DuPont Sorona Makes a Sustainable-Apparel Connection With Farm-to-Table Food Sourcing
Through establishing parallels between the locally sourced, slow-food movement and the slowing down of apparel production from fast fashion, DuPont Sorona hosted an event on Sept. 11 to promote more-responsible approaches to fashion. Bringing together professionals from the apparel business, garment-industry watchdogs and environmental-conservation organizations, Sorona illustrated how principles from farm-to-table food sourcing could be applied to fashion manufacturing.
To make the connection between the practices that made farm-to-table food sourcing more accessible to the average consumer, Sorona served locally sourced dishes from Bay Area companies. For apparel-industry professionals, the main attraction was seeing models outfitted in looks that were created with materials using Sorona fibers.
“Any fashion, from intimates to swimwear and all the way up to high fashion, can be comfortable, can be beautiful and can be sustainable,” said Sorona Global Marketing Director of Biomaterials Renee Henze.
The event was hosted on Angel Island in San Francisco with food sourced from surrounding areas to illustrate the great potential to cultivate crops locally in order to provide resources closer to the manufacturing plants that produce plant-based fibers for textiles.
“Our whole idea around this was to look at the food community that has, for a few decades now, been forward thinking about the local, community, slow-food movement. From a sustainability standpoint, it awakened a thought-provoking conversation,” Henze said. “I thought ‘What can we learn from the food community? How do we bring more textiles into local regions?’”
Prior to her role with Sorona, Henze worked in the sustainable-food industry. The seemingly unlikely pairing of experience in ecological food sourcing with textile production proved to be a reasonable connection to work toward creating more-sustainable fibers.
“First, chefs and the restaurateurs sourced food locally. It made its way to high-end grocery stores like Berkeley Bowl and Gelson’s. Then, other grocers like Kroger said, ‘Oh, I want that.’ It’s approximately a 10-year process,” she said of the time frame to shift from luxury to mass market. “Textiles are heading in that direction, but it is more complicated because of where goods are manufactured and all the steps in the supply chain.”
Relying on plant-based PDO—or 1,3-propanediol—that is combined with terephthalic acid, Sorona is a bio-based polymer that reduces the need for sourcing petroleum. The resulting polymer comprises 37 percent renewable, plant-based material and is used to create textiles for different industries, including apparel.
According to DuPont, the process doesn’t require textiles to be subjected to high temperatures for dyeing and finishing, thereby requiring 30 percent less energy and releasing 63 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions than nylon 6. It also utilizes 40 percent less energy and releases 56 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions than nylon 6, 6.
As a bio-based material, Sorona enjoys certification by the United States Department of Agriculture’s BioPreferred Program. It is also a Bluesign partner, Sustainable Apparel Coalition partner, Sustainable Brands member and part of Textile Exchange in addition to enjoying Oeko-Tex Standard 100 Class 1 certification.
While discerning consumers can be difficult to impress when they are investing in apparel that claims to be green, conservation groups are tougher. A testament to Sorona’s commitment to more-sustainable fibers could be recognized in its inclusion of members from these groups in the event. At Sausalito, Calif.–based conservation organization The Marine Mammal Center, Chief Development and Communications Officer John Warner monitors the impact different industries have on the ecosystem and its marine inhabitants.
“[Within our organization,] we had a great conversation regarding how this is a wonderful step in the right direction,” he said. “We want efforts like this to succeed because of what we know about our immediate backyard, the San Francisco Bay, having the greatest micro-plastics pollution according to a report from a few years back.”
While Warner is optimistic regarding Sorona’s advancements and understands that a fully sustainable supply chain is built gradually, he emphasizes that to be successful this type of initiative must be implemented throughout the entire industry.
“DuPont will only be half of the answer. The apparel industry needs to invest in and use these products to support these efforts and get to 100 percent bio-based rather than nearly 40 percent,” he said. “Forty percent is really commendable, but 100 percent is what we want. It is the apparel industry’s opportunity to take this to the next level.”
During her time at the event, Ariel Raymon, who is the brand partnerships manager for apparel and home goods at Oakland, Calif.’s Fair Trade USA, enjoyed seeing the presentation of Sorona-based apparel. In her line of work, forging these connections with more-sustainable manufacturers is helpful to work toward a common eco-friendlier manufacturing goal.
“At Fair Trade, we like to be aware of the newest programs and alternatives for sustainable textiles in the industry. It’s important to be aware of the other initiatives even if they are indirectly related to our Fair Trade factory program,” she said. “We also often play matchmaker with prospective clients. We connect them up with factories and sustainable textile sourcing as well.”
Impressed by the variety of professionals who attended the event, Raymon was happy to see a common goal of promoting sustainability among attendees, who hailed from different backgrounds.
“It was amazing to be in a community with like-minded individuals for an evening. Each person there had a different connection to sustainability and fashion, and it was very inspiring,” she said. “I’m glad to see a company like DuPont put so much effort and research into developing a material that could have such a wide reach.”