Made with what is claimed to be the “world’s first” high performance cotton fabric, the Ralph Lauren RLX Clarus Polo Shirt uses a first-to-market patented platform to transform virgin and recycled cotton in ways the brand says were not previously possible.

The technology creates enhanced cotton fibres with high-performance attributes, like quick-drying and moisture management, while still retaining the comfort and breathability of cotton. The resulting material is said to perform similarly to plastic-based synthetic fabrics like polyester and nylon, that use petroleum-based fossil fuels to achieve performance benefits.

The textile innovation was developed by Natural Fiber Welding, Inc (NFW), a sustainable material science start-up that works to turn plant-based, upcycled fibres – such as cotton waste – into high-performance materials.

“Ralph Lauren is known for timelessness – and for more than 50 years being timeless has meant both leaning into our heritage and fostering pioneering innovation. With the introduction of the RLX Clarus Polo Shirt, we are using our most iconic product as a canvas to launch an industry-changing and scalable textile technology – a high-performance apparel product that is created with natural fibres for the first time. We’re proud to build on the brand’s legacy of signature and authentic style, reinvented for the future,” says David Lauren, chief branding and innovation officer. ​

The company is committed to investing in the infrastructure and technologies to develop and scale a circular apparel economy – helping to ensure that clothes and materials can live on. As part of this, in August 2020, Ralph Lauren announced a minority investment in NFW to help scale its patented process and develop first-of-its-kind performance apparel made from natural, sustainable materials. Through this investment, Ralph Lauren looks to expand its use of recycled cotton, helping to advance the company’s progress toward sustainably sourcing 100% of its key materials, including cotton, by 2025 and integrating zero-waste principles across its business.

Over time, the partnership will enable Ralph Lauren to replace and reduce its reliance on non-biodegradable synthetics, such as polyester and nylon, while scaling the use of more sustainable and recycled materials.

“We are thrilled to continue our partnership with Ralph Lauren. Through this collaboration, we are paving the way for complete circularity with resulting materials that perform similarly to plastic-based synthetic fabrics. We are pioneering an entirely new system that simultaneously enables all-natural performance fabrics while reducing waste and eliminating the need for synthetic plastics,” says Luke Haverhals, CEO at NFW.

NFW recently closed $15m in new funding to help scale production to meet demand for its Mirum and Clarus product lines.

The RLX Clarus Polo Shirt will make its exclusive debut at the 2022 Australian Open, before rolling out global distribution. Additional styles and colours, as well as women’s apparel, will be available in the coming weeks.