NEW YORK — In an effort to increase the use of nonwoven fabrics in the apparel market, DuPont has launched a new business group called Nova.
The group, which currently has about a half-dozen employees, plans to introduce about a dozen fabrics intended for apparel at the October edition of Premiere Vision in Paris. While nonwovens have played a bit part in apparel — for example, as interlinings reinforcing waistbands and lapels, as inexpensive give-away windbreakers or as protective industrial clothing — Nova aims to give nonwovens appeal in garments like sweaters and jackets. Nova is an internal joint venture between DuPont’s Lycra spandex and nonwoven operations, and most of the nonwoven fabrics being developed incorporate stretch properties.
In addition to fabrics with the papery hand commonly associated with nonwovens, the Nova group is developing fabrics with waterproof-breathable coatings and with an appearance similar to circular-knit fabrics. Most of the fabrics are flash-spun polyethylene constructions.
Brian Gallagher, global sales and marketing director for the Nova project, said the nonwoven products would offer greater performance at a lower price than their woven and knitted counterparts. However, he said that pricing has not yet been determined and did not provide numerical comparisons for how much cheaper these products would be than what is currently available in the market.
Certain inherent properties of nonwovens make them easier to work with than traditional apparel fabrics. For example, garments can be produced with scissor-cut edges and seams, since nonwoven fabrics do not fray or unravel.
In addition to representing a new product push for Wilmington, Del.-based DuPont, the nonwovens venture also moves it into a different part of the apparel-sourcing chain. Now, in addition to selling fabric components to yarn makers, DuPont will be selling fabric directly to apparel makers.
However, Gallagher said the company hasn’t yet determined if, over the long haul, it will exclusively sell nonwovens it produces on its own or license out the technology to other companies.
“That’s a blank slate,” he said. “Until we have some time under our belts in working with the marketplace, it’s really hard to say what our long-term picture looks like.”
Today, DuPont produces nonwoven fabrics in Virginia and Luxembourg.
Gallagher acknowledged that it may take some time for nonwovens to catch on in the apparel market. He said that he doesn’t expect large-scale acceptance of the fabrics until fall 2002.
But some major apparel companies are already testing nonwovens. Levi Strauss & Co. included three Nova nonwoven items in the early-spring delivery of its Silvertab line: a skirt, a pant and a vest.
“We wanted to work very quietly with a few folks before we went big time,” Gallagher explained.