A new fiber quality initiative by Deltapine and Field to Closet organized to get more return back to the cotton grower has been leveraged into a sustainability and healthcare project that is not only beneficial for cotton growers, but also provides much needed aid to the healthcare industry.
There has been a shortage of product in the healthcare industry. The initiative team has been able to identify and help develop a line of 100% Deltapine cotton scrubs that is set to hit the market in 2021.
"These scrubs will represent the first ever use of PROTX2AV on 100% cotton," said Kelli Brown, cotton portfolio manager at Deltapine.
PROTX2AV is an antimicrobial, antibacterial fabric treatment that inhibits viruses. It is manufactured by IFT, North America, and is currently under review for effectiveness against the COVID-19 virus.
"When the fabric is washed coding is activated and it inhibits the virus and bacteria that could otherwise be carried on clothing and provide continued, prolonged exposure for healthcare workers," she said.
At the outset, the fiber quality initiative began as a way to bring direct value back to producers who grew Deltapine cotton. Keylon Golston, Deltapine Cotton Products Manager noticed a disparity in what he saw between the growth that was taking place in the apparel market and what was happening in cotton consumption and cotton fiber demand.
The group spoke to brands and retailers to determine what was important to them and to their customers. Flexibility and agility within the market was determined to be a top priority, but the sustainability message was also important, according to Brown.
Doors were opened with discussions of cotton's sustainability message regarding water savings and lower pesticide use. Micro plastics is a concern with modern consumers and so cotton's biodegradability was also a big hit during the discussions.
"Once that door was open, we started talking about the farmer give back program," Brown said. "How the brand or retailer would be paying a premium for the product they wanted to make, because that premium was going to go back to the farmer that has put in years of experience, has made investments on his or her farm to be more sustainable."
Brown said that they went into talks thinking that there would be kickback from the brands and retailers about paying more for the cotton. But the opposite happened.
"That actually became the hook of the conversation because it was something that brands and retailers felt aligned with," she said.
Social responsibility is something many customers are looking for in their products and the concept exists for all quality levels, according to Brown.
"What it stands for is source verified, sustainable, U.S. grown with a farmer give back."
She said they started to get great traction in conversations with brands and retailers, then COVID-19 hit. Clothing brands and retailers were rattled.
"We pivoted from the sweater, t-shirt and jeans apparel that we had been focused on to the medical textile industry," she said.
The scrubs will be the first ever use of the new antibacterial fabric treatment in 100% cotton fabric.
"Not only are they 100% Deltapine, which is obviously grown in the USA, but they are wholly made in the USA," Brown said. "So, it's a really exciting opportunity to help build back some of that textile supply chain right here in the U.S. and those scrubs also include a farmer give back."
She noted that the partners in the project, which include Parkdale Mills in Gastonia, N.C., Hornwood, Inc. in Lilesville, N.C. and American Knits in Swainsboro, Ga., have put in many hours and resources to make it happen.
"Not only for this project, but for the future, we're really excited to have this group of people forming in the U.S. that all support the same common goal of helping to promote the use of 100% cotton," Brown said.
A launch event is planned for February and an initial donation of scrubs by Field to Closet and other project partners will be made to the healthcare industry.
"I think it's a really exciting topic," said Brown. "It brings a breath of fresh air and positivity to the start of a new season."