“If you make the perfect fluff and it’s wrapped up in a hybrid of other things, the net product will still be suboptimal,” said William McDonough, the architect and author of “Cradle to Cradle” who was a pioneer in circular systems and sustainable design. Material optimized to biodegrade “is a small piece of the puzzle.”
Of the microbe-attracting fiber, Mr. McDonough said: “This is like a tuba, or maybe an oboe.” And “to really make a difference, you need the whole orchestra.” Still, he allowed, “it’s a beautiful instrument.”
It also marks a real evolution in the thinking around fashion and sustainability. First, as Mr. McDonough pointed out, it completely changes the equation by taking technical materials and transforming them into natural nutrients. “I have a name for it,” he said. “Oil to soil.” (Polyester is derived in part from petroleum.)
Second, it places the onus on brands to think more about the long-term question of what happens to garments after they leave stores (traditionally, brands measure their impact over a period known as “cradle to gate”). “I think more and more companies will be held accountable and will hold themselves accountable,” said Mr. Kibbey.
Helly Hansen’s concept jacket, for example, is made not just from PrimaLoft Bio insulation (the company has worked with PrimaLoft on performance products for 15 years), but also wooden buttons and cotton fabric and thread. The team is currently waiting to test the coat with a professional skier to see how it stands up to real-life conditions. If it works, they will bring it to market in 2021, at around the same price as a regular performance layer (say, around $200-$220).
“I hope this shows people that it can be done,” said Ms. Mason of PrimaLoft. “I predict that in the next six months we will see one to three kinds of biodegradable new technologies coming online, and in the next three to five years this space will be very crowded.”
What did the microbe say to the polyester puffer? Why, doughnut you look good.