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In conversation with Lewis Shuler from Alpine Group

Demiral Ikram
December 20, 2022
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“In conversation with” is a series of interviews by Green Story with leading fashion brands, sharing their stories, what sustainability means to them, the challenges they face, and how they communicate their green stories. Read on and get inspired!

Tell us a bit about yourself and the story behind Alpine Group.

I have spent the last 15 years focused on helping brands design and manufacture textiles more responsibly. This work has included initiatives around fibers, water reduction technologies, and advanced manufacturing. Today as Head of Innovation for Alpine Group I partner with many of the most exciting innovators between biotech, green chemistry, and automation to support R&D and expedite the commercialization of lower impact technologies. Once tested and proven we work to connect the dots and loop in the right brands to scale the technologies. It’s all about bringing new innovations to life, getting them into brands, and focusing on incremental increases to reduce impact.

What are the main criteria you take in order to understand how to source sustainable materials? 

Not in any particular order but cost, durability, inputs/feedstock, by-products, and how the materials affect food and biological systems are all considered. To validate all these points it involves a lot of collaboration between testing labs, brand teams, and 3rd party assessments to ensure all the data we are evaluating is thorough and credible. 

How did you go about finding the right suppliers for your needs?

Constant exploration. We look to other industries that may have technologies which are applicable to textiles, and maximize collaboration with our current fiber/chemical partners by feeding insights so they are working on technologies that are viable. We are always searching for partners that share the same passion. I’m really lucky to have access to all the resources at Alpine between the team of experts, testing labs, and the vision to be a progressive supplier.

Did you source sustainable materials from the inception of your company or was it a transition over time? If the latter, how did you make that transition?

For those of us who have lived and worked in textile factories we didn’t need a sustainability movement to highlight the need for change. I think what has changed is that companies now understand they won’t stay in business bringing products to market that haven’t been evaluated from an impact perspective. Due to this it’s much easier to find alternatives than it was even just five years ago.

What are the main challenges you face regarding sustainable materials and how are you educating your customers about these sustainable materials?


The two biggest issues are cost and availability. These issues will alleviate as the technologies scale, but it takes commitment to get there. We hope to see more brands allocating funds to support adoption as well as agreeing to off take agreements. These agreements are really needed to help innovative companies secure financing that is essential for growth. As a manufacturing partner for many brands it’s our responsibility to bring new innovations and offer alternatives so that they can design materials more responsibly. An example of this is the work we do with fiber pollution. For all new textiles we test for shedding and offer recommendations on how materials can be adjusted to reduce their propensity to shed.

What are your top priorities for the upcoming years in terms of sustainable materials and their impact?


The priority is increasing the use of natural fibers and when polyester is selected making sure brands are adopting recycled polyester from textile waste. In regards to natural fibers we have a specific focus on tree free alternatives. This includes regenerated cellulosics, agricultural waste, and bacterial cellulose. We will continue working with companies to support exploration of new feedstocks, and opportunities to tune natural fibers so that they can provide a wider range of characteristics. In addition, we are also very dedicated to finding solutions which minimize water consumption. We feel confident about emerging technologies which will greatly reduce water, energy, GHG, and chemistries when it comes to dyeing and finishing.