Lululemon's New Plant-Based Nylon T-shirt Is Eco-Conscious Athleisure's Next Step
As apparel manufacturers continue to find new ways of creating sustainable clothing, we've seen some inventive ways for recycling materials and turning it into T-shirt fabric, or finding new ways to develop synthetic materials with a smaller carbon footprint.
We've also watched as apparel manufacturers within the promotional products space have taken cues from some of the biggest names in retail, like Lululemon, arguably one of the leaders of the athleisure movement.
Lululemon just announced a new T-shirt line made from plant-based nylon as part of a partnership with sustainable materials firm Genomatica. According to CBS, the shirt uses a fermentation process to turn plant-based materials into nylon.
We’re proud to launch our first @lululemon products made from renewably sourced, plant-based nylon – an exciting sustainable innovation underpinned by our Impact Agenda and Be Planet actions. https://t.co/TKRp6moSeq
— Calvin McDonald (@calvinmcdonald) April 18, 2023
Nylon ordinarily comes from fossil fuels, but Genomatica's process uses microorganisms and fermentation.
Lulu first invested in Genomatica in 2021, and now we're seeing the fruits of the relationship.
“We’ve been working on plant-based nylon with our partner Geno for almost two years, testing ways to integrate this groundbreaking material with our product philosophy of creating products to help our guests feel their best,” Esther Speck, senior vice president of global sustainable business and impact at Lululemon, said in a statement to Retail Dive. “The launch of our first plant-based nylon products is an example of lululemon’s environmental commitments in action, and what’s to come on our journey toward net zero.”
The T-shirts go on sale this month, and are made with 50% biologically sourced nylon, 40% recycled polyester, 3% elastane from partially plant-based material.
"Today marks a major achievement: Biotechnology has successfully fermented sugars into the chemical building blocks used to make nylon, bringing to life a renewable, plant-based nylon," Genomatica fonder Christophe Schilling said in a statement. "Plants take up CO2 from the air, and with sunlight providing energy, convert that into sugars, which can be collected and then fed into a Geno process."
This combines the continuing demand for athleisure – Lululemon has seen a sales increase of 30% during its most recent quarter — and the customer preference for environmentally sourced apparel.
Products made from recycled plastic and other sustainability efforts have become common, so buying habits have shifted accordingly.
Apparel distributors can look at what clearly works for a company like Lululemon in the retail side – lightweight performance apparel that works outside of the gym, too, as well as environmentally sourced materials – and translate that to promotional apparel campaigns that resonate with end-users.
Brendan Menapace is the senior digital editor for Promo Marketing. While writing and editing stories come naturally to him, writing his own bio does not.