Nike Launching New Fabric Innovation, Forward

·3 min read

Nike is getting more aggressive in its commitment to sustainability.

On Tuesday, the activewear giant will launch Nike Forward, an apparel material that the company is touting as the “most significant” development since Dri-Fit.

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The technology took over five years to perfect, according to Carmen Zolman, vice president of apparel innovation, and is part of Nike’s commitment to create sustainable products to reduce its impact on the environment.

The first product to use Nike Forward material is a unisex hoodie that reduces carbon emissions by an average of 75 percent compared to the company’s traditional knit fleece due to the use of more than 70 percent recycled content, lower process energy use and lower lateral density. Zolman explained that Nike has gone “directly from the fiber to the fabric, cutting out the carbon-intensive middle steps.”

She said the initial idea for Nike Forward came through researching nonwovens that are used in the medical field. It is made by connecting multiple thin layers using a needle-punching process that entangles them to create a textile. The production uses less energy due to the use of solution-dyed fibers rather than traditional dye methods. It also uses no water in the dyeing and finishing process.

But unlike nonwovens used in hospitals or other products such as diapers, Nike’s fabric is not disposable. Instead, it can be washed in cold water and laid out flat to dry, she said.

The hoodie, which is only available in gray, features raw-cut pockets, minimal seams and a sculptural silhouette. It meets the standards of the company’s Therma-Fit Adv heat-regulating fabric so it is warm yet lightweight and is made without zippers, aglets or other such closures to make the garments easier to recycle. It also is made without trim.

The Nike Forward hoodie is based on nonwoven technology.
The Nike Forward hoodie is based on nonwoven technology.

Zolman said Nike is working on ways to produce the item in color without using traditional dyeing techniques. It will retail for $130 to $155 and will be sold on the Nike website.

Although the hoodie is the first product to be created from this fabric, it won’t be the last. “We’re looking to leverage this across our platforms,” Zolman said.

Nike Forward can be made from a number of materials including industrial waste, preconsumer waste and postconsumer waste.

“Athletes around the world are telling us that climate change is a barrier to sport,” Nike said. “This launch represents our commitment to answering athletes’ calls for more sustainable options — grounded in our authenticity in sport.”

Nike Forward is not the only sustainable product the company offers. It also offers the Air, Flyknit, Flyleather, Space Hippie and Next Nature footwear and apparel that features a percentage of recycled materials.

“We have a responsibility to reimagine what we make and scale solutions because we don’t just want to help make athletes better, we also want to help make the world better for athletes,” the company said.

Nike Forward is the latest move toward the company achieving its 2025 impact targets: 0.5 million tons of GHG emissions reduced through increasing the use of environmentally preferred materials to 50 percent of all key materials including polyester, cotton, leather and rubber and 100 percent waste diverted from landfill in its extended supply chain with at least 80 percent recycled back into Nike products and other goods.

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