HanesBrands, the maker of cotton-based undergarments and active wear, is developing new products made from flax -- a crop used more often in cereal than in underwear.
What's behind the innovation? Price, of course. Hanes' action is a direct response to the rising costs of cotton prices. Prices of cotton have doubled since August of last year. About 60 percent of Hanes' products contain at least 90 percent cotton. Last January, Hanes Chief Executive Richard Noll predicted that the price of certain cotton items would rise by as much as 30 percent by the end of the year.
And why not look at flax?Naturally Advance Technologies, a Portland-based maker of sustainable fabrics, has signed a 10-year deal with Hanes to commercialize flax fiber, which is generally discarded after the plant is harvested for seeds and oil. In the past, flax fiber has typically been used to make linen.
But wait! Isn't linen kind of scratchy for the areas being covered here? A Hanes spokesman said the flax will be about 20 percent of the fabric content in a small number of the company's items, beginning in the third quarter of this year. The company is currently conducting marketing research about how best to present a blended product to its natural cotton-loving customers.
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