Driving Intimate Apparel Sustainability Solutions From the Inside Out

Over the past few years, the wellness, ethical and sustainable fashion scene has been one of the fastest growing areas in categories from apparel to home. It’s an exciting time, even in the current conditions, and we believe that the best is yet to come. Until now, to a certain extent, both brands and consumers have felt that they needed to compromise on price to find and create sustainable products.

As business leaders and consulting partners, we need to be constantly asking ourselves and our teams, “What can we do that makes us a more thoughtful and sustainable company?” The answer is to bring awareness to customers about sustainable fabrics, manufacturing and programs that check off all the boxes including price, service, quality, and aesthetics. We need to show brands that they can do more to meet their customers’ desires by actively researching, sourcing and presenting options that make business and marketing sense. These solutions need to be on budget and exceed expectations. It is our responsibility to translate trends and create exciting products so that we can be a part of a movement that is good for the earth, brands and consumers.

For many years, companies felt that they had to choose sustainability or price. That is no longer the case, particularly in the intimate apparel industry. We understand now more than ever that all women want to be their best selves, to shop thoughtfully and to buy things that they love. This means focusing on products that they feel good about wearing and also knowing that it was made with minimum impact on the Earth. It is up to us to create sustainable programs on a budget that meet the demands of brands.

Traditionally, the concept of sustainability has been composed of three pillars: economic, environmental and social — also known informally as profits, planet and people. At DLI, we have added to that list: commitment to research and development (R&D), dedication to solutions innovation and 24/7 worldwide service.

R&D for Better Design

As an industry, we need to focus on using fabrics that are eco-friendly and naturally-based with body benefits like moisture wicking, breathability and anti-bacterial properties. Great strides have been made with fabrics made from Bamboo, like Lenzing Modal and Tencel.

We need to work with mill partners that produce fabrics with reduced water usage and environmentally-friendly manufacturing and dyeing practices, such as processes from Best Pacific, which are Greenpeace Certified. As a company, DLI is incorporating recycled nylon and polyester products for fabrics and laces and bio-based synthetic fibers from natural materials that reduce the amount of petroleum-based ingredients in the final product.

We also feel that it is important to incorporate recycled nylon and spandex into core bra materials such as fabric, lace and trims and to line cups with recycled spacer or double-knit material for beautiful body and Earth-friendly solutions.

Unexpected Sources

Part of the solution is embracing exciting and sometimes unexpected materials. Did you know that there are materials such as Umorfil? It is a fiber that uses fish scales to create a collagen, skin-friendly fabric! There are also bra cup materials that are made from recycled or bio-based materials, such as the recent launches of Lycra Planet Agenda and Lycra EcoMade elastane.

Find Benefits in Challenges

COVID-19 has forced us to make many adjustments, and some are having positive environmental impacts. Which of these changes will be made permanent as we create the new normal? At DLI, our global teams have always had the capability to work virtually, and with the onset of COVID-19, we believe that this will continue in the future. Other company practices that are being evaluated include travel vs. virtual meetings and how virtual ones can be further incorporated into our company policy as a way to reduce our carbon footprint. Now more than ever, we have embraced 3D virtual sampling to reduce the need to pot-dye materials, remake and dye samples when changes occur.

The next generation of shoppers is paying attention to what they have. They want to be comfortable with what they already own and are thoughtful about the new purchases they make. They are socially- and environmentally-aware and we need to meet those expectations.

Sustainability is our company goal, and we believe that it is about doing more. We look internally at what we can do to be a better company with the understanding that it is the solutions that we offer to our customers that will make a great impact. If the intimate apparel industry is able to offer solution-driven products that focus on sustainability and remain in budget, we can all be successful in helping the planet and ourselves.

DLI is a full-service intimate apparel company known for solution-driven innovation and successfully shipping millions of bras each quarter. For more than 28 years, DLI has developed private label merchandise for leading intimate apparel brands in band sizes from 32-54 and cup sizes A-K.