Invista’s introduction of bio-derived Lycra spandex represents a major development for one of its core products and a larger commitment to sustainability throughout its manufacturing processes and product mix.

This story first appeared in the May 7, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Invista, one of the world’s largest integrated producers of polymers and fibers, spent about 18 months developing the new spandex fiber that now includes a renewable source made from dextrose derived from corn that makes up 70 percent of the weight of the fiber, explained Arnaud Tandonnet, Invista Apparel’s global sustainability director.

Tandonnet said that Invista joined the Sustainable Apparel Coalition two years ago and started looking at how the company could develop products that are more sustainable. Six months after initial experimenting began, the first test products were created.

“We are very aware that sustainability topics are becoming increasingly important in the textile and apparel value chain, with growing awareness and building education on the subject at the consumer, brand, retail and mill level,” he said. “In our research facilities we have successfully produced the fiber and evaluated it in fabric applications.”

The production of commercial quantities is planned for the fall 2015 and spring 2016 collections.

Tandonnet said key categories for the Lycra bio product are expected to be activewear and denim, since those are segments most interested in presenting products with sustainable and ecological characteristics. While the dextrose basically replaced the PTMEG polyurethane as an ingredient in making the fiber, making it a more sustainable product, Tandonnet said, “There is absolutely no difference in the performance of the yarn.”

Invista plans to produce 300 to 400 tons of the bio-derived Lycra in 2014, which Tandonnet said would be a “relatively small” but important part of the overall Lycra mix. He said, for example, that 10 tons of Lycra fiber can go into 1 million denim garments.

“So, it’s not huge, but it gives us the capability to work with several key partners,” he said. “We’ll see how the market reacts as far as how much more production will be planned going forward.”

Tandonnet said the fermentation and other processes are done in the U.S., while actual fiber manufacturing is planned for a combination of a company facility in Virginia and a site in Asia. He said the Lycra bio will be priced at the level of other Lycra specialty yarns.

There is potential for the technology to be used in other Invista products, he noted. Tandonnet also stressed that the development is part of the company’s sustainability program, called Planet Agenda, which is focused on three main objectives:

• Minimizing the company’s environmental footprint by conserving resources, reducing emissions and eliminating waste at its manufacturing plants.

• Offering competitive products that meet the needs of the apparel markets using fewer resources and to enhance the environmental performance of all fabrics.

• Protecting the health and safety of workers and communities and participating in local stewardship initiatives.

He added that Invista’s Coolmax performance fabric fits into the sustainability efforts, as its made out of recycled plastic bottles.

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