Monday, May 20, 2024

Under Armour Debuts Its First Product Made With Spandex Alternative, Neolast: ‘The Future of Stretch’

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Under Armour has announced the launch of the Vanish Pro Training Tee, featuring the innovative Neolast material — a high-performance Spandex alternative that promises to revolutionize the way athletes train.

Under Armour first announced Neolast in January as a durable, stretchy, and sustainable alternative to elastane (best known as Lycra or Spandex) that addresses key environmental concerns including issues with recyclability and solvent use. With the Vanish Pro tees, part of Under Armour’s Vanish training franchise, the new Neolast shirts are designed to meet the rigorous demands of all forms of athletic training while maintaining a classic aesthetic to keep athletes focused. The brand’s use of Neolast fiber supports its goal to eliminate spandex in its products by 75 percent by 2030.

The new shirt harks back to the origins of Under Armour with a nod to the shirt that started it all, back in 1996, inverting the original compression tee’s color scheme from a white tee with a black logo to a black tee with a white logo. “We took a minimalist approach to the design of this shirt, eliminating distractions for the athlete and opting for classic lines that allow the Neolast material to shine,” John Hardy III, Sr. Director of Product at Under Armour, said in a statement. “The Vanish Pro tee’s durable material will not only increase its lifespan, it will offer consistent fit and stretch throughout the garment’s life. We’re proud to have developed the first apparel with this innovation and are excited about bringing more performance garments that utilize the future of stretch to athletes everywhere.”

The Under Armour Neolast T-shirt.
The Under Armour Neolast T-shirt | Courtesy

Kyle Blakely, Senior Vice President of Innovation, Development, and Testing, highlighted the broader implications of Neolast, noting that the label’s innovation heritage is part of the inspiration to pursue better performing gear that is better for the athlete and planet. “Part of the beauty of this material innovation is the value we’ve been able to add by taking things away,” Blakely said. “The Vanish Pro is a highly durable, performance stretch tee made without elastane or solvents — and it’s just the beginning of Neolast’s potential. We look forward to introducing this revolutionary performance fiber across additional product lines as we work to scale it and evolve the broader industry landscape.”

Reducing plastic materials

Last year, Under Armour launched a tool aimed at reducing microfiber pollution by being able to determine the amount of microfibers textiles shed during washing. The tool is part of Under Armour’s broader initiative to transform its product development process by identifying and modifying high-shedding fabrics or discontinuing them entirely. “Our method deploys a 1-to-5 scale, the same scale that is used for pilling and snagging and all the other test methods in our industry,” Kyle Blakely, Under Armour’s Senior Vice President of Innovation, described the test method at the time. “It’s just speaking the same global language that every mill in the world really needs to understand. It’s really cutting that learning curve out significantly.”

Under Armour’s commitment to sustainability was reinforced in 2021 when it pledged that the first of its product lines adhering to sustainability and circularity principles would be available in stores later this year, with the aim of comprising half of its products by 2027. The new shirt makes good on that pledge. Additional circular-economy goals set by the company include initiating a product take-back pilot across several global locations by 2025 and launching a circular footwear program by 2024.

This initiative places Under Armour among the more than 80 signatories of the Microfibre 2030 Commitment, spearheaded by the Microfibre Consortium in Bristol, England. Launched in September 2021, this commitment encourages signatories to establish microfiber limits by 2030, supporting a unified approach to tackling microfiber pollution. The introduction of microfiber filters in washing machines is on the horizon in France, where new legislation will require their inclusion from next year. This regulation aligns with Under Armour’s own innovations in microfiber filtration, exemplified by its UA Keeper filter, which has been used to assess fabric shedding since 2018.

The Under Armour Neolast T-shirt.
The Under Armour Neolast T-shirt is made from an elastane alternative | Photo courtesy

The news also comes as Denmark is poised to implement a national ban on the use of PFAS (per and polyfluorinated substances) in consumer products, including clothing and shoes, citing significant environmental and health concerns. The move by the Danish government is intended to curb one of the primary sources of PFAS pollution, as outlined by Denmark’s Environment Minister, Magnus Heunicke.

“We must take the lead in the work to limit PFAS at the source. A national ban will benefit our health and the environment in Denmark,” Heunicke said in a statement, emphasizing the need for immediate action. He further explained the broader implications of such a ban: “We must take the lead in the work to limit PFAS at the source. A national ban on the import and sale of clothing, shoes and impregnation agents with PFAS is an important step on the way to limiting emissions and will have a real environmental effect in Denmark. Furthermore, we are sending a strong signal to the rest of the world that we must phase out these substances where possible.”

The proposed ban specifically targets everyday consumer goods, which are a major contributor to PFAS pollution. PFAS, known for their use in waterproofing and stain resistance, have been linked to numerous health risks, including hormonal disturbances, weakened immune systems, and an increased risk of cancer. Despite the availability of PFAS-free alternatives in the market for most consumer apparel and waterproofing agents, challenges remain in finding substitutes for professional and safety clothing, which have stringent requirements for safety and functionality.

The Danish initiative not only seeks to protect local ecosystems and public health but also aims to set a precedent for global environmental policy regarding hazardous substances.

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