Swedish Stockings Push Innovation Further With New, Fully Recycled Products
"The fact that we are combining recycled nylon and recycled elastane in hosiery is revolutionary as it has never been done before!"
It’s safe to say that Swedish Stockings have revolutionized the hosiery industry – and in more than one way. Not only are their products outstanding in terms of quality, fit and durability, but they’re also the most sustainable alternative on the market today (at least that we know of!).
Already pioneering their field, they’re now taking things one step further by introducing the new ‘Innovations by Swedish Stockings’ line, and their first stockings made from 100% recycled components, meaning that both nylon and elastane are recycled.
Up until now, recycling elastane has not been possible, making this an absolute game changer and an industry first. The elastane used in the first drop, which is taglined ‘Keep it 100’, is certified recycled and made completely without any harmful substances or chemicals. Obviously, we can’t wait to try these new styles out.
What has the process of creating these fully recycled tights been like?
– Not as simple as one might think. The innovation is relatively new, so there was not much information available, but we were quite excited to hear about it! The process involved getting in contact with the supplier, discussing and learning more about the elastane – what conditions it is produced under, where it comes from – and understanding what type of material it is; if it’s different from virgin elastane, and so on…
Why has this not been possible before, and why is this innovation game changing?
– Blended fibres or fabrics are the real challenge in recycling. So many of our clothes are blended with elastic – including hosiery – and these can’t be recycled because the technology for separating the nylon from the elastane doesn’t exist yet, and this is still the case today.
– However, in our case, the elastic is recycled from pre-consumer waste; so waste from virgin elastic production. This is game changing because it shows that the industry is moving forwards in the right direction. The fact that we are combining recycled nylon and recycled elastane in hosiery is revolutionary as it has never been done before!
What does the process of creating a pair of recycled stockings look like?
– It involves finding the right suppliers, and that is the hard part. For us, it’s not just about finding a recycled material, but involves considering whether the factory is one that we want to work with; can we be proud of the work they do, and do we want to share their ethics and values with our customers?
– Once we find the right material supplier, we ask our production to make us a sample. We usually have a design in mind that we want them to create, but sometimes they tell us it isn’t possible. Recycled yarn has a more limited range of design possibilities as it’s a relatively new innovation compared to virgin nylon.
– When we get the samples, we test all sizes on our test group: wear them, wash them, etcetera. We look at fit, comfort, quality, and how the material wears. This process can take some time, depending on whether we’re satisfied with the first sample. Once we okay a sample, we take photos, create the packaging, and the hosiery is off to full production.
“…the benefits are substantial, but it’s not us that can decide if this is the way forward, it is completely in the hands of the consumer.”
What can you tell us about the look and performance of the new products? Will these replace the older models?
– The quality, look and feel is not different from our regular hosiery. It’s important that people recognise that we wouldn’t be using recycled yarns, elastic included, if the quality was not the same as virgin. Only, you still can’t wash them with softener, and we do recommend air drying.
– We haven’t yet decided if these will replace the older models. Recycled yarns are more expensive than virgin yarns, and we are producing two styles, a heavier 50 den and a lighter 20 den, to see how people react. If people love them, and are willing to pay the premium price, we will definitely continue them.
– The recycled elastane reduces the raw materials needed in production by 64%. It also saves heating energy by 74%, and reduces waste with up to 90% compared to virgin elastic! So the benefits are substantial, but it’s not us that can decide if this is the way forward, it is completely in the hands of the consumer.
What should we do with the tights when they’re worn out, as they can’t be recycled?
– They can be recycled by us! Yes, it’s still not possible to separate nylon and elastane, so we can’t turn old tights into new, but customers can still send their old hosiery to us. We cut up and grind down the hosiery and use it as filler material in fibreglass tanks. The tanks are used in the commercial industry as oil and grease traps, so they separate water from oil.
– Most commercial industries have these types of tanks buried underground. They themselves require virgin plastic to make, so by using old tights in them we are not only diverting tights from ending up in landfill, but reduce the amount of virgin material needed for another industry. It’s not glamorous, but it’s sustainable!
How do you hope to lead the way for others in the industry?
– ‘Innovations by Swedish Stockings’ is our promise to keep innovating, to push ourselves and the industry forwards. We always say our mission is to change and influence the entire hosiery industry, and the launch of this line is one way to drive our mission forward, and pave the way. We hope this will lead other brands to start incorporating not only more sustainable materials, but a more circular outlook on their designs and products from the very start in their design processes.
What’s up next for Swedish Stockings?
– These products, the ‘Keep it 100’ collection, is the start of our ‘Innovations by Swedish Stockings’ line. We hope to increase this line with at least one innovation per season (be it a product or a concept), depending on what innovations already exist out there today. Our next addition to the line will be tights made from discarded coffee grounds, coming in September 2019. Stayed tuned!
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