Sustainability & the Domestic Supply Chain: The Lycra Company


Sustainability Director Jean Hegedus explains what gives  The LYCRA Company an advantage in eco-friendly production. Hear more from her and other industry experts during a special webinar on sustainability hosted by NCTO at 10am on Feb. 15. 

This special event is scheduled for 10 am on Wednesday, February 15, and will feature a panel of industry experts from Unifi, BASF, The LYCRA Company, and Origin USA. 

Register today at: lnkd.in/e5FHU2eD

Sustainability & the Domestic Supply Chain Webinar Teaser

Gherzi USA’s Bob Antoshak will moderate NCTO’s latest upcoming webinar titled “Sustainability & the Domestic Supply Chain: Mitigating Production Impacts from Fibers to Finished Goods.”

This special event is scheduled for 10 am on Wednesday, February 15, and will feature a panel of industry experts from Unifi, BASF, The LYCRA Company, and Origin USA. 

Register today at: lnkd.in/e5FHU2eD

Fashion’s environmental governance begins with nearshoring and onshoring

If the US fashion industry shifts to onshoring and nearshoring it will reap the benefits from both a business and environmental point of view, writes National Council of Textile Organizations (NCTO)’s Kimberly Glas in https://www.just-style.com/.

Decisions made decades ago have come back to haunt the fashion industry when it comes to environmental governance. About 30 years ago, free trade dogma took hold in our industry and the halls of government. New trade agreements were negotiated. The World Trade Organisation was established, and China was rewarded with Permanent Normal Trade Relations with the United States. Consequently, business was globalised, while economies became evermore intertwined.

In the case of textiles and apparel, offshoring was all the rage. Many sourcing executives scoured developing countries looking for the lowest-cost producers to make their products with a fierce competition that was a race to the bottom for fast, disposable fashion. But lost in all of this were domestic manufacturers and labour and environmental standards necessary to ensure a sustainable supply chain.

However, globalisation brought unforeseen consequences such as well-documented environmental harm, lax overseas labour standards, and a hollowing-out of the middle class here at home and in developed economies — actual costs with real implications for people everywhere.

The fashion industry — from material sourcing, through supply chains to washing and waste — is estimated to be responsible for 8% to 10% of global carbon emissions according to the United Nations.

But what can the industry do? The entire sourcing system needs to be overhauled. Changing times like those in which we live demands no less.

To real the full piece, please click the link here.

 

 

Applied DNA Sciences: DNA Technology & Tagging Shines the Light on Trade Rule Evasion and Labor Abuse in Supply Chains

In this new era of heightened scrutiny around illegal trade practices such as the widespread use of forced labor in Xinjiang, China and the ongoing circumvention of U.S. trade laws, Applied DNA Sciences stands at the forefront of innovation with DNA technology solutions that offer supply chain authentication.

A publicly traded company listed on the NASDAQ, Applied DNA is a new NCTO member company that has developed forensic solutions for secure supply chain traceability and brand protection, says MeiLin Wan, Vice President of Textile Sales at Applied DNA.

To watch short video on Applied DNA Sciences, click here.

The company is headquartered in Stony Brook Long Island, New York, and works in many different U.S. industries including textiles such as cotton, recycled polyester, specialty coatings, thread, apparel and footwear, as well as nutritional and pharmaceuticals, personal care and printing.

Wan says the company’s supply chain traceability solutions and forensic testing support clients in relation to verifying and preventing circumvention of the yarn forward rule of origin in free trade agreements, around issues related to complying with the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, (UFLPA) and in issues pertaining to Made in America regulations.

Applied DNA’s forensic analysis and DNA tagging has become all the more critical in the wake of heightened government scrutiny of abhorrent conditions and forced labor practices in Xinjiang, China, and the abuse of Uyghur Muslim minorities in internment camps forced to make apparel, footwear and other consumer products for scores of global companies.

See a recent op-ed by Applied DNA Sciences CEO James Hayward, “Stopping Uyghur Forced Labor Imports: A Made-in-America Solution,” in Sourcing Journal here.

In addition to partnering with commercial brands and companies, Applied DNA is also a federal and New York state contractor. The company also provides COVID PCR testing for public universities such as the City University of New York (CUNY) and the State University of New York (SUNY) Stony Brook, and private industry.

 

NCTO sat down with MeiLin Wan for a Q&A to discuss the ever- growing importance of traceability in supply chains in light of stepped up enforcement of goods made with forced labor and ongoing scrutiny of trade rule circumvention.

NCTO: In a climate of heightened scrutiny of illegal trade practices and labor abuses in the global supply chain, how important are your services and what do you provide?

WAN: Applied DNA provides secure supply chain traceability solutions as well as forensic testing support for clients specifically in relation to the yarn forward rule of origin, as well issues relate to the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act and other Made in America regulations.

Some of the material we work with and do testing for includes cotton, recycled polyester, leather, down and feather, and specialty coatings. We also provide advanced identification solutions for sew and embroidery thread.

You can see there is wide range of different security and authenticity applications related to the use of our platform technology, which we call “CertainT”. Because there is so much uncertainty in supply chains today, the platform was aptly named “CertainT” to provide traceability transparency and trust within supply chains at any point in the supply chain in any area of textiles.

Applied DNA is a U.S. federal contractor. We also are a contractor for New York state. We provide tens of thousands of PCR test that include DNA authentication services as well as provide COVID PCR diagnostic testing in large scale.

NCTO: Can you highlight one important aspect of NCTO that is critical to advance your interests and efforts, as well as that of the U.S. textile industry?

WAN: One important is to have a system to enable companies to differentiate themselves through the use of DNA, specifically DNA tagging. This is an area that we have been working on for over 20 years in terms of developing a way to be able say “It’s my DNA tag that is used for my brand, for my products and for my supply chain.”

We believe that by working with NCTO and its members we can provide a way for a. differentiation and b. to be able to secure the materials that are made and developed in the U.S. so that when they come back into the U.S. there’s a way to verify those products, and also enforce the trade rules that relate to the product coming back into the U.S.

NCTO: Our membership is largely comprised of U.S.-based companies employing U.S. workers. Why is it important for domestic manufacturers to trace their supply chains, as opposed to importers? Why are your services important to our members?

WAN: It is important for domestic suppliers and brands to use a system like ours. The number one reason is to protect brands and their good will. That can be in the form of intellectual property. So, for example you might have a specialty coating or fiber that you created and developed here in the U.S. If you are able to tag your materials, that provides you a way to verify that a. this is how it started and b. this is how it ends up in different materials and production.

 

It is the first line of defense, and it is also the best offense to be able to have a system that is based in DNA technology that is forensic.

The second biggest issue is portable testing. As we know, with COVID PCR tests, the time it takes to do a COVID test is now 5-10 minutes. It is really fast. It can be done at a doctor’s office.

With textiles, we believe that mills using our system can take accountability and do the testing themselves. We can train them on how to test materials they have tagged and also test them in the field.

That’s the power of technology to provide a. more intelligence and information and, b., put the accountability back on the supply chain. Yes, auditing is good, but it is better that you know what is going on in your supply chain.

NCTO: Is the biggest challenge addressing trade rule circumvention or labor abuses in terms of adoption of traceability systems in the supply chain?

WAN: I think the biggest challenge is that brands and manufacturers need to recognize is the importance of being able to prove the origin of their products and take the necessary steps to implement and adopt a platform like ours.

I think it is at very high level. It’s a strategic decision that has to be made by organizations to adopt the fact that that we need a system to provide due diligence, not just to prove it is a product made here in the U.S., but also to be able be sure it isn’t blended with, for example, cotton from Xinjiang. It’s not good if it starts off well in the U.S. and ends up being blended and defrauded somewhere else and comes back as not a very pure product.

I think that adoption is linked to the culture and goals of the organization and their decision to really support the claims that they are making.

NCTO: What are the top challenges your firm sees in traceability and in the application of DNA tagging for the U.S. textile industry this year?

WAN: There are a few key challenges for the industry this year, specifically related to the use of raw materials from countries that don’t qualify for rules of origin, with regards to yarn forward. Specifically, how do you prove that raw materials really did originate from the U.S. and did not contain material from a non-qualifying region like China?

The number one challenge is really yarn forward rule of origin compliance. How do we help U.S. yarn and fabric producers identify products that may not be qualifying from other regions. Secondly, the use of Xinjiang cotton and other materials from forced labor countries. Applied DNA has had a number of discussions with CBP about DNA traceability technology; how you prove that the cotton does not come from Xinjiang. We can also help NCTO members in assuring their supply chains are free from forced labor regions using cotton or viscose or other materials.

There are challenges but we also believe there are opportunities to set the record straight, to have good system in place for due diligence, and a good system in place to support your claims you are making about your product.

 

We always say: “If you claim it, you own it.”

This coming year in 2023, you should be seeing more companies coming out and explaining how they go about proving their claims and also protecting their brands.

NCTO: Are you finding that brands and retailer are more receptive to this with the enactment of UFLPA?

WAN: Yes, brands and manufacturers are more receptive to using DNA traceability technology more than they were maybe 10-year ago. I think UFLPA has accelerated the adoption and willingness to be more compliant,

But I also think that with new regulation there is opportunity to use technology such as ours to differentiate yourself in the market, and the companies that are ahead of the curve are thinking that. They are thinking much longer term.

How do I use technology like this to prove multiple things like sustainability without greenwashing or using cotton without forced labor?

I think there are a lot of companies trying to use blockchain as the basis for how they do their traceability and tracking. Blockchain is a tool like anything else but doesn’t necessarily provide you the raw data as to the actual product itself, so you could have a fraudulent blockchain just like the FTX of the cryptocurrency situation that blew up. The basis for that blowup is the fact there was no basis or infrastructure for the value of any of the assets of materials behind it.

So, if you don’t have data and you don’t have integrity on actual products in the supply chain then what do you have is another crypto system for blockchain. I know that it seems easy to say, “I have a traceable system,” but when something is too good to be true, it usually is.”

We have been doing traceability and authentication for 17 years and understand what is required to actually prove your claims of the source of your materials.

There is no substitute for actually being on the ground, going to a mill to see how cotton is produced and following that cotton or recycled polyester from beginning all the way to the end.

We hope that through working in collaboration with NCTO and its membership that there is way to communicate that message, of fiber to finished goods, in a very strong and cohesive way, because it affects policy and it affects the enforcement of trade rules and regulations.

NCTO: CBP issued a withhold release order (WRO) on cotton products and Congress followed by passing the UFLPA.  Is this the first time seen in 17 years or longer that this kind of attention is being paid to forced labor? Do you feel it is a new era in terms of how the U.S. Government polices this?

WAN: Yes, I Think it is a new era. It is a paradigm shift in the way you communicate and support your claims. Because it is so easy for anyone to do a search on the internet to fact check and see that what you are saying.

So, there’s so much more scrutiny in terms of if how you make a claim about a material. You can’t just say because I am this brand and so loved by children all over the world that I’m above the rules about safety and the use of forced labor in my supply chain.

 

There is no brand that is immune to scrutiny related to any number of human and environmental issues.

I think that this new era of closer scrutiny and information sharing also puts a higher standard of care and fiduciary responsibility on companies. It is so different now.

It comes back to: “If you claim it, you own it.” Every day now some company is being brought out by an NGO or consumer to prove a claim for a 100 percent sustainable jean, for example. As a company or brand, you can’t say, “I had a great marketing campaign,” or “I’m well-known brand and you should believe what I say is true. “Those days are over.”

NCTO: Circumvention of rules of origin have been a big issue. Do you expect more attention to be paid to forced labor in light of the UFLPA legislation than to circumvention of rules of origin?

WAN: I actually think circumvention of rules of origin is somewhat related to forced labor issues. Because if you are already circumventing rules of origin in a different country like China, then there is a high likelihood you will be circumventing UFLPA and using Xinjiang cotton.

Even though legislatively, they may be independent, in practice I actually think they’re not. If you are going to cheat, you are going to cheat. It doesn’t matter what legislation you are trying to get around.

Cheating has no boundaries. That is the whole idea behind it. This is where technology could be helpful. Because not only can you know where it comes from but you can also find out if, for example, you tag something and it ends up in a location where it should not be. That also gives you intelligence about what is happening in the supply chain. We are trying to help provide more intelligence and take out the guesswork in terms of what is going on in the supply chain.

NCTO Member Spotlight: American Giant

NCTO member American Giant celebrates its 10-year anniversary as a 100% #Made-in-USA #apparel #manufacturer! Their 100% #domestic supply chain features leading US yarn and textile manufacturers, such as Parkdale Mills Clover Knits and Carolina Cotton Works.

www.american-giant.com

 

NCTO New Member: Applied DNA Sciences

NCTO welcomes its newest member Applied DNA Sciences. Applied DNA provides secure supply chain traceability solutions and forensic testing support that allows companies to verify and differentiate the authenticity of their products. https://adnas.com/

US nearshoring vision closer than ever on global supply chain snafu

A recent documentary has explored US nearshoring, and Kristi Ellis, VP of communications at the National Council of Textile Organisations (NCTO) believes it is closer than ever to becoming a reality, but policy is needed to secure its long term sustainability. (Read the column on Just Style here.)

By Guest Author

Nearshoring, probably a pipe dream for many US brands just a short while ago, is now closer than ever.

The Financial Times and its global business columnist, Rana Foroohar, have produced one of the most honest and accurate portrayals of the adverse effects of globalisation on US textile manufacturing over the past two decades, while capturing the industry’s current renaissance in the wake of the Covid pandemic.

In this documentary film entitled “Manufacturing in America, postglobalisation,” Foroohar looks at why the US should bring manufacturing jobs back home and highlights the existing textile industry which has played an instrumental role in supplying thousands of products for all industrial segments, the military, consumer market, and personal protective equipment (PPE) to the public and private sector.

In the second of three films, based on her new book, “Homecoming: The Path to Prosperity in a Post-Global World,” Foroohar follows the all-American supply chain of clothing company American Giant to see how it impacts jobs, businesses and communities.

American Giant CEO and founder Bayard Winthrop, Parkdale chairman and CEO Anderson Warlick, Carolina Cotton Works president Bryan Ashby, and National Council of Textile Organizations (NCTO) president and CEO Kim Glas, among others are all featured in the newly release film.

“I wanted to make this film about US manufacturing, because I believe that we are at a turning point. Since the 1980s manufacturing jobs have plummeted. In the constant drive to make things cheap, factories and jobs were moved overseas. Textiles were hit especially hard,” Foroohar says in the opening of the film. “But I want to show you how post pandemic there is a new regionalisation of industry taking place. And jobs are starting to move back. It’s about being focused not on what is cheapest but about creating better jobs for local communities.”

Globalisation’s impact and the China Effect

 The film opens in a cotton field in North Carolina and takes us on a US manufacturing journey stretching from the field to all points in the production chain and finally to a store shelf in New York.

It is a narrative within a broader narrative about how “prioritising efficiency over resilience, and profits over local prosperity, has produced massive inequality, persistent economic insecurity and distrust in our institutions,” which was expertly outlined in Foroohar’s new book.

Foroohar provides new arguments on why a post-global industrial strategy is needed and the “rise of local, regional and homegrown business is now at hand.”

Thirty years ago, the US was leading the textile sector, Foroohar explains in the film, but globalisation advocates and forces coupled with other seismic international trade actions, such as China’s accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO), exacted a heavy toll on the US manufacturing sector.

“What we were told was that we needed to normalise our relationship with China so that they would play by the rules,” says Glas in the film. “So their accession to the WTO, granting them Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) status — there’s nothing normal about it. We have suffered greatly.”

On globalisation and China’s accession to the WTO former US trade representative ambassador Robert Lighthizer notes: “There was this kind of hubris that the world had changed and that market forces forever now were going to move us in the direction of economic growth and freedom throughout the world and all these notions, which were lovely except they just don’t exist.”

Foroohar notes that many in the US manufacturing sector “feel that free trade was never really free, because it didn’t account for the lower labour and environmental standards that allowed a lot of countries overseas to make things more cheaply.”

“Free trade is about price optimisation and consumption,” Lighthizer says. “I think the important thing is production. Production leads to good jobs, good wages and solid fundamental American communities.”

Lighthizer believes the drive to globalisation saw the US effectively giving away its prosperity, Foroohar notes.

“If there is a sacrifice of a price of a T-shirt or your third television set, in order to have strong communities in America, that’s the sacrifice that I’m willing to make,” Lighthizer adds.

On globalisation and access to US markets, Parkdale chairman and CEO Anderson Warlick notes: “This is the largest economy in the world and the price of admission is not that high and it should be. They should pay their share just like every American taxpayer.”

It’s like letting other athletes start a 100-metre race closer to the finish line, she says citing Warlick.

“Competition is good and Americans thrive on competition. Now free trade? That’s a unicorn I’ve been chasing for 30 years, trying to find anybody in the world that practiced it,” Warlick says. My best way of describing it is, it’s economic treason.”

Resurgence of resilient nearshoring US textile supply chain

 Yet, even as companies rushed to offshore production, gutting the US manufacturing sector’s workforce, a core industry remained here and thrived.

The film focuses on one US company’s perseverance and success, under the leadership of American Giant’s CEO Winthrop.

“The original idea behind the company was to reclaim the very high quality American-made stuff. I had felt that… the care and the passion and skill and craft and work that goes into making a product was not just important from an understanding about how you build quality product but emotionally important and societally important,” Winthrop says.

“The idea that there isn’t a good textile capability in the United States anymore is nonsense.”

Foroohar observes that American Giant’s supply chain encompasses cotton gins, mills, knitting and sewing factories all within a 120-mile radius.

“That not only cuts down on shipping costs. It also means he knows his clothing is in line with American environmental and labour standards.

For Bayard, it’s about keeping relationships and expertise close to home.”

Winthrop embraces that proximity to the entire supply chain, noting that standing in a cotton field talking to farmers about varietals and crop production is critical. “It’s creating that connection to the men and women involved in highly complicated processes of making the things we consume today.”

For Parkdale Mills, a major cotton yarn spinner and supplier to American Giant, “it’s all about being able to compete in a global marketplace, leveraging efficient production in the US to go up against the cheap cost of labour overseas,” Foroohar explains.

“We invest heavily in technology to create better efficiencies, to create better quality, roughly US$500m in the last 10 years to create more automation to have the latest, greatest equipment to prepare the fibre and to spin the yarn,” says Davis Warlick, executive vice president of Parkdale.

Warlick adds, “We are constantly striving to make things more automated in order to compete, I think that’s been one of the reasons we are still here.”

Cautious optimism prevails in the US textile industry. The pandemic and ensuing global supply chain crisis has turned the long-standing global sourcing paradigm on its head, forcing retailers and brands to diversify out of China and move production closer to home. And that is driving a renewed sense of optimism.

But Bryan Ashby, president of Carolina Cotton Works, stresses that policymakers must provide a long-term commitment to building the domestic supply chain.

“It’s great for a politician to stand in front of a microphone and say: ‘Let’s bring jobs back to America,’ but show us the commitment by giving us some sort of reason to believe that 18 months from now the narrative doesn’t flip and we all of a sudden want to sell industries out.”

One need look no further than the latest US government trade data as evidence that onshoring and nearshoring is ticking upward.

“We have seen historic investment in the US textile production chain as well as in our Central America free trade agreement partners, including Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador,” Glas said. “We expect over $1bn of new investment to go into Central America this year alone for textiles. That’s an indication the world’s changed.”

About the author: Kristi Ellis is vice president of communications at the National Council of Textile Organizations (NCTO). The NCTO is an association that is the voice of the entire spectrum of the textile industry. There are four separate councils that comprise the NCTO leadership structure, and each council represents a segment of the textile industry and elects its own officers who make up NCTO’s board of directors.

NCTO New Member: Richloom

NCTO welcomes its newest member, Richloom. Richloom is a global, multi-faceted textile and finished goods company supplying customers from upholstery, decorative jobbers, hospitality, over-the-counter retail to finished product. 

Talk Textiles: NCTO & WPRC Discuss the HOPR Act

This video on the Homeland Procurement Reform Act (HOPR Act), which was produced by NCTO in collaboration with the Warrior Protection & Readiness Coalition (WPRC), provides an overview of the HOPR Act as it relates to the domestic textile and apparel industry.

The Homeland Procurement Reform Act (HOPR Act, H.R. 2915), encourages domestic sourcing and “aims to support U.S. small businesses by increasing the ability of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to purchase high-quality, American-made uniforms and personal protective equipment for frontline personnel.” Specifically, HOPR would require domestic procurement of the following items:

  • Uniforms and footwear provided as part of a uniform
  • Holsters and tactical pouches
  • Patches, insignia, and embellishments
  • Chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear protective gear
  • Body armor components intended to provide ballistic protection for an individual, consisting of 1 or more of the following:
    • Soft ballistic panels
    • Hard ballistic plates
    • Concealed armor carriers worn under a uniform
    • External armor carriers worn over a uniform
  • Any other item of clothing or protective equipment as determined appropriate by the Secretary

Further, these new requirements extend to each of the following agencies at the Department of Homeland Security:

  • U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
  • U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
  • The United States Secret Service
  • The Transportation Security Administration
  • The Coast Guard
  • The Federal Protective Service
  • The Federal Emergency Management Agency
  • The Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers
  • The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency

For complete details, please see a link to the HOPR Act fact sheet from the House Committee on Homeland Security.

NCTO is actively working with Congress to ensure that HOPR will be included in the 2023 NDAA (see attached joint letter to Senate and House leaders). The 2023 NDAA is expected to gain approval at the end of the year and go into effect 180 days after its approval.

Valdese Weavers: Taking Sustainability to the Next Level

Valdese Weavers has been working with recycled yarns for nearly 20 years but in a bid to elevate its sustainability profile, the company turned to the SEAQUAL INITIATIVE based in Spain.

A leading fabric and textile producer that has been manufacturing residential and contract textiles for the furniture market in the foothills of North Carolina for more than 100 years, Valdese Weavers is widely considered to be an industry leader for designing and innovatively weaving beautiful decorative fabrics.

While the company takes pride in being a Made-in-USA manufacturer, one of its loftier goals has been to minimize its impact on the environment and the planet’s natural resources.

Valdese Weavers has used yarns recycled from plastic bottles for the past two decades to produce its environmentally-conscious products, especially in its contract division, but company officials began searching a few years ago for new ways to expand their sustainability efforts and achieve more innovative, sustainably-minded solutions to attack the existing problem of ocean pollution.

Fast forward to today and the journey has led Valdese to a dizzying array of new initiatives, including: a licensing arrangement with a Spanish non-profit organization named the SEAQUAL INITIATIVE; the launch of a new line of performance fabrics made from recycled ocean fabrics, InsideOut Performance Fabrics®; a collaboration with an award-winning artist; and a museum exhibit that opened on Friday (Nov. 4) at the Hickory Museum of Art in Hickory, N.C.

“We have been trying to find next steps of sustainability in terms of materials for several years,” says Christy Almond, vice president of product development and marketing at Valdese Weavers. “We have said ‘no’ to a lot of product material ideas that did not have an authentic story or durability, did not meet where we felt industry was headed, had inconsistent supply chains, or the price was out of line.”

In 2018, Valdese discovered the SEAQUAL INITIATIVE. After studying the non- profit organization’s mission, Almond says Valdese determined it could “take our recycling story to the next level.”

This organization founded on creating a collaborative community against pollution has brought together an extensive network of individuals, organizations, and companies “working together to help clean our oceans, raise awareness of the issue of marine litter and highlight those helping to fight it.”

“Their goal is to organize the individual organizations, cleanup committees and fishermen to bring their cleanup efforts together to incentivize them, clean up oceans, collect ocean trash, and use collective power to go to recycling agencies to process products and sort through it to use materials that can ultimately be upcycled,” Almond explains.

To view the entire process—from collection of ocean plastic waste to the production of the end product of Valdese Inside Out Performance fabrics, click here.

“When we met with SEAQUAL before COVID they were in 42 countries and now they are in 60 countries,” Almond says. “The amount of waste and upcycled materials has dramatically increased. We know they are making a difference.”

SEAQUAL has processed 600 tons of marine litter from the ocean. Of that total, the organization has transformed 200 tons of plastic into upcycled marine plastic and yarn for companies like Valdese to use.

“They actually embed the yarn with tracers, so that they know it is authentic. They are very serious about that process and they have certification at each of the steps in the supply chain that companies must adhere to,” Almond says. “As their network cleanup committees and processing grows, we are hoping that is going to continue to increase as more material becomes available.”

Hundreds of global brands and retailers are listed as licensing partners with SEAQUAL on its website, including such well-known retailers as American Eagle Outfitters, Bed Bath and Beyond, and Ikea.

“We had seen a lot of different ocean plastic stories out there. No one had this multi-faceted story about cleaning up the ocean, upcycling and properly disposing of the trash,” she said. “It’s one thing to sift through and take out the parts that you want, but you are not really making a difference.”

SEAQUAL, on the other hand, properly disposes of the ocean materials that are not recyclable.

“Taking on new yarn SKUs is an investment. To meet their 20 percent content, we had to invest in the right tools to get that content assured. In terms of raw materials, we felt like it was in line with our existing cost structure,” Almond notes.

Valdese Weaver’s goal is to expand development with SEAQUAL and bring awareness to the initiative and “challenge our industry to think about sustainable materials.”

“Just regular upcycled plastic is not enough,” Almond notes. “How do we move this journey forward? More needs to be done.”

One way to move the story forward is to partner with an award-winning artist and amplify the story to the public.

SEAQUAL and Valdese Featured in Museum Exhibit

That’s just what Valdese and SEAQUAL have done.

Valdese is collaborating with MacArthur Genius Award winning artist, Mel Chin, as part of an exhibit at the Hickory Museum of Art in Hickory, N.C. “to promote the power of design to fuel change in our industry.”

Chin, an ecologically and environmentally-minded artist, has been behind projects seeking to raise awareness on issues such as contaminated soil in New Orleans and abandoned homes in Detroit.

The Hickory Museum of Art has opened a new exhibit highlighting the problem of ocean pollution, in conjunction with an experiential exhibit, SEA to SEE, that has been created by Chin and is housed at the Mint Museum in Charlotte.

The Valdese exhibit at the Hickory Museum showcases the company’s partnership with the SEAQUAL INITIATIVE and explains how the company and the furniture industry is working together to help solve the problem of ocean pollution.

“We bring so many people through our facility to train them on the textile process, including salespeople with furniture manufacturers, furniture dealers, and large-scale retailers. These are big companies that are trying to help their sales team understand how to sell fabrics. I thought it would be great to connect our SEAQUAL story with what is happening at the museum and tell a bigger picture story about how the industry is using design to propel change,” Almond says.

“Textiles get a bad rap, not just in terms of manufacturing, especially if you’ve grown up in a textile town. You’ve seen and heard people lose jobs that go to China, or say that furniture is not a reliable career, or that furniture is not an innovative industry,” she adds.

“We wanted this exhibit to highlight technology and design and innovation and cool things happening in this community that are impacting not just Hickory but the United States.”