In one of the warmest winters on record, sustainable fashion has scored a much-needed victory.
Launch partners for PrimaLoft Bio, the industry's first 100% recycled biodegradable performance fabric, have been announced. Select technical clothing from Houdini, Norrøna, Helly Hansen, L.L. Bean, and Vaude will begin featuring the textile in Fall 2020.
But what makes PrimaLoft Bio so special?
Bio is a first-of-its-kind fiber developed by the Albany, NY-based PrimaLoft. While textiles made from Bio carry the same resilience and insulating properties as many other tech fabrics, PrimaLoft's latest has a secret - one that's anything but dirty.
"The project 'Bio' actually started with us listening to one of our brand partners," explains PrimaLoft CEO Michael Joyce. "In 2014, the conversation around microplastic in the ocean was just starting up. One of our product managers said, 'what if when you buried one of our jackets, it could turn into natural elements?'"
When exposed to the microbes found in landfills or the ocean, PrimaLoft Bio will rapidly biodegrade into naturally occurring components. Where once was a high-tech garment is left just water, methane, carbon dioxide, and biomass. The upshot: up to 80% of PrimaLoft Bio breaks down within 15 months, whereas typical synthetic fabrics can take 200 years to decompose (if they're biodegradable at all).
Joyce again: "During the life of a product, the product wears. That's just what happens. Fibers get free, they go different places, and whether they're blown into the air, or a pond, or get thrown out as the lint in your dryer, Bio converts into something that's found within the environment."
This is a paradigm shift within performancewear, an industry famous - perhaps, infamous - for its use of environmentally-questionable fabrics like microfleece. Highsnobiety named Bio one of its most important clothing tech innovations of 2018.
The launch partners for PrimaLoft Bio were chosen specifically for their best-in-class product as well as their commitment to sustainability.
"We are in business to contribute to the world, not to take from it," comments Eva Karlsson, CEO of Houdini Sportswear. "Just like we see PrimaLoft as an important materials innovation partner, I believe they appreciate us for our thought leadership in the field."
Houdini, a Swedish outdoors brand famous for its "Rent this jacket" initiative, is one of the first launch brands to show prototypes. Nicknamed "Project Alchemist," the garment is a lightweight pullover designed to bring "nature and technology" in "strong partnership," according to Karlsson.
Norwegian gearmaker Norrøna is also one of the launch partners.
"PrimaLoft Bio is a giant leap forward as it uses recycled materials and allows them to biodegrade in the marine environment as well as in landfills," says Brad Boren, Norrøna's director of innovation and sustainability. "Our goal is to utilize innovation and sustainability together so we can improve on performance, durability and the environmental impact of our products."
As fashion customers demand more from their clothes - both functionally and technically - innovations like Bio represent the potential of the industry to create change. Stay tuned for information on other Primaloft Bio garments coming soon.