than ever.” The fiber-maker said brands look to the company for several reasons, which includes more than six decades of “industry-leading innovations” as well as consumer awareness of the Lycra brand. “We also excel at increasing the desirability for our customers’ garments with personalized storytelling across a variety of touchpoints,” the company told WWD.
Specifically, with sustainable fashion apparel, The Lycra Co. has developed new fiber technology and insulation with the EcoMade brand. “Lycra, Thermolite and Coolmax all have EcoMade products that offer the same performance as their original fibers, but they are made with renewable and recycled content,” the company said adding that this past fall, it revealed plans to convert most of its Coolmax and Thermolite branded products to “post-consumer recycled versions by 2021.”
“We believe that a migration from disposal fashion toward garment quality and longevity is happening in the fast-fashion space where we are partnering with several leading retailers,” said Julien Born, president of apparel at The Lycra Co. “We see garment wear life, which is a core element of our Planet Agenda platform, as the industry’s best response to the sustainability challenge.”
In regard to fit, Born noted the development of the company’s “The Science of Fit” platform, which includes Lycra fiber products “designed to help brands increase consumer satisfaction and reduce returns due to poor fit,” the company said.
Born said with the “cost of poor fit estimated at over $26 billion per annum, including returns, markdowns or ultimately disposal, we see tremendous opportunities for our business.” He said the Lyrca brand franchise “has helped brands enhance the fit and comfort of their garments for years, and we are now working with brand partners on technology solutions, like Lycra MyFit fiber, that are designed to help address this issue.”
During a recent tour of The Lycra Co.’s applied research facility in Newark, Del., Born and his team shared insights into how the company works with brand partners to develop customized solutions and products — done in real-time, on-site and without needing to have prototypes made overseas.
Of special note was a demonstration of Lycra FitSense Technology, which is based on a new polymer “that provides lightweight, targeted support” in a variety of applications. The polymer is a water-based liquid that is made from the same molecules as the company’s Lycra fiber. The applications include taking a garment that is made from Lycra, and then applying the liquid via screen printing in an endless array of patterns and designs — that have design and functional benefits.
Adidas by Stella McCartney leverages Lycra FitSense technology as a way to create “zoned support,” which stays in place and is also designed to keep the wearer comfortable. The technology is also being used in Maidenform Shapewear and is featured in Target Corp.’s Joylab activewear.
The Lycra Co. noted that it doesn’t “set fashion trends” per se, but that its “technologies enable brands to deliver on their style and fashion ideas.” The company said it prides itself on its market-driven innovations.
“We commission proprietary consumer research to determine what consumer needs are and develop solutions to meet them,” the company said. “That’s why we are often first to market with unique fibers for denim. We’ve also been able to adapt existing technologies to meet the growing need for performance denim with warming and cooling benefits.”
Born stressed the importance of being a strategic partner with brands and retailers — it is what sets the company apart from competitors, he said.
“While some only see us as a fiber producer, the brands and retailers that we have helped achieve leading positions in their markets have rightly seen us as a strategic partner that can impact many aspects of their business, from supply chain management, product innovation or performance certifications all the way to in-store merchandising or brand promotion,” Born said.
And as the industry moves from unsustainable and fast fashion to “smart fashion,” Lycra’s technology serves as the “secret sauce” that helps propel successful product launches for brands and retailers.
“We don’t make trends, create fashion or transform categories, but we help brands do so,” Born explained. “Super-stretch denim, anti-laddering hosiery or shapewear as most recent examples were all enabled by our technologies and service offering. We are seeing sustainability, sizing and customization at scale as our next opportunities to help drive major changes in apparel.”