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NEW YORK – The Ralph Lauren Corporation has announced a minority investment in sustainable startup Natural Fiber Welding (NFW) which aims to recycle natural fibres – such as cotton waste – into high-performance new materials.

As a part of the investment, understood to be worth around US$13 million, Ralph Lauren aims to help scale NFW’s patented process and develop performance apparel made from natural, and potentially more sustainable materials.

Recycled cotton is often unsuitable for use in new apparel due to the short fibres created during recycling. But the company claims it can solve this challenge with a process that welds short fibers into longer fibres to create 'high-performance' yarns which can incorporate cotton and other plant-based waste fibres.

NFW uses an ionic liquid-based solvent to manipulate these fibrous materials that may be either composed of natural polymers such as cellulose, hemicellulose, silk – but also synthetic polymers and/or blends.

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