This beauty and wellness brief was first reported and published by Digiday’s brother, Glossy.
Sportswear giants strive to both promote sustainability and deliver performance innovation. Adidas manages to do both and now lifts the curtain on its strategy with Terrex partner Spinnova.
Adidas announced the launch of the first sustainability-focused product in its outdoor adventure Terrex line in February. Called the HS1 hoodie, it’s made with regenerative fibers by Finnish materials company Spinnova. Materials made from regenerative fibers can be reused multiple times in a closed-loop system. Regenerative fibers have not yet established themselves in sportswear. However, other apparel companies like Calvin Klein and PVH parent company Tommy Hilfiger see its potential. PVH announced two months ago a partnership with regenerative company Infinited Fiber Company, which created Infinna Regenerative Fiber.
For sportswear companies, the use of regenerative fibers is particularly challenging, as it is essential to maintain both the performance qualities and the speed of production of the products. In 2021, Adidas announced a three-loop strategy centered on diverting plastic waste from the oceans and prioritizing regenerative processes and materials. “Our sustainability mission at the brand level, and not just at the Terrex level, is to help end plastic waste,” said Marwin Hoffmann, vice president of global outdoor marketing at Adidas. Nike, on the other hand, has focused more on keeping existing products in the loop with a dedicated refurbishment and trade-in program. However, there are rumors that Nike will soon be making regenerative sneakers with negative carbon material.
By the end of 2024, Adidas also wants to eliminate its use of virgin polyester. And the company wants to reduce its carbon footprint by 30% by 2030. According to the brand, its sustainability goals are very ambitious, which equates to big challenges that it cannot solve alone. So far, since starting his work with Spinnova six months ago, he has produced 1,500 HS1 jackets. Additional quantities will go on sale July 15.
“Adidas has a two-tiered strategy, when it comes to the ‘made with nature’ part of its regeneration plan. One is to invest heavily in innovation,” Hoffman said. we won’t be able to do it alone and that we need to partner with the best brands and minds on the outside – even sometimes with the competition, where we’re happy to race side by side with them to combat these sustainability challenges. In 2020, Adidas partnered with sneaker company Allbirds on a running shoe stamped with the amount of carbon created during its production.
The first 1,500 HS1 hoodies went to loyal Adiclub brand members who signed up for a waitlist in February and purchased them for $180. Adidas eventually hopes to expand its use of regenerative fibers across its entire product line. The hoodie contains only 25% Spinnova fibers, to ensure performance qualities are maintained, according to the company. “Because we are a sports company, we cannot sacrifice innovation for quality. On the outerwear side and on the Terrex side, the quality challenges and our ambitions are extremely high,” Hoffman said.
Spinnova fibers can be knitted and woven like cotton, but using them still requires a learning curve. Spinnova co-founder and CEO Janne Poranen taught Adidas supply chain partners how to work with the material. “All the fibers in the hoodie were produced through our pilot program; we are not in commercial production yet,” Poranen said. “Our first commercial pilot will begin at the end of this year. The goal now is to produce 1 million tonnes in volume over the next 10 years. Scaling up regenerative fibers, which will become easier to work with and improve in quality over time, will be key to Spinnova’s long-term success with big brands like Adidas.
As new technologies enable more innovation, mega-brands like Adidas will have to rethink the very definition of performance quality. “We need to challenge ourselves internally and as a company,” Hoffman said. “Are these Adidas quality standards, which have been around for maybe 5-10 years, going to have to be adapted in the future? Synthetic fibers have a very different feel and different moisture properties than these natural fibers. Even if you think of natural fibers like Spinnova’s, as the fiber is completely new to the market, there’s no benchmark against it,” Hoffman said.
Anne Nebendahl, senior design director at Adidas, noted that it’s not just the manufacturing processes that need to change, but also the brand’s thought processes. “We have to design a recyclable product that has to last but also take into account its end of life,” she said.
Adidas scored the highest of any sports brand in the Business of Fashion’s 2021 Sustainability Index. His hope is that brand collaborations, like his sneaker collaboration with Allbirds, and partnerships with companies like Spinnova and Parlay for the Oceans will give him a leg up in what has been called “positive competition.”