Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

For Father’s Day, suit shows greener side of Sears

April 1, 2009

Sears Covington Perfect suitHey guys, this isn’t your pop’s polyester.

Just in time for Father’s Day shopping, Sears will roll out a line of men’s suits made of the first high-tech fabric that blends wool with polyester spun from recycled plastic soda bottles.

The suit separates, sold under Sears’ Covington Perfect brand, will be on racks in about 500 U.S. Sears stores in May.  Price: $175 for the jacket and $75 for the pants, according to Tim Danser, vice president of marketing for Bagir Group Ltd., the Israeli manufacturer that tailors the garments for Sears’ private label.

And get this: This suit is machine washable and can be tossed in the dryer, eliminating the need for dry cleaning and upping the eco-friendly ante, Danser said.

“This isn’t the polyester of the 1970s,” Moses Cohen, sales and marketing manager for N.I. Teijin Shoji (USA), Inc., the New York arm of Teijin, the Japanese chemical company that makes the suit fabric, said during a men’s fashion briefing at the swanky Kitano Hotel on Park Avenue in Manhattan.

Teijin, which developed fabrics made of recycled plastic blended with wool, viscose and cotton or with other synthetics, also partners with retailers to recycle used polyester clothing back into fabric and new clothes.

“This has a nicer hand to it,” Cohen said, running his fingers over the sleeve of his own jacket, acknowledging that “polyester still has some bad connotations” due to the quality of the “disco era” fabric of more than 30 years ago. (For devotees of the 1981 cult comedy film, “Polyester,” this is your cue: Thanks a lot, John Waters!)

“We do not use any oil,” Cohen said of the process used to turn plastic bottles made from polyethylene terephthalate, or PET, into fabric yarn.  In Japan, men’s suits from Teijin’s recycled fabrics are sold by retailer Aoki.

“We think the stars are aligned for this,” Cohen said, referring to the growing interest in green manufacturing in the United States. “It started with Al Gore and his film, ‘An Inconvenient Truth.’  We can also thank President Obama” for his emphasis on saving energy and protecting the environment.

So how did Sears, known for its Energy Star home appliances, decide to join fashion’s green front?

As Cohen recalled, Sears was the first retailer to “have the guts and the vision” to commit to the line.

“In addition to providing a handsome suit at a great price, men can feel good about their purchase, knowing they are taking a step towards helping the environment,” a Sears spokeswoman said in an e-mail.

The suits tested well in Sears stores in Boston, Chicago and the metropolitan New York area (hello, Hackensack, N.J. and Long Island) — the three top U.S. eco markets, Bagir’s Danser said.

Fun fact: It takes 25 plastic soda-pop bottles (2-liter size) to make enough polyester yarn to produce the fabric for one suit.

(Reuters photo)

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