A 100% recyclable clothing collection

Photo by allison christine on Unsplash

Napapijri Circular Series A 100% recyclable clothing collection

What if waste was not a problem, but the starting point for the way we design and construct garments”

Elisabetta Baronio, VF Corporation.

The Italian premium outdoor fashion brand owned by VF Corporation, has designed a 100% recyclable collection. The products are 100% mono-material, meaning all components (fabrics, zippers, etc.) are made with the same material, Nylon. The main fabric is made with recycled Nylon (Econyl), whereas the trims and filling are made with Nylon 6.

The company’s collections include outerwear that merge fashion and function through a focus on design, sustainability, and innovation. Producing this type of garment made from complex materials and weather-proofing chemicals can generate high volumes of waste and pose a threat to the natural world. To overcome this challenge, Napapijri has fundamentally re-imagined both their design process and the jackets themselves.

100% recyclable circular rainforest jacket
100% recyclable circular rainforest jacket

Why it’s an example of the circular economy

In our current economy, less than 1% of clothes are recycled into new textiles or garments. Most are downcycled into lower value uses like insulation, before being incinerated or landfilled.

The reasons for this miniscule proportion varies across different apparel segments. For jackets and other outerwear, a major contributing factor is the complexity of the product. A typical jacket contains 25 components such as the outer shell, zip, buttons, filler and so on. Many of these components are also made up of different material types. The challenge of separating these components and materials is a major hurdle for recycling.

For their Circular Series of jackets, Napapijri has greatly simplified the design so that the entire jacket - fabric, filling and trimmings - is manufactured using one material: Nylon 6, making the product durable, high performing but also easily recyclable.

The development process for the jacket assemblage was particularly long and challenging as a number of components had to be designed from scratch, for example the insulation material and zips.

From an environmental perspective, the choice of Nylon 6 means that the jacket is a ‘material bank’ for the future, serving as a resource when the product is no longer in use and thus contributing to both reduced waste and less reliance on virgin feedstocks.

The Circular Series collection has earned Napapijri a Gold Level Cradle2Cradle product certification, the most rigorous standard for circular, safe and responsible products.
The Circular Series collection has earned Napapijri a Gold Level Cradle2Cradle product certification, the most rigorous standard for circular, safe and responsible products.

Promoting recycling through product registration

To ensure that the garments are returned for recycling at the end of their life, customers who buy a Circular Series jacket are encouraged to register their product online. After a minimum period of 2 years, the owner can then return the jacket, and get 20% off another product.

The old jackets are chemically-recycled using a depolymerization process, by partner company Aquafil, who transforms them back into a recycled Nylon 6 yarn called Econyl ® The regenerated Nylon is then ready to be used for the production of new Circular Series Jackets, closing the loop in the product journey.

“Changing customer demands may be the most powerful influence in shifting fashion brands and retailers, and those that do not respond quickly enough risk being left behind” - The State of Fashion.

- McKinsey (2019)

Building brand loyalty

In recent years more and more customers are becoming aware of ‘fashion’s dirty secrets’ and make purchasing decisions that reflect their ethical values and environmental concerns.

Nature-loving millennials, many of whom favour experiences over material accumulation, will be swayed by the environmental credentials of their purchases. They want to experience the outdoors without contributing to its demise. Designs based on holistic, circular economy principles, are therefore appealing to this demographic. The digital take back scheme, further enhances brand loyalty, as Napapirji and the customer enter a long-term relationship, through an incentivised future connection point.

Prices expected to fall

Napapirji’s circular jackets are expensive, reflecting the time and resources that have gone into the complex development process and the relatively small production volume. Over time as demand increases and production efficiencies improve, the price is expected to fall. Meanwhile those who are lucky enough to own a jacket, can be confident that they can look great, keep warm and know that they are contributing to making fashion a little more circular.

Product Variations: (as of December 2020)

  • Napapijri Circular Rainforest / Circular Rainforest
  • Napapijri Circular Puffer / Circular Puffer
  • Napapijri Circular Anorak / Circular Anorak

Further info

  • How Fashion brands are rethinking creativity with circular design - video
  • Napapijri Circular Series - video

Case study first published June 2021

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