While protecting from extreme weather conditions and offering real durability, the outdoor clothing brand PrimaLoft, first designed for the US Army, addresses issues like GHG reduction, microplastics and circularity.

One of the key players in circular fabrics and insulation is PrimaLoft Inc, a company born from the exploitation of the homonymous synthetic microfiber thermal insulation material developed and patented for the United States Army in the 1980s. PrimaLoft synthetic insulators have since been used in the outdoor market for outerwear, gloves, sleeping bags and footwear. In 2007, PrimaLoft introduced the production of high-performance yarns, made in recent years with 100% polyester fibers or 45% polyester and 55% merino wool. Since 2010, the company has begun to look at new and increasingly sustainable and circular products, forging partnerships with Bluesign system, International OEKO-TEX Association and Sustainable Apparel Coalition's Higg Index. 
Their mission? Being “Relentlessly Responsible”. Renewable Matter sat with Tara Maurer, PrimaLoft Global Vice President of Business Development, Outdoor Sports & Athleisure to discuss Primaloft approach to circularity.

2020 has been a critical year for the outdoor clothing sector. Lockdowns and quarantines made people more willing to explore the great outdoors.
“We’re encouraged by the higher rates of participation in the outdoors. While unfortunately it comes during a time of uncertainty and loss, we’re hopeful that the interest will continue and support a new generation of outdoor enthusiasts. As a category, hard-goods faired the best as we headed into warmer weather. The industry saw a boom in biking and camping gear – equipment that supported the ‘backyard adventurer’. We remain hopeful as we head into the coldest months of the year that outerwear will have its time in the spotlight as families look for safe, healthy activities that allow them to brave the elements for longer.”

How much are customers, both businesses and consumers, looking for sustainable products?
“Sustainability has moved from a key trend to a significant driver that’s here to stay – both from an industry and a consumer point of view. The outdoor/sports market has long been the leader in sustainable product innovation, and that will continue to be the case as the industry works to protect the outdoors and the activities they love. More recently, this sustainability movement has become a growing priority on the fashion side. While brands have steadily increased their emphasis on sustainability before the pandemic, it’s now being embraced as an ethical solution that also positively impacts the bottom line.
On the
consumer side, people are much more educated and knowledgeable in their purchase behaviour, than ever before. The younger generations often spend significant time researching before they decide on purchasing things like apparel. And sustainability is a key component for many. Millennials and Gen Z tend to gravitate towards brands – they are only loyal to brands that share similar values as they do. They ultimately advocate for brands that support the environment and push brands to provide sustainable solutions.”

Which are your most sustainable materials?
“As material science experts, we provide solutions that unify technical innovation with high performance and sustainability – we call this our Relentlessly Responsible mission. This is important for all of our brands costumers, as they need garments that protect the wearer from various weather conditions, while also protecting the planet.
Our recently launched innovations have all been developed to address pressing issues in the textile industry like carbon emissions, microplastics and circularity. Some examples: With
PrimaLoft Bio, we introduced the first biodegradable, fully recycled synthetic fibres. Our PrimaLoft P.U.R.E. manufacturing technology reduces CO2 emission in our production by nearly 50%. Since 2015, nearly 95% of our sold insulation products contain greater than 50% recycled materials.”

What is exactly PrimaLoft Bio and is it actually biodegradable?
“PrimaLoft Bio is the first-ever biodegradable, 100% recycled synthetic insulation and fabric for apparel. Made entirely from post-consumer recycled material (PET bottles), PrimaLoft Bio fibres break down into natural elements, only when exposed to specific environments, like landfills, ocean- or wastewater.
When PrimaLoft Bio is exposed to those specific environments, naturally occurring microbes break down the fibres to their natural elements (water, CO2, methane, biomass and humus – a common component of potting soil), without leaving behind any harmful waste. And they will do so at a dramatically faster rate than standard polyester. In accelerated test conditions, PrimaLoft Bio fibres reach near complete biodegradation in under two years, while standard polyester remains almost completely intact.
The fibres remain highly durable throughout their usable life-cycle in a garment. Insulation and fabric made from PrimaLoft Bio fibres provide
the same high-quality performance as products with virgin polyester fibres – providing lightweight water resistance, warmth and comfortable protection for a variety of activities and weather conditions.
PrimaLoft Bio not only addresses
the global issue of microplastic in the ocean but it is also a sustainable solution for the inevitable end-life of a garment.”

Durability is one of the key elements of circularity. Are your fabrics today designed to be durable?
“Yes, they are. As we design most of our products to be used in harsh outdoor situations, they must be durable to withstand extreme weather conditions. Our products not only keep people warm, but are also compressible, water resistant, and easy to care for.
We also encourag
e the repair and reuse of garments, as often as possible, to give them a long life. But when the inevitable end of a garment’s life comes, we provide several solutions – from our polyester materials that can be reused in new garments through a circular economy, to our PrimaLoft Bio technology that degrades to natural elements in landfill and marine environments.”

Is PrimaLoft a net-zero emissions company?
“We are always working on reducing the carbon footprint of our company in all aspects – be it on the manufacturing side with innovations like PrimaLoft P.U.R.E., the use of renewable energy at manufacturing facilities, or the reduction of transport needed to ship our products through our flexible manufacturing model. We are not yet at the finish line but, our Relentlessly Responsible approach motivates us to work hard each day to get better.”