Activewear giant Lululemon has announced the launch of a shirt made from what it describes as plant-based nylon in partnership with sustainable materials firm Genomatica.
The new t-shirts, which come in styles for men and women, are in line with Lululemon’s aim to make its entire business sustainable by 2030.
Rather than using petroleum from coal, natural gas, or crude oil, Genomatica used biotechnology and fermentation to convert plant-based ingredients into the building blocks that make up nylon.
The new Lululemon shirts, named the “Metal Vent Tech Short-Sleeve Shirt” for men and “Swiftly Tech Short Sleeve” for women, will be made with biological-based microorganisms instead of fossil fuels. The two companies announced their partnership in 2021, following Lululemon’s equity investment in the biotechnology company.
The shirts, which will go on sale later this month, are made from 50 percent of biologically sourced nylon, 40 percent recycled polyester, and three percent elastane, with the elastane component made with 30 percent plant-based content.
“Today marks a major achievement: Biotechnology has successfully fermented plant sugars into the chemical building blocks used to make nylon, bringing to life a renewable, plant-based nylon,” Christophe Schilling, founder of Genomatica said in a statement.
“Plants take up CO2 from the air, and with sunlight providing energy, convert that into sugars, which can be collected and then fed into a Geno process,” Schilling told CNBC.
The nylon will offer at least a 50 percent reduction in carbon emissions, according to a preliminary life cycle analysis, the company says.
The announcement comes as the fashion industry faces increasing scrutiny for its contribution to global warming. The industry produces about ten percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, more than the aviation and maritime sectors.
Lululemon has made other efforts to replace materials linked to a larger carbon footprint. In 2022, it launched two bags made from mushroom leather in a bid to reduce its use of animal leather. The company switched to 100 percent renewable electricity in 2021, but a report found that its biggest challenge is with Scope 3 emissions, which still make up about 95 percent of its emissions.