The Lycra Company helps fast fashion brands achieve their sustainability goals

  • The fashion industry emits more carbon than international flights and shipping combined.
  • Consumers hold industry responsible for its negative effects on the environment.
  • Julien Born, CEO of The Lycra Company, Is contribute to the transition of industry towards a circular economy.

Every year, consumers buy billions worth of cheap clothes that they throw away soon after. This practice, often referred to as fast fashion, is terrible for the environment, and recent data shows it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.

The fashion industry produces 10% of all carbon emissions, is the world’s second largest consumer of water supplies and pollutes the oceans with microplastics. A report of ResearchGate said fast mode consumes more energy than the aviation and shipping sectors combined. And over the next 30 years, the demand for raw materials for clothing is expected to triple, putting extreme pressure on limited resources including water, energy and land. World Resources Institute noted.

As CEO and President of The Lycra Company, one of the largest textile companies in the world, Julien Born knows the environmental cost of fast fashion and wants to help global brands rethink their approach to sustainability. Born told Insider that Lycra is taking steps to move the fashion industry towards a circular economy – a model of production and consumption that involves reusing and recycling existing materials for as long as possible – by partnering at Primark, Levi’s and H&M to make their clothes last longer so they don’t end up in landfills as quickly.

As conscious consumers and environmentalists hold the fashion industry responsible for the damaging effects of fast fashion on the environment, Lycra takes the call for sustainability seriously, as it has for more than a decade.

Julien Born CEO of The Lycra Company

Julien Born, President and CEO of The Lycra Company.

The Lycra Company

Since 2011, the company’s manufacturing sites have implemented more than 250 energy reduction programs. In 2019, two of its sites had reduced their energy intensity by more than 20%, with more than half of their sites improving by at least 10%, the company sustainability report noted.

“We have a long history of being first to market with a focus on corporate responsibility, compliance and safety,” Born said. “All of these things bode well for being a leader in sustainability because we’ve built trust, having done the right thing for a long time.”

In an interview with Insider, Born discussed three main strategies for how Lycra plans to continue its legacy of fighting for a more environmentally friendly fashion industry.

1. Lasting partnerships

As the leading fiber producer for the global textile, apparel and personal care industries, Lycra is uniquely positioned to influence the fashion industry as a whole. Lycra’s collaboration with fashion label H&M is a recent example of the company’s enduring partnerships. In 2020, the textile company announcement that its Coolmax technology, which is made from recycled materials, would be featured in H&M’s menswear collection.

Coolmax Collection by H&M

H&M Coolmax men’s clothing.

The Lycra Company

“We usually didn’t have businesses with companies like this because they move very quickly and aren’t necessarily driven by innovation,” Born said. “But because they’re trying to change their models and look more for sustainable fashion, they’re collaborating with strategic suppliers like us.”

Most companies today have environmental, social and governance objectives related to the sustainability and societal effects of a company’s environmental practices. To help achieve these goals, global fashion brands, such as Lululemon and Levi’s, are turning to Lycra to reduce their carbon footprint and meet ESG standards by incorporating sustainable fibers into their fabrics.

“Getting new business with retailers like this is a great indication that our focus on sustainability is not just the right thing to do, but ultimately the most profitable thing to do. These relationships make us more sustainable over time as a business,” Born said. .

2. Innovative products with recycled materials

The equivalent of a garbage truck full of clothes is burned or dumped in a landfill every second, a United Nations Environment Program says the report. In addition, 85% of all textiles go to landfill every year. The recycling rate for all textiles was 14.7% in 2018, with 2.5 million tonnes recycled, a EPA estimate noted.

aerial view used clothes fast fashion atacama desert chile

Aerial view of discarded used clothing in the Atacama Desert in Chile.

Martin Bernetti/AFP via Getty Images

The fashion industry is coming under increasing scrutiny over the impact of its products on the environment, and Lycra’s demonstrated commitment to fiber innovation using recycled materials makes company a partner of choice for brands looking to improve the life cycle of their garments.

In September, the company launched EcoMade Fiber, denim jeans made from a blend of virgin polymer and recycled materials collected from factories at Lycra manufacturing sites. Pioneer fabric is made from 20% recycled materials.

“Sustainability really starts for us at the manufacturing level, and it goes all the way to the end of the garment’s life cycle, implementing recycling at every stage,” Born said.

3. Extend the life cycle

A 2020 survey conducted by Statista revealed that in 2019, 7% of the average American consumer’s wardrobe consisted of resale clothing. This ratio is expected to increase to 17% by 2029.

The thrift and resale market keeps garments and their components in circulation longer. As such, Lycra invests in manufacturing quality garments for longer wearability to extend their life cycle and reduce the carbon footprint of the fashion industry.

thrift shop

Thrift fashions.

Sophie Walster/Getty Images

“If you think about how the industry is changing with thrift, rental, and second-hand clothes, all of these new platforms really require clothes to be worn longer,” Born said. “At the end of the day, the best way to save resources is not to throw away your clothes because they were made incorrectly. We have the ability to certify fabrics, certify garments, and we have the technology to improve sustainability.”

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