Natural Fiber Welding's Clarus fabric.

Ralph Lauren Corp. said today it has made a minority investment in Natural Fiber Welding Inc., a leading sustainable material science start-up based in Peoria, Ill.

The company, which was founded in 2015, is helping to develop the reuse of natural fibers, such as cotton waste, into patented, high-performance materials. Lauren looks to help scale Natural Fiber Welding’s patented process and develop first-of-its kind performance apparel made from natural, sustainable materials.

“We have evolved and progressed our business for more than 50 years because we constantly push ourselves to think openly and differently about how to approach challenges,” said David Lauren, vice chairman and chief innovation officer at Ralph Lauren. “Today, sustainability is an area where this is especially important, and investing with partners to scale innovative solutions is a key part of our sustainability strategy. We are excited to support the work of NFW, a pioneer in this field. Their technology has the power to not only advance our work at Ralph Lauren, but effect positive change across the entire industry.”

Recycled cotton is often unsuitable for use in new cotton apparel because of the short fibers created during recycling. Natural Fiber Welding has solved this challenge with an innovative process that welds short fibers into longer ones to create high-performance cotton yarns that can incorporate cotton and other plant-based waste fibers. This patented process creates an opportunity to reuse post-consumer cotton waste and impart performance characteristics into the fiber. The resulting upcycled material outperforms synthetic fabrics while retaining the feel of cotton.

The material is called Clarus, which can be made from any natural fiber be it recycled, virgin or virgin organic. Using green-chemistry principles and closed-loop processes, Natural Fiber Welding is able to revitalize recycled fibers and engineer performance cotton textiles. It is accomplished by the manipulation of molecular bonding.

Lauren declined to disclose the size of the investment and the specific product introductions using these materials.

Dr. Luke Haverhals, founder and chief executive officer of Natural Fiber Welding, said he was happy to have “the investment, support and insight of Ralph Lauren, an industry icon whose commitment to timelessness — to true sustainability — is central to who they are.”

“We look forward to working together as we scale our best-in-class technology that has the potential to transform the way companies approach fabric and sourcing,” he said.

Through this investment, Lauren looks to expand its use of recycled post-consumer cotton, helping to achieve the company’s goal of sourcing 100 percent of its key materials, including cotton, by 2025 and integrating zero-waste principles across its business.

Over time, the partnership is expected to enable Lauren to replace and reduce its reliance on non-biodegradable synthetics, such as polyester and nylon, while scaling the use of more sustainable and upcycled materials.



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