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Wrangler, H&M, Patagonia Bet on Biotech to Quit Virgin Cotton

Five of today’s top global fashion brands are bolstering their sustainability prowess in partnering with a Finnish biotech technology that says it can turn discarded textiles into bio-based regenerated fibers—all while retaining the original material’s quality.

H&M Group, Bestseller, PVH Corp., Wrangler and Patagonia are collaborating with Infinited Fiber Company to develop a viable circular alternative to virgin cotton, ultimately enhancing their ability to respond to growing customer sustainability demands. Suominen, a supplier of nonwoven textiles for wipes, also is collaborating with circular-minded innovator.

Infinited Fiber Company says its technology can turn any cellulose-rich material—think old clothes, used cardboard or even agricultural waste like straw—into a unique, biodegradable and “re-recyclable” soft fiber with a natural look and feel. A whole range of wardrobe items from T-shirts and hoodies to dress shirts and jeans can be made with the fiber, it claims.

The finished fibers are biodegradable as impurities such as plastic residues from polyester or elastane are removed in the process. Infinited Fiber says the fibers can be used on their own for 100 percent waste-based, circular textiles or blended with other fibers in yarn manufacturing. The group aims for 100 percent recycled or other sustainably sourced materials by 2030.

Each of the brands has worked with Infinited Fiber in some capacity. They have also conducted in-house quality testing on various types of textiles created from Infinited Fiber Company’s regenerated fiber, including single jersey, French terry, denim, shirting fabric and nonwoven fabric.

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The company says that each has found the fibers and textiles they have tested to meet their brand’s stringent material quality requirements and views the fibers as ready for commercial applications.

“Having invested in and worked closely with Infinited Fiber Company over a number of years, we are incredibly excited about their continued development and what this will mean for both H&M Group, and the wider industry in terms of our collective drive towards a more sustainable future,” said Erik Karlsson, investment manager at H&M Group’s investment arm CO:LAB. “To see other brands collaborating with Infinited Fiber Company speaks not only to the quality of product but also to its exciting commercial possibilities.”

Karlsson is also a member of Infinited’s board of directors. H&M Group helped raise 3.7 million euros ($4.11 million) in funding for Infinited as well in August of last year, when the biotech firm sought to scale out a 50-ton pilot plant in Finland to run its fiber production process.

Denim completely produced using a circular alternative to virgin cotton, courtesy of Infinited Fiber Company..
Denim made from 100 percent Infinited fiber. Courtesy

At the time of the funding, Karlsson said Infinited’s mission “aligns perfectly with the H&M Group’s sustainability goals and our vision to become fully circular.” The Swedish clothing juggernaut aims to use only sustainable materials over the course of the next decade and avoid resource-heavy virgin materials from cotton to synthetics.

In April, H&M was named the most transparent apparel and fashion company across 250 global retailers and brands, going out of its way to provide product transparency and material details for all garments sold on since 2019.

The other participants teaming up with biotech firm are optimistic about Infinited and the partnerships that lie ahead. Camilla Skjønning Jørgensen, sustainable materials and innovation manager at Bestseller, said Infinited’s innovation mirrors the Danish chain’s “ambition of becoming circular by design.”

“The feedstock is waste, and the technology does not use high amounts of water or harmful chemicals,” she added, describing the “commercial quality” fiber as suitable for the “styles that our customers love.”

Patagonia, which sidesteps “carbon neutral” thinking in an effort to become “carbon positive,” says it will only use renewable or recycled materials in its assortment by 2025.  “Infinited Fiber shows the industry that apparel waste has high value and is something to be utilized,” added Sarah Hayes, materials development director for the outdoor brand. “This waste is not only being upcycled but is being used to make a new premium fiber that can help push the industry toward circularity.”

And Wrangler, which has been open about its goals to source 100 percent sustainably grown cotton by 2025, cut water usage in half by 2030 and is producing jeans of its own with regeneratively grown cotton, is throwing full support behind the company.

“Developing sustainable solutions for the apparel industry requires collaboration,” said Roian Atwood, senior director, global sustainable business, Wrangler. “We’re proud to work with Infinited Fiber Company and others across the industry to help shepherd this innovation into commercial use. At Wrangler, we are committed to evolving our supply chain to support a circular economy, and our work with Infinited Fiber Company is one step forward in that effort.”