From roots to the fashion runway

How NFW is transforming the luxury goods landscape, one plant at a time

While much of the world was shut down in the midst of the pandemic, Luke Haverhals and his team at Natural Fiber Welding, a manufacturer of high-performing, natural textiles, were busier than ever. Haverhals’ team notes that in the past two years alone they’ve received the PETA Fashion Award, been named Inventor of the Year Award by IPOEF (Intellectual Property Owners Education Foundation), and partnered with some of the globe’s leading luxury brands, from BMW and Ralph Lauren to Stella McCartney and IWC Schaffhausen.

For Haverhals, that success can be traced back to one call-to-action.

“We have aspirations of replacing the entire plastics industry—and I say that because of our deep technical understanding of how we can attempt this.”

The inspiration for this passion began decades ago with a thought during his days at the Naval Academy. “I realized that the most abundant, healthy, and diverse infrastructure—that could ever be imagined to give people high quality standard of living that was safe and circular—was already all around us in nature,” he says. Haverhals recognized the wealth of possibilities that revelation introduced, but there was still a crucial part of the equation that needed solving—that of what to do with such resources. When he did arrive at the answer, it was an epiphany that struck closer to home than he could’ve imagined—he thought of his mom.

Photo: NFW

“My mom is the best chemist I know,” he says. “When she cooks, she takes wholesome nutrients, and doing the least amount of destruction to these ingredients, she puts them together towards complex, beneficial creations,” he says.

“I realized this was the answer to the plastic problem in the world—instead of making recipes to eat, we’ll make recipes to wear.”

Haverhals formed NFW in 2015 and today, the company features three materials: MIRUM® (a leather alternative), CLARUS® (a performance textile), and PLIANT™ (a natural rubber). Though the materials range in their application across luxury and lifestyle products, they share one significant trait: they are all entirely plant-based and entirely petrochemical-free.

It’s a fact that consumers can feel good about when purchasing the products, and when disposing of them—Haverhals references The Degenerate, a shoe from Unless Collective. Made with PLIANT™, the shoe is shown being ground up into particles that can then go directly back into the earth, rather than a landfill.

NFW’s central philosophy “to start well, stay clean, and end well” has already attracted more than 1,000 brands to the company’s approach.

Photo: NFW

That list of brands is continuing to grow, thanks to interest already from some of the globe’s most recognized luxury brands. Last July, MIRUM® made its luxury watch strap debut with MiraTex™ for iconic Swiss brand IWC Schaffhausen and Environmental & Community Projects Advisor Gisele Bündchen. And this year’s Paris Fashion Week saw the arrival of several Stella McCartney handbags featuring MIRUM®—all plant-based and free of leather or plastics.

Haverhals assures that there are plenty of resources by which to explore this new frontier in living well. “There are certain ideas that, if I think about them deeply, they become overwhelming to me, and it’s most often true in cases of numbers,” he says. “More new plant matter grows in a day on Earth than the combined tonnage of all the plastic produced by people in years. When I think about that abundance, I’m overwhelmed—it’s what grows in the garden.”

Want even more One Adventures? Read our other issues: Issue 01Issue 02Issue 03Issue 04Issue 05; Issue 06.

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