Great points here. As I've discussed a few times today, supply chain collaboration is absolutely critical in the adoption of any new chemistry. In many cases, textile mills have been using the same chemical providers for 30+ years and are not necessarily incentivized to put the time and energy into process engineering for new chemistries on their tried-and-true finishing lines. The tools Bob mentioned are helping facilitate alignment between brands and chemical provides, but it will always take a Brand insisting (and sometimes investing) for new chemistries of any type to be adopted.
Yes, the scaling up of disruptive innovations is always tough. Changing well-heeled practices and relationships threatens the status quo. None the less, I believe the best approach is to start small and act fast. Too often we expect disruptive innovations to move to scale much too fast. The short-chain alternatives had to occur because a firm commitment to stop making the long chains was set in place. Avoiding regrettable substitution can be achieved when a transparent dialog among stakeholders occurs and as always we build on the knowledge we have gained.
As Matt says, scaling up the process is the main issue for this chemistry application to be used. It has been utilised successfully for processing of items, such as shoes, but a roll-to-roll process for fabrics poses a bigger challenge. Durability of the plasma finish is also something to consider, and the choice, or make-up, of chemistry for the initial gas input to the process.
Hmmmm, I guess I still don't fully understand how surface tension works, and thus how the fluorine lowers it. It seems to me that there would be some partial hydrogen bonding between the partial neg F and partial pos H in the water molecule? Clearly that doesn't happen, but I am still struggling to understand the fundamental reasons on why fluorine is so fantastic.
Hi Olivia, excellent observation here. The Apparel Industry must adopt the open innovation mindset to solve these big problems, whether that means brands collaborating with each other or with chemistry partners. Patagonia's Mission Statement reads: "build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, and use business to inspire solutions to the Environmental Crisis." As you can see, Patagonia's success is not just limited to its own adoption of better chemistries and practices, but broad adoption throughout our industry and others'.
Competition is a huge factor. Most companies will favor their own exclusivity (often in perpetuity) as a competitive advantage, which hinders true collaborative efforts. Patagonia's strategy revolves around building partnerships with like-minded individuals and organizations. That is, the discussion of collaboration vs. exclusivity is an easy one, because we are both trying to achieve the same Mission.
Hi Sally! As the events of the last decade have unfolded (regulation, litigation, exposure of health impacts), Brands have been forced to take a more prescribed approach to the broad application of PFC based chemistries. Patagonia is committed to taking a prescribed approach to this application, picking the right chemistries (or none at all) based on the end use needs of the garment.
There are other driving forces behind over-application of DWR, including several customs duty rulings that provide preferential treatment to apparel that can be labeled "rainwear." These rulings provide financial incentive for DWR to be applied to as many fabrics as possible in order to qualify for these duty reductions.
The industry is working towards accepting the change, but also still needs to provide sufficient functionality for the consumers use and expectations. In some cases, non-essential uses involve a reassessment of the performance requirements necessary - do consumers who wear a rain coat to walk their dog need the same jacket as a consumer who is a Winter mountaineer? It is an evolving challenge for product developers to work alongside chemical suppliers.
Thank Matt! I have a follow up question.
What is Patagonia doing to incentive other companies in the outdoor industry to invest in alternative technologies? It seems that many other apparel companies would wait for your efforts to be proven before they adopt them.
Toxicology studies have suggested many ways in which humans have been exposed to PFASs (per- and polyfluorinated substances). Human exposure is not fully understood and main pathways remain unclear. With alternative chemistries, continuing assessment is exploring their impact on the environment. Many alternatives have been developed and, as you can understand, this is a complex research challenge to both analyse hazardous exposure from PFASs and alternatives.