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Filling the sustainability gap in innerwear and intimates

By Partner


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Credits: Lenzing

In recent years, several fashion players have made strides in tackling the issues surrounding sustainability. However, one fashion category that seemed to have fallen behind was the intimate division - until recently, that is.

With mounting pressure from the public, government and industry peers, the fashion industry has been actively working to reduce its carbon impact while improving its effect on the environment. Leading apparel brands from Nike to Levi's have invested in new technologies to help streamline their supply chains and reduce their dependency on virgin resources. While apparel brands across the board have responded to the increasing needs for sustainable fashion, one category was at risk of being left out - intimates. Rather than focusing on sustainability, the intimates and innerwear sector turned its attention to other areas, such as diversity and inclusivity. US lingerie brand Victoria's Secret recently underwent a rebrand in an effort to shift its public image by including a wider selection of sizes and models, while lingerie brands such as Fenty and Aerie have been applauded and celebrated for their approach to diversity.

As lingerie remains a complex sector, with bras consisting of anywhere between 25 to 40 components, there has not been a lot of commercial interest in developing better, greener alternatives. This lack of innovation and demand, paired with the sector's tendency to resist change, has seen the intimate category remain somewhat stagnant when it comes to sustainability. But recently, several smaller players in the intimates sector have been taking steps to address issues concerning sustainability and fill the gap. Supported by new technologies from manufacturers, this ranges from adopting circular production processing, developing new fabrics and creating fully biodegradable underwear.

One of the first zero-waste bras on the market was The Very Good Bra, founded in Melbourne, Australia, in 2018. Completely made from natural components, from the sewing thread to the labelling, this brand started out on Kickstarter and has expanded its range to offer bras, underwear, sleep and loungewear that is 100% waste and toxin-free. Their bras and underwear are plastic-free, incorporating a range of sustainable materials, such as organic cotton, Cradle to Cradle certified TENCEL™ branded fibers and natural rubber. Based on circular botanical design, several of their intimates are also compostable and will break down in nature. Australian period and underwear brand Modibodi recently launched another development in biodegradable intimates.

To support the intimate sector in offering a broader selection of sustainable options, Lenzing’s TENCEL™ has worked with the fabric manufacturers such as LILA, the Turkey mill, to develop the gorgeous lace fabrics. Recently, one of our brand partners, Italian sustainable label CasaGin, has created a collection of intimate wear with biodegradable lace. Utilizing new yarn technology to ensure the eco-lace maintains the same durability and quality as its other garments, this sustainable fabric is fully compostable in a period under the right conditions. In addition, Lenzing offers TENCEL™ branded modal fibres produced with its Micro technology to provide a great blended option to polyester and conventional cotton. Exceptionally light, soft and certified biobased manufactured in an environmentally responsible production process, these fibres are ideal for the production of intimates and loungewear.

Credits: Lenzing

Another innovative development that can help the intimate sector with its sustainable journey is Kindly's padded bra-cups made from sugarcane. This plant-based bra developed by US manufacturer Gelmart uses sugarcane foam rather than synthetic foam in the bra cup. Wireless and supportive, this bra was created for Walmart and is available in various sizes.

While there is yet much work to be done regarding sustainability within the fashion industry, these brands and developments are helping encourage more innovation in a sector poised for change.

Sustainable Fashion