Silk Inc., the liquid silk pioneer that’s branched out from skincare to identify applications for its natural coating in the fashion world, just might replace all of the metals and chemicals that provide the performance benefits in your favorite nylon garments.
Focused for now on “next to skin” clothing where the natural chemistry of liquid silk can provide the greatest health benefits, Silk Inc. wanted to see how its innovation stacks up next to the standard petrochemicals that give athleisure, intimates and other close-fitting garments some of their most notable performance attributes.
The company worked with nylon fabric mills across Europe, Asia and the U.S. to test its liquid silk in a process that was as simple as swapping out a barrel of petrochemical finishes with a barrel of its viscous moth-produced solution, co-founder, president and COO Dr. Rebecca Lacouture told Sourcing Journal. Silk Inc. wanted to ensure “minimal disruption” to these mills’ entrenched operational procedures, she said.
“We wanted to validate that we could service a range of mill sizes and locations to demonstrate the commercial viability of the technology and ability to fit into anyone’s process,” Lacouture noted.
The side-by-side comparison of nylon treated with liquid silk versus the same fabric coated with traditional petrochemicals revealed that the former dries 35 percent faster, an important attribute for consumers who appreciate quick-drying characteristics for garments they trust for workouts and other aspects of their active lives.
Silk Inc. evaluated a range of nylon fabrics with Lycra components ranging from 3 percent to 45 percent to understand how liquid silk performs on various fabrics, said Enrico Mortarino, the company’s vice president of textile innovation.
This dry-rate breakthrough comes as the company closed a $30-million Series B funding round in October that will “help with commercialization and support the scale and capacity of our manufacturing facility,” Lacouture explained. As Silk Inc. gains traction in the apparel sector, with inbound interest for large and mid-market brands, it’s mulling an expansion of its current production site or the construction of new ones. Building facilities co-located with mills could increase the company’s sustainability process by eliminating the need to ship product around the world, Lacouture added.
Of the apparel brands approaching the company about liquid silk, roughly 50 percent to 60 percent are already making sustainable contributions, said vice president of business development and communications Jennifer Halliday, while the remainder are seeking a simple, all-natural solution that’s easy both to understand and to implement.
With about 45 employees on its payroll, Silk Inc. plans to boost staffing to 60 by early 2019 and increase its headcount in R&D, process engineering and marketing.
Apparel and textile manufacturing facilities are often characterized by a mix of odors that range from unpleasant to benign but Lacouture recalled workers at a mill she visited commenting on the lack of smell that characterized the liquid silk they were applying. If Silk Inc. has its way, fabric mills free of noxious odors could one day become the norm.