Fashion brands now add technical functionalities; sportswear manufacturers becoming trendier in design
PrimaLoft, Inc., based in Latham, New York, claims to be a world leader in research and innovative development of comfort solutions with high performance insulations, fabrics and yarns. The brand is recognised today as a benchmark in the outdoor industry for providing unsurpassed comfort in any condition. The company is active in sustainable textile production through partnerships with the Swiss firm Bluesign Technologies AG; the International Association for Research and Testing in the Field of Textile and Leather Ecology (Oeko-Tex), a union of 18 independent textile research and test institutes in Europe and Japan; and the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, which offers Higg Index, a suite of assessment tools to measure environmental, social and labour impacts of companies. Jochen Lagemann, managing director of PrimaLoft's Europe and Asia operations, talks to Fibre2Fashion about the market for high performance eco-friendly fabrics.
Tell us something about PrimaLoft. How do you define comfort solutions?
We are a US-based materials science company with offices in Germany and China. We are a world leader in research and development of comfort solutions with high performance insulations, fabrics and yarns. We deliver feel-good products used in top global outdoor and fashion brands, home furnishings, workwear, hunting and military applications. We are recognised as a benchmark in the outdoor industry for providing unsurpassed comfort in any condition. Comfort for us means our users shouldn't be worried about getting wet or freezing. We also try to cultivate comfortable relationships with all our business partners.
It all started with serving the needs of the US army. Tell us about the journey so far?
Indeed, everything started with research for the US Army about 35 years ago. The brand PrimaLoft was born in 1988 and the first brand selling PrimaLoft insulated jackets was LL Bean in 1989. In the early 1990s, our synthetic alternatives to down feather were also used in sleeping bags, gloves and we entered the home furnishing market. Down is a layer of fine feathers found under the tougher exterior feathers of birds and is a fine thermal insulator and padding.
In 2000, we expanded to Europe and started selling special needled insulations for footwear. Our first yarn product with ultrafine fibres was launched in 2005 and was primarily used in socks. Adidas was the first brand to use it for base layer. In 2006, we developed the first eco product with recycled material and in 2010, our facilities turned Bluesign compliant for being environment-friendly. In the same year, we opened our sales and marketing office in Munich and have witnessed a much bigger market penetration and visibility since then.
In 2012, the PrimaLoft brand was separated from our mother company Albany International Corp and is now a completely independent company called PrimaLoft, Inc. After this, we pursued a re-branding strategy. In 2015, we opened our first Asian office in Xiamen to expand to Asia. We now have 20 manufacturing sites in America, Europe and Asia producing 100 product variants. We are working with more than 800 brand partners worldwide in different market segments, such as outdoor, sport, hunting, military, and fashion, and various product categories, like gloves, accessories, apparel, footwear, sleeping bags and home furnishing.
What are the latest trends and innovations ruling the comfort solutions market?
Our latest innovation is PrimaLoft Black Insulation ThermoPlume, a 'blowable' synthetic insulation having the fluidity, warmth, softness, aesthetics and performance traits of natural down. It can be used in existing down machines or blown into the channels of jackets and sleeping bags. It is water resistant with a lower price tag and carries no ethical or sourcing burden.
Our performance fabrics collection has also been diversified with sophisticated fabrics in different product series. We increased the percentage of recycled content in several products without compromising on the performance, which is a major trend in the textile world.
What type of partnership does PrimaLoft have with various brands?
We are working with over 800 brands worldwide. Partnership for us doesn't mean merely supplying products. We try to understand the needs of our partners and help them find the best possible product for their target customers with the right mix of high performance, extraordinary comfort and great style. Therefore, we regularly communicate with our partners. We are even developing special products with some of our clients.
We collaborate with many brands through marketing and PR communication to help them support their sell-in and sell-out. An example is our comprehensive marketing portal with access to marketing tools in all relevant languages with specified content. We also undertake brand-partnership-marketing and retail-marketing activities and clinic tours with retailers.
Apart from outdoor, you also have PrimaLoft for indoors. Which are the major brands and hotels you are working with?
We are working with several such brands in the home textile sector in the United States, Europe and Asia.
What according to you is 'authentic' eco-friendly clothing?
Sustainability and social responsibility are deeply ingrained in our corporate values, and therefore, we want to contribute through eco-friendly clothing in the market. We strive to reconcile top product performance with minimal adverse environmental impact while still maintaining economic viability. We focus on high-performing, durable products with a long life-cycle and incorporate maximum possible amount of recycled fibres. Our company's five-year sustainability goal includes having 90 per cent of our insulation products contain at least 50 per cent recycled materials with no loss in performance by 2020.
We also focus on efficient and responsible manufacturing processes throughout the supply chain and try to manufacture close to the sites of our customers to reduce impact from transportation.
Please enlighten us with your plans and activities for your company. What has your growth story been in the last five years and what is the target set for the next two?
We are working hard on our sustainability goals by expanding our line of performance fabric and yarn technologies and provide a wide range of products. Designers have clearer choices and increased resources to create unique, high-performing garments balancing comfort and performance. We are confident of growing in the fabric and yarn business in future.
Our products have turned more relevant to fashion brands over the last few years. As the intersection between sport and fashion has expanded steadily in recent years, fashion brands now add more technical functionalities and sportswear manufacturers are becoming trendier in design. This brings growth potential for both.
The workwear market, which was earlier primarily driven by price, is now opening up for functionality and longer life-cycles and that warrants quality improvement through technology. Other exciting innovations are in the pipeline as well. (RR)
Published on: 11/09/2017
DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of Fibre2Fashion.com.