Renee Henze, the global marketing director at DuPont Industrial Biomaterials. Photo courtesy of DuPont Industrial Biomaterials.

Stretch performance fibers are at the forefront of upcoming material trends, as consumer demand for soft, sustainable and efficient fabrics is only increasing.

And Sorona, a “buttery-soft eco-efficient performance fiber” by DuPont Industrial Biomaterials, is noted for its stretch recovery, insulation, durability and fade and wrinkle resistance, as well as its quick-dry and color steadfastness. Its versatility enables blending with cotton, wool, bamboo, rayon and viscose, among other materials. The polymer is used by denim brands such as Seven for All Mankind, Paige and Levi’s, as well as The North Face, EMS, L.L. Bean, Bonobos and prAna.

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Here, Renee Henze, the global marketing director at DuPont Industrial Biomaterials, talks to WWD about Sorona’s stretch capabilities as well as material trends and upcoming projects.

WWD: What is the technology behind Sorona for denim?

Renee Henze: Sorona’s unique, kinked molecular structure gives it special properties. Two of the most notable are its exceptional softness and its ability to stretch and recover. Particularly when used in a bi-component formation, such as Invista’s T400, which is 50/50 Sorona/PET fibers, the capability to stretch and recover without losing its shape is a huge performance benefit. Whereas other forms of stretch, such as Spandex, can add stretch, they lose their shape and quickly break down, [ultimately] losing that stretch capability. When used in denim, Sorona adds softness and a great comfort stretch characteristic.

WWD: What differentiates Sorona fibers in the market? 

R.H.: Sorona’s ability to have permanent, mechanical stretch and recovery. Unlike Spandex, its stretch is not lost with a number of washes, UV or chlorine exposure.

WWD: Would you elaborate on some of the technologies Sorona utilizes for creating sustainable materials? 

R.H.: Sorona is made using 37 percent plant-based materials, thereby reducing the amount of petro-based materials used in producing it. Unlike petroleum processing, which is very energy intense and environmentally damaging, the bio-based component of Sorona relies on fermentation (such as that used in brewing beer or bread). In comparison to the processing of Nylon 6, Sorona uses 30 percent less energy and reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 63 percent. Sorona fibers and fabrics dye at lower temperatures (20 to 30 degrees Celsius) than other synthetic fibers, thereby allowing it to save energy in the dyeing process. Sorona’s durability and capability to recover after stretching also allows the end consumer to keep the garment longer and avoid more washing to have the garment return to its original shape. When consumers keep garments longer and wash them less, this lessons the environmental impact as well.

Photograph courtesy of DuPont Industrial Biomaterials. 

WWD: Has Sorona identified any notable material trends?

R.H.: Designers and brands are looking for materials that offer new and unique performance aspects combined with a lower environmental footprint. They are also looking for materials that take principles of the circular economy into account. The athleisure trend is one that has reached well past outdoor, workout and weekend wear and has made its way into workwear and high fashion. This means that nearly everyone is looking for ways to incorporate some comfort stretch performance into their items. Brands are also looking for ways to incorporate wearables and “smart” technologies into their materials. We’re also seeing high-end brands looking for alternatives to animal products, such as down or fur.

WWD: What are consumers currently demanding?

R.H.: This really depends on the segment of apparel and consumer. For outdoor wear, it’s high performance, comfort, wearables and sustainability. For ready-to-wear, it’s style, performance, comfort and some aspects of sustainability depending on geography or demographic. For fast fashion, it’s style and for high fashion, it’s look, feel, style and — for some — starting to look at sustainability.

WWD: Which markets are primed for Sorona’s applications? 

R.H.: Given Sorona’s broad range of attributes, we’re really fortunate to be able to participate in a huge variety of markets: intimates, swimwear, outdoor apparel, athletic apparel, ready-to-wear, denim and high fashion.

WWD: Are there any upcoming projects in the works?

R.H.: Always! A few that we’ve recently launched are partnerships with Unifi’s Repreve for insulation and Cordura/Sorona for a new outdoor jacket material. Look for things to come from a collaboration with Lenzing’s Tencel and Modal; further advancements for DuPont’s Apexa, which is degradable PET; new fibers with higher bio-based components; and eventually bio-based/biodegradable fibers. There are a lot of things going on under the DuPont Biomaterials roof.

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