The adidas Sustainability Series
Recycling is a way of life in Germany. Recyclable packaging is a given across a huge range of products and sorting garbage is a daily ritual in homes. This simple act of choosing what bin to put plastic, paper and bio waste in was the inspiration for the first piece of recyclable clothing at adidas.
“As Germans, we love to recycle,” says Birgit Freundorfer, Design Director at adidas Outdoor. “If I buy bread and there’s a paper side and a plastic side of the wrap, I will take them apart. The same with glass. We have separate trash bins for green, white and brown glass.”
In 2019, Birgit teamed up with Julie Gretton, Director Development, to see how adidas Outdoor could take up the creation challenge of recyclable clothing. “We asked ourselves how we can be purists and use as few materials as possible,” explains Julie.
Sticking with the glass bottles analogy, unlike other jackets, there’s only ‘white glass’ in the FUTURECRAFT.LOOP Anorak. Only one type of polyester. This concept is called mono-material. While the advantage of recycling polyester is that we reduce plastic pollution, Birgit and Julie wanted to go beyond using recycled materials. Because even if 100% of materials are recycled, the product eventually ends up in a landfill. That is why the mono-material approach was chosen as it can be made into a new product completely.
Using the adidas sustainability support system
At adidas we’ve committed to help end plastic waste and, by 2024, we’ll eliminate virgin polyester in our products completely. To achieve these goals, innovation is essential.
Returning to the basics. Forgetting everything you think you know about being progressive, especially when it comes to recyclable clothing.
Julie and Birgit were inspired by the exciting sustainability journey adidas is on. In 2015 the world’s first running shoe made from marine plastic waste, adidas x Parley was presented at the United Nations.
This set in motion a hunger for creating never-before-seen sustainable concepts and the adidas Three Loop Strategy supporting circularity. The FUTURECRAFT.LOOP shoe in 2019 was next, made from one material.
Unlearn to innovate recyclable clothing
The concept of recyclable clothing started to come into the picture when Julie and Birgit began to work on a new sustainable insulation material together with PrimaLoft. “Putting this new technology into a normal jacket seemed like a missed opportunity,” Julie says. “So, we thought about what we could do differently.”
When you look at the materials that make up an insulated jacket, you typically have about 15 or 16 different components.
This mindset and strategy of unlearning sparked the award-winning first reusable outerwear prototype from adidas Terrex the FUTURECRAFT.LOOP Anorak. The first adidas piece inspired by recyclable clothing scooped the Gold Award at the 2020 ISPO Convention and staked adidas’ position as an industry leader in sustainable innovation.
The invisible sustainability behind the FUTURECRAFT.LOOP Anorak
Getting back to basics also removed a lot of additional pollutants and resources from the production and supply chain.
“We cut out the dyeing process completely. All materials are in their natural color appearance. What looks like coloration on the jacket is laser etching, it’s basically just burned in. “Removing the dyeing process means we save a lot of energy and water,” Birgit says.
Julie goes on to explain how this piece of clothing has no zippers or fasteners. “Purely by having a fewer number of components, we require less shipping, just think about all the transportation and production emissions that we save. It’s the small details, unnoticeable to the average consumer, that can make a major difference.”
The result of this new way of thinking, designing, and challenging the norm is the FUTURECRAFT.LOOP Anorak made out of one material that can be turned into a new yarn and created again. This sets a vision for a future in which products never have to go to waste, but can be returned and reconstructed into new product.
Creating a new sustainability norm
Just as we question the packaging we are buying and recycling in our homes on a daily basis, at adidas sustainability is becoming the filter through which we innovate.
Julie: “This jacket is really the story that starts your head thinking, ‘Shall we always have fabric blends and material blends? Just because it’s possible, is it the right thing to do?’”
Birgit: “Yes, it’s at least that subtle thought asking, ‘Do I really need that?’”
As the first FUTURECRAFT.LOOP Anoraks reach our outdoor partners, the Loop shoe is already in its 3rd generation of ‘Made to be Remade’ models.
While at adidas, Birgit, Julie and teams across the company are continuing to say, “What’s next?” for the development of recyclable clothing, footwear and sustainable fashion overall. That’s the innovative, passionate and challenging mindset driving our industry forward.