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Ralph Lauren invests in sustainable material science start-up

Investment to help enable product development using plant-based, upcycled materials as well as create and scale a new industry standard for natural fiber recycling

14th August 2020

Innovation in Textiles
 |  New York, NY


Clarus fabric from yarn that is 50% recycled and 50% organic virgin cotton. Photo courtesy of Natural Fiber Welding.

Ralph Lauren Corporation has announced a minority investment in Natural Fiber Welding, Inc. (NFW), a sustainable material science start-up that aims to revolutionise the reuse of natural fibres, such as cotton waste, into patented, high-performance materials. As part of the investment, Ralph Lauren will help scale NFW’s patented process and develop ‘first-of-its-kind’ performance apparel made from natural, sustainable materials. 

“We have evolved and progressed our business for more than 50 years because we constantly push ourselves to think openly and differently about how to approach challenges,” said David Lauren, Vice Chairman & Chief Innovation Officer at Ralph Lauren.

“Today, sustainability is an area where this is especially important, and investing with partners to scale innovative solutions is a key part of our sustainability strategy. We are excited to support the work of NFW, a pioneer in this field. Their technology has the power to not only advance our work at Ralph Lauren, but effect positive change across the entire industry.” 

Recycled cotton is often unsuitable for use in new cotton apparel due to the short fibres created during recycling. Founded in 2015, NFW has solved this challenge with an innovative process that welds short fibres into longer fibres to create high-performance cotton yarns which can incorporate cotton and other plant-based waste fibres. This patented process transforms these materials in ways that were never possible before, Ralph Lauren says, creating an opportunity to reuse post-consumer cotton waste and impart performance characteristics into the fibre. The resulting upcycled material outperforms synthetic fabrics while still retaining the comfortable feel of cotton, the company adds. 

“We are thrilled to have the investment, support and insight of Ralph Lauren, an industry icon whose commitment to timelessness – to true sustainability – is central to who they are,” said Dr. Luke Haverhals, Founder and CEO at NFW. “We look forward to working together as we scale our best-in-class technology that has the potential to transform the way companies approach fabric and sourcing.”   

Through this investment, Ralph Lauren is looking to expand its use of recycled post-consumer cotton, helping to advance the company’s progress toward sourcing 100% of its key materials, including cotton, by 2025 and integrating zero-waste principles across its business. Over time, the partnership will enable Ralph Lauren to replace and reduce its reliance on non-biodegradable synthetics, such as polyester and nylon, while scaling the use of more sustainable and upcycled materials, the company concludes.

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