The Lycra Company CEO Discusses Sustainability, Shift to Circular Economy

“Transitioning to a circular economy is not an option, it’s an imperative,” according to The Lycra Company. That’s why the firm recently put a new spin on its cooling and warming fibers, Coolmax and Thermolite EcoMade, respectively, by making them from 100 percent textile waste whilst preserving peak performance.

Julien Born, the newly named president and chief executive officer at The Lycra Company, told WWD that its recent product offerings are representative of its vision to “move from pre-consumer waste to post-consumer, as we work with our partners to build a reliable supply of garments that can be recycled into new fibers at end of life.” 

Here, Born talks to WWD about addressing textile waste, and how The Lycra Company is helping advance the circular economy.

WWD: What inspired The Lycra Company to convert textile waste into Coolmax and Thermolite EcoMade fibers? 

Julien Born: As we know, sustainability is one of the most critical issues impacting our world today, with some sources citing textiles and apparel as the second most polluting industry in the world. One alarming statistic is that the equivalent of one garbage truck of textiles is sent to landfills or incinerated every second.

When we layer expected population growth and the resulting demand for apparel on top of that, it’s estimated that by 2050 our industry would need three times the natural resources that we’re consuming today. Clearly, our planet can’t support that. So, transitioning to a circular economy is not an option; it’s an imperative, and we need to do our part in helping to provide solutions. Our latest innovations in Coolmax and Thermolite EcoMade products use 100 percent textile waste as input to make cooling and warming performance solutions, thus creating a starting point for circularity.

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Julien Born, president and chief executive officer, The Lycra Company. 

WWD: How does this differ from other EcoMade fibers offered by The Lycra Company?

J.B.: The Lycra Company has been selling Coolmax and Thermolite EcoMade fibers with recycled materials such as recycled PET plastic bottles for well over a decade. Now we are adding a new approach, offering cooling and warming solutions made from 100 percent textile waste. Both fiber technologies deliver on the same performance standards — the difference is the problem they are addressing. Recycled PET addresses waste from the beverage industry, where our latest innovation addresses textile waste.

WWD: How else is The Lycra Company continuing its commitment to sustainability?

J.B.: Our Planet Agenda Sustainability platform is based on the belief that to have a healthy business, ultimately, we must have a healthy planet. As the industry looks to transition to a more circular approach, we are committed to offering various fiber and fabric solutions that reduce or divert waste, keep materials in use longer, use renewable resources versus finite ones, and in collaboration with third parties, ultimately close the loop at the end of life.

We are also committed to safely and responsibly manufacture our products, with all six of our global Lycra fiber sites having completed the Higg self-assessment last year and 25 Lycra products being awarded Gold Level Material Health certification from the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute.

WWD: What are the best applications for Thermolite and Coolmax EcoMade fibers?

J.B.: Garments made with Coolmax EcoMade fiber help keep the wearer cool and dry, whereas Thermolite EcoMade fiber provides lightweight warmth for all activities. The technologies have their origins in activewear and outdoor gear, and now we have expanded the product range to ensure that these long-lasting, durable benefits can now be brought to almost any end-use. Ready-to-wear, where Coolmax and Thermolite fibers enhance the comfort and performance of cotton, is proving to be a very popular application area, complementing more of our established business in socks, denim — and even bedding.

For more Business news from WWD, see:

Outerwear Brand Launches Upcycling Campaign

The Great Outdoors Is Having a Moment in Fashion

Field Notes: Textile Chemical Use Is Getting Greener

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