Phrases like "sustainable" and "eco-friendly" are tossed around too often these days, as greenwashing infiltrates genuinely progressive programs. Finnish company Spinnova believes it's onto something truly sustainable, however, and it's got The North Face's ear.
The duo announced a development partnership on August 16, touting Spinnova's bespoke fiber. Created from wood pulp, it's reportedly tough, insulating, and ideal for all kinds of applications, from shoes to shirts to comforters.
And, most hearteningly, Spinnova says the textile is "zero percent harmful" to the planet.
"One of our fiber’s unique features is that it can be upcycled without dissolving or harmful chemicals," Janne Poranen, CEO and Co-Founder of Spinnova, explained to Highsnobiety. "We mechanically treat the wood pulp and extrude it into fiber without harmful chemicals or water."
"This means that, in the future, a product can be taken back from the consumer by a brand we work with, delivered to our process, and turned into new fiber, in some cases without even dismantling the product."
"No tricks or shortcuts: this is the same process we use for new fiber. The upcycled fiber does not lose quality."
That's important. It's notoriously difficult to properly recycle clothing, so one possible solution to fashion industry waste is to invent new textiles that circumvent issues like the planting, growing, and dedicated land for cotton farms.
"This is a rather recent finding, and we are still in the process of making further trials to see how many times this cycle can be repeated but it looks very promising," Poranen continued.
"The logistics behind making this a circular ecosystem also requires input from the industry, but from the fiber’s part when we say 'fully circular,' we really mean 100 percent [circulur]."
Circularity demands regenerating, reusable materials that are never disposed of. If Spinnova's textiles can remain useful forever and will be widely available, they may properly change the game.
Of course, fabric production is not the only area of the industry that's toxic. Cheap clothing being tossed out and garments and materials being shipped, for instance, are only two of the other concerns worth worrying about.
Even in the realm of production, there's the environmental cost of using electricity to produce clothing, the thread used to stitch apparel, and much more. It's also not entirely clear how The North Face plans to use Spinnova's fiber (e.g. to replace down filling, nylon shells, or, say, polyester fleece).
Still, this partnership is still very much in its early days — Spinnova's website says the fiber factory will begin production by end of 2022 — and there's much work that can be done in the meantime.
"Many of these details are still being worked through given that this is a brand new partnership," said Oliver Lang, VP of Product Development for The North Face.
"But we’re excited that with Spinnova’s capabilities we could now create a natural, insulated material for our apparel without compromising on the product performance and quality The North Face is known for."