It takes a ‘fashion village’ to make fashion circular

After Renewcell, the world’s first commercial Next Gen dissolving pulp mill, reported last week that sales were slower than expected, the share value of the publicly traded company fell. 

But there’s good reason to take a breath before jumping to conclusions. “Slower than expected sales” does not mean stalled. In fact, there’s reason for optimism. Here’s why:  

1.   The paint on Renewcell’s mill is barely dry and it’s already hitting spec. Any commercial mill using a new technology will take months to optimize the manufacturing process for quality and consistency. Now that they’re on spec, it becomes easier for viscose producers and brands to use CIRCULOSE®. What is fantastic is that there is finally low carbon, circular, dissolving pulp, made from waste textiles rather than forests, on the market. 

2.   It takes time for conventional viscose producers to calibrate their machines to a new pulp and this has knock-on effects down the supply chain.  This is just the reality of working with new inputs. However, we know, from working with a number of the viscose mills that are buying and testing Renewcell’s pulp, that producers are now hitting desired specifications. In fact, one of the world’s largest producers just hit their quality targets last week. That means that viscose producers can now run Renewcell’s pulp consistently in their large commercial lines.

3.   Brands are just starting to access product from Renewcell’s commercial-scale mill. As any clothing designer will tell you, they need to be able to touch and feel a new fabric to envision how to utilize it in their lines and collections. Brands are also stepping in with orders – and we’re working with them to find ways to accommodate initial pricing until economy of scale production is achieved.

There are four major factors that point to Renewcell’s increasing relevance in the fashion marketplace. All are reasons for greater investor confidence.

1.   The EU has passed legislation banning landfilling of textiles at the end of 2024 and needs mills like Renewcell’s to take in discarded jeans and t-shirts to recycle them into 60,000 tonnes of pulp to make fabric for next season’s runways. Next Gen ventures like Renewcell’s provide the markets that will underpin the EU’s circularity success and pave the way for others to follow.

2.   Major viscose producers have adapted their machines to this new Next Gen pulp and are now getting consistent quality viscose outcomes. Renewcell’s market has, just in the last months, opened up. There’s no going back.

3.   Renewcell has built a supplier network of 116 supply chain partners in the last couple of months to facilitate brands’ ability to source CIRCULOSE® for their garments. Brands don’t buy pulp, they buy textiles or finished garments. Steps need to be taken with viscose producers, spinners, weavers, and dyers to make Next Gen fabrics for receptive brands. 

4.   Perhaps most importantly, brands are hungry for low-impact and circular solutions. Renewcell is currently the only Next Gen provider on the market at scale. 550 brands and retailers that are formally part of the CanopyStyle initiative have commitments to actively preference lower-carbon Next Gen alternatives to forest fibre in their MMCF textiles. Those brands represent $1 Trillion USD in annual revenues, and alongside viscose producers have written Strategic Letters of Interest to Purchase 475,000 tonnes of Next Gen MMCF. Market pull-through starts from there and it’s just getting started.

First-to-market technologies always forge new – at times bumpy – terrain. It’s part of the “entry fee” that those pioneers pay for first-to-market access. Rather than pumping the brake, it’s time to put the accelerator to the floor. Renewcell’s mill is game-changing. As we all know, it takes a ‘fashion village’ to make fashion circular. Everyone needs to step forward to support them – and other Next Gen innovators when their turn to commercialize arrives. This is how we will hit planetary targets and build a stable supply of low-carbon materials for the 21st century. Brands no longer have to wait for it, Next Gen is now on their doorstep.