NEW YORK — The Dow Chemical Co. is getting out of the fiber business.

This story first appeared in the May 11, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The company said it will exit the “fiber solutions business” within six to 18 months, bringing an end to the Dow XLA stretch fiber brand.

Dow XLA, a polyethylene fiber with stretch properties, was introduced to the market in 2002. The fiber was initially targeted at the denim industry, and was marketed as being able to withstand harsh chemical treatments and temperatures of up to 428 degrees Fahrenheit.

“This decision is consistent with our effort to streamline and focus the company’s portfolio of businesses,” said a Dow spokeswoman. “After a thorough review, Dow determined that [Dow Fiber Solutions] was unable to compete with other Dow performance businesses for further investment and expansion.”

It could not be determined whether the business was profitable for Dow, which had sales of $45 billion last year, producing 5,000 products in the specialty chemical, advanced materials, agrosciences and plastics businesses.

Dow’s exit leaves Invista’s XFIT Lycra, a competing stretch product introduced in 2006, as the lone aggressively branded and marketed stretch fiber looking to stake a claim on the market. Competition has been heating up over the past several years, as denim mills and brands have developed their own stretch technologies using generic stretch products.

Dow made considerable investments behind XLA. In 2006, Dow Fiber Solutions spent $1.5 million to open a 2,500-square-foot XLA showroom designed by architect Thierry Peltrault in the heart of New York’s Garment District at 1411 Broadway. By then, XLA was being marketed to the ready-to-wear, swimwear, intimate apparel and workwear markets, as well.

In 2008, fashion photographer Henrik Halvarsson was hired to shoot Dow XLA’s first solely branded advertising campaign, featuring looks from partners like Citizens of Humanity and Calvin Klein. The global campaign involved print, TV and the Internet and ran in the U.S., Europe, South America and Asia.

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