Uniqlo and Toray Industries announce joint partnership in creating clothing made from recycled down and plastic bottles

Reta Lee
Editor-in-Chief, Lifestyle
Uniqlo LifeWear exhibition in London. (PHOTO: Uniqlo)

LONDON – In conjunction with the launch of the LifeWear Day consumer exhibition last Monday (16 September), at Somerset House, London, Japanese global apparel retailer Uniqlo and Toray Industries announced the joint development of creating recycled clothing made from selected Uniqlo’s pieces. Toray Industries has created a special technology to recycle the down removed from Ultra Light Down items as well as weaving fabric from polyester fibres made with recycled PET bottles, to create a Dry-Ex T-shirt.

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When Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore spoke to Akihiro Nikkaku, President of Toray Industries, Inc, on the purpose of this partnership, he shared: “One of the reasons why we’ve decided to do this moving forward, is to reduce the wastage of plastic bottles in the environment. We wanted to protect our marine resources.”

Akihiro Nikkaku, President of Toray Industries, Inc. (PHOTO: Uniqlo)

Uniqlo’s founder and chairman, President & CEO of Fast Retailing, Tadashi Yanai approached Toray Industries in 2000, and liked what the latter had to offer. “First of all, Toray’s technology has the capability to mass produce while maintaining the uniform quality and consistency. Secondly, the company that created the synthetic fibres no longer invested in the R&D capability, while Toray takes on strong R&D operations. A dedicated one-stop business department was then placed directly under the president’s department, and this model has been in operation for 19 years,” Akihiro added.

In the business of fashion, the theme of sustainability is on top of minds of consumers and fashion watchdogs. While Toray Industries is approaching this industry trend by offering a new recycling technology, we wonder about the impact the manufacturing process has on the environment too.

Toray Industries has manufacturing capabilities that recycles four PET plastic bottles into a Dry-Ex apparel. (PHOTO: Reta Lee/Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore)

“There are two types of recycling, one is material recycling and the second is chemical recycling. Chemical recycling is very energy intensive, and not efficient. Material recycling is much more efficient. We take a look at the total life cycle of assessment to determine the most effective way to save time in the process, and this is material recycling. One of the things we are interested in, is the sophisticated supply chain that is being serviced completely, so that in every step of the process, we don’t make, sell or transport wasteful products,” Akihiro stressed.

Uniqlo stores will collect used Ultra Light Down items from customers. A new Toray developed system will extract material from Ultra Light Down pieces, to be cleansed for use in new down merchandise. Collections* will start later in September this year initially only in Japan, and some down products from the 2020 Fall/Winter season will employ this recycled material.

From 2020 Spring/Summer, Uniqlo will begin to introduce Dry-Ex items of clothing that incorporate polyester fibres derived from reclaimed PET bottles.

This story is the result of a trip that was sponsored by Uniqlo.

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