Under Armour, Inc. today announced it has developed a new testing methodology to help fight fiber shedding at its source and support progress toward the company’s sustainability goal for 75% of fabrics in its products to be made of low-shed materials by 2030. Under Armour’s innovative test method offers a simplified process to accurately measure a fabric’s propensity to shed. To support the creation of lower-shed products, the company has begun using the method to test materials and quantify their shed rate early during product development to target high-shed materials for redevelopment or discontinuation before they enter the market. Under Armour is also using the method to filter out new textile candidates with high-shed rates before they enter its product development streams.
As fabric and textiles are produced, worn, and cleaned, they naturally shed fibers. These fiber fragments, also known as microplastics, can enter the air, waterways, and food chains. In high concentrations, they are believed to pollute the environment, disrupt ecosystems, and pose health risks to humans and animals when inhaled through the air or ingested via food and drinking water. According to a study commissioned by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), the average person ingests as much as five grams of plastic a week – the equivalent weight of a credit card – from fiber shedding that naturally occurs from textiles and other sources of plastic.
Supporting innovations that reduce fiber shedding over time is a priority focus of Under Armour’s sustainability program, through which the company aims to use more sustainable, recyclable materials and more efficient design and production processes in its delivery of high-performing apparel, footwear, and accessories.
“Under Armour is an industry innovator. When we realized the extent of the fiber shed problem during product research, we knew we needed to figure out a way to use our innovation capabilities to do our part to address the issue,” said Jeremy Stangeland, Senior Manager, Materials Lab for Under Armour. “Our strategy focuses on working to help address the root causes of shedding, starting with the ability to measure it. Through ongoing efforts to redevelop high-shed fabrics to shed less, or avoid them entirely, we are leveraging our skills to positively impact our industry and communities.”
In addition to identifying the shedding property of fabrics, Under Armour is exploring innovative techniques to redevelop high-shed fabrics, such as mechanical finishes and yarn formations that can support reduced shedding. High-shed fabrics, which are often attractive to consumers for their softness, are also traditionally less durable than low-shed fabrics. Given this, the company’s new test method will inform efforts to develop products with an optimal balance of comfort and durability.
“We are committed to holistically addressing sustainability issues such as fiber shedding and have already begun to use our methodology to produce more sustainable products for athletes that feature Under Armour’s signature high-performance attributes,” said Kyle Blakely, Senior Vice President of Innovation for Under Armour. “We expect to have products that have been improved through this process in market as early as 2024, and we look forward to continuing to inspire athletes with performance-driven innovations that embody our core value to ‘Act Sustainably’ as we track toward our 2030 goal.”
Aliya Rubinstein, Project Director for the Oceans Program at the Nature Conservancy in California, added: “Synthetic microfiber pollution represents a largely invisible, global conservation threat that is only getting worse. The fashion industry has an opportunity to act now and advance real solutions that measurably address their contribution to the plastics crisis. Under Armour’s investment in efforts to understand and reduce fiber shedding is a critical part of a broader suite of interventions urgently needed for us to collectively move the industry in the right direction.”
Under Armour’s methodology complements existing fiber-shed testing approaches and vacuum filtration technologies, including resources made available by the Microfibre Consortium, a leading textile-industry facilitator of practical solutions to reduce microfiber release, of which Under Armour is a member.
Dr. Kelly Sheridan, Research Director of The Microfibre Consortium, comments: “The Microfibre Consortium welcomes Under Armour’s commitment to helping address the issue of microfiber shedding. The Microfibre Consortium’s globally aligned test method, released in 2021, is a key pillar of the apparel industry’s response to the problem of fiber shedding, determining the root causes and informing actions that can make a real difference in garment production. As a signatory of The Microfibre 2030 Commitment, Under Armour’s contribution to the wider work is much valued, and it is encouraging that the brand is also exploring complementary ways to assess and address the microfiber problem.”