New textiles from LifeLabs aim to revolutionize sustainability for the apparel and outdoor industries. And between its brand new technology and its concept of “new sustainability”, the brand could actually deliver on its promise.
Textiles are a constant in almost everything we do. These are the fabrics we sleep in and the clothes we wear throughout our days. They make up our jackets and layers for adventures and the comfort clothes we slip into at night.
We are in constant contact with a variety of textiles – from cotton and polyester, to merino wool and GORE-TEX – many of which physically regulate our body temperature throughout our lifetimes.
However, some regulate them much more effectively than others.
This simple fact has been the basis of a scientific enterprise of sustainable development led for years by Dr Yi Cui – a company that promises to revolutionize the world of textiles and all the industries in which they are used. This venture would result in the launch of a new brand of lifestyle clothing. which aims to impact the environmental footprint, not only of their customers, but of the entire planet: LifeLabs.
If that sounds like a big deal, it’s because it’s, according to JJ Collier, the global vice president of product design for LifeLabs. In fact, he said (half jokingly, half not), “It’s just like the most important thing going on right now.”
Collier would know. According to his LifeLabs biography, he is “a master in combining innovative textiles and modern design”. He has decades of experience as a design director for companies like Spyder Active Sports and Polo Ralph Lauren, designing their outerwear and other clothing lines. He has been at the forefront of clothing design and technology for most of his post-professional snowboarding career.
When Collier joined the LifeLabs team, he said he was desperate for a new way to influence the industry. He existentially contemplated the nature of textiles – where they are made, how they are made, their carbon footprint, and how he could help make his industry sustainable.
So when Scott Mellin, CEO of LifeLabs, called him up and explained the concept of a company that would influence global sustainability using cutting edge, patented and thermally efficient textiles, along with an idea called New Sustainability, Collier was absolutely thrilled.
He said it was like he was waiting for this connection.
“I was so ready to have the opportunity to reinvent the way we do things,” says Collier. “And then all of a sudden, LifeLabs.”
Textile technology: “New sustainability”
Cui, the co-founder of LifeLabs, started designing these textiles in 2016 in hopes of using them to fight climate change. He saw a direct correlation between a person’s ability to regulate their own body temperature and network energy used to heat or cool a room.
If he could create something that would help people regulate their body temperature better, he thought, maybe he could also help people reduce their personal carbon footprints.
The textiles Cui and his team developed found a way to do this, using infrared transparent materials, metallic nanofiber coatings and the concept of new sustainability.
They are revolutionary, according to Collier. Since their launch on October 19, two lifestyle ranges have been available with this technology: CoolLife and WarmLife.
CoolLife is designed to lower the wearer’s body temperature by 2 degrees Celsius. This yarn-based polyethylene fabric is “thermally transparent”, which means that infrared heat will continuously escape from the wearer’s skin.
“Polyethylene fibers in [CoolLife] are transparent to infrared, so your body heat escapes without any resistance, ”explains Collier. “A cotton T-shirt traps infrared radiation. But our T-shirts don’t.
Compared to organic cotton, LifeLabs’ CoolLife T-shirts ($ 75) are 70% cooler, which is noticeable as soon as you pull on a CoolLife shirt, Collier says. “It’s so amazing to have a tangible experience with something like this, right off the bat,” he added.
The hope is that CoolLife clothing will allow people to use less air conditioning in the warmer months, directly reducing their household’s carbon footprint. According to LifeLabs, setting a thermostat to just 2 degrees Celsius all summer long equals about 400 pounds of carbon emissions saved per household per year.
Conversely, the WarmLife clothing line is designed to keep wearers warm by 10 degrees Celsius, using 30% less fabric. This is accomplished with LifeLabs’ proprietary lightweight, breathable metallic nanocoating, which returns radiant heat from the body to the skin.
“It does more than trap hot air; it really returns your body heat to you in a whole new way with that nanoporous aluminum finish, ”says Collier.
Compared to organic cotton, the thermal insulation of WarmLife is 27% higher with 30% less material. This could not only have a significant impact on the way people heat their homes and offices, but also on outdoor gear and clothing in general. A material that can retain heat so effectively with less material could be a game-changer for the base, mid and outer layers of cold weather sports.
“It’s the thing we’ve all been waiting for,” says Collier. This is a new sustainable development: a reduction in personal energy consumption for the consumer when wearing these clothes.
“From a sustainability standpoint, getting down to business with materials that represent the next level of sustainability is simply exciting. “
Change the game
It is no small ambition to launch a line of clothing and textile technologies with the promise of “ushering in a new era of sustainability”.
But it’s one that the LifeLabs team strongly supports, in part because of the first scientific technology on the market behind its textiles. But also, in large part, because of the way they have designed their entire production and distribution process.
It’s an unfortunate fact, but the current life cycle of conventional textiles has a huge carbon footprint. From the raw materials they are made from, to the resources needed to create them, how they are packaged, how they are shipped, what they are packaged in and their end-of-life recyclability – each step of the process has its own environmental impacts.
If climate change was to be tackled in any meaningful way, the LifeLabs team felt, companies like theirs were going to have to step up and make radical changes.
This is why Collier says they have literally woven sustainable practices and decisions into the very fabric of their fabrics. Their clothes use fewer materials, requiring fewer resources to produce. They are free from polyfluorinated chemicals (PFCs), so they are safer for wearers and for the environment.
They use a streamlined supply chain that reduces waste as well as dyeing techniques that require less water. And they use recyclable and compostable bio-based packaging to deliver their products to the people who will wear them.
“Ultimately, the actual use of the garment has an impact on long-term durability, which is really quite different from just wrapping recycled fibers,” says Collier.
But, perhaps the most important contribution to global sustainability that LifeLabs textile technology will make has nothing to do with its CoolLife or WarmLife products. Everyone at LifeLabs knows that the scientific breakthroughs behind their products could change the world, but only if they are adopted globally.
That is why LifeLabs plans to make its patented textile technology available in different industries. Their team wants to unleash the full sustainable potential of this technology and to do so, they must ensure that it is accessible to everyone.
Whether it is the car manufacturers who use these fabrics in their seats; furniture companies using them in draperies, curtains and sheets; or, of course, outdoor companies using them in base layers, sweaters, hats, socks, underwear, hats, gloves, backpacks and any other gear or clothing.
The applications are endless. And, if adopted on a large enough scale, they could have a huge impact on global carbon consumption and waste associated with textiles and clothing.
“When it comes to durability in clothing, I always applaud anyone who tries it,” says Collier. “But now it’s a different level. We really think this is significant in a totally different way than some of the other textile developments that have happened over the years. “