The Science Behind LifeLabs, Polyethylene and “The Warmest Jacket in the World”
Founded by a pair of Stanford professors, LifeLabs' groundbreaking textiles are designed to tackle climate change
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Ask any consumer to define the term “sustainability” and chances are you’ll receive a variety of answers. But that’s not really our fault.
Sustainability is a vague term by nature, and it’s only become vaguer in recent years as a result of overuse. Such ambiguous language has allowed us to fall victim to countless sustainable misconceptions, from the notion that organic cotton is better for the environment to the idea that recycling is as effective as we think it is. As Doug King noted for The Guardian nearly 10 years ago, sustainability “is now more commonly used by corporations to out-worthy their competitors.”
As we’ve reported, there exists a number of brands unveiling sustainably-driven programs that resell, reuse or recycle old gear, all of which take aim at the gear we already own. But the latest lifestyle brand to make meaningful sustainable progress, LifeLabs, is doing something entirely different.
For starters, LifeLabs is deeply rooted in science. Its founders, Stanford University professor Yi Cui and CEO of clean-energy foundry EEnotech, Meng Sui, employed years of material sciences research to develop groundbreaking textiles that more effectively manage body temperature from recycled polyethylene. In doing so, the apparel startup aims to reduce the amount of energy we use in the world by helping us improve our individual energy efficiency.
Beyond science, LifeLabs is directing its efforts towards the primary market as opposed to the many lifestyle and outdoor brands operating in the second-hand market. What becomes of LifeLabs apparel in the future we don’t yet know, but we can say with certainty that what we’re buying “new” is making an impact now.
The Science Behind Polyethylene
The breakthrough that catalyzed LifeLabs’ development came in 2016 when Cui’s team discovered that polyethylene could lower body temperature by allowing the body’s infrared radiation to escape. As an inexpensive, lightweight and familiar material found in plastic bags and cling film, researchers transformed polyethylene into a comfortable, wearable textile that was more hydrophobic and less sensitive to heat. What’s more, the material required less energy to manufacture and dye, and it was recyclable at the end of its life.
As a result of Cui’s breakthrough, LifeLabs has developed both hot- and cold-weather apparel that’s incredibly adaptable and sustainable. The brand’s MegaWarm Jacket, rated the warmest jacket in the world by CLO rating, uses 91% recycled materials by weight and approximately 33% less material than the competition. Meanwhile, its CoolLife textile releases virtually 100% of your body heat and cools your body by up to two degrees. Beyond its own products, LifeLabs’s potential to license its technology is also high.
Get to know the brand’s best-selling apparel options in greater detail below.
Dubbed “the world’s warmest jacket,” the MegaWarm is the product of breakthroughs in materials science and textile engineering. Its patented, waterproof shell is metalized and contains boxed baffles stuffed with 800-fill power down that’s designed to more evenly distribute feathers inside the jacket, eliminating potential cold spots. Details that boost comfort include a brushed jersey on the interior collar and chin guard, as well as rib knit cuffs that hug the wrists and seal in warmth. Its adjustable hood is designed to fit a hat or beanie while soft pockets keep hands warm or valuables safe. On the sustainability front, it’s constructed with 87% recycled materials by fabric weight, employs recycled YKK zippers and features a PFC-free DWR treatment. Oh, and it’s 38% warmer than the Canada Goose Snow Mantra.
Pair the aforementioned jacket with LifeLabs’ WarmLife Pant to completely seal out the cold. This lightweight, versatile pant uses WarmLife fabric to reflect virtually all of your body heat back to you while fully-taped waterproofing defends against even the harshest elements. Because this is a pant you’ll likely wear over other layers, it’s built with three-quarter side zips that allow for effortless on/off functionality. It’s built with 95% recycled polyester insulation, 78% recycled nylon and a 100% recycled polyester shell.
Featuring a breathable metallic nano-coating that reflects radiant body heat directly back onto the skin, the WarmLife Jacket is built for adventure and stylized for the streets. Its modern silhouette and minimalist design is 9% warmer and 25% lighter than a Gore-Tex Insulated Jacket while materials are 97% recycled and PFC-free. Hand pockets feature a soft lining that’s inviting against the skin while a deep chest pocket stores essentials. Find it in two muted colors for whatever the day throws your way.
An incredibly comfortable short for unrestricted movement, the CoolLife bottoms are just as capable on the summit as they are in the streets. Whether you choose to wear them on a summer hike or at your next pickup game, the double-weave cooling fabric is designed to resist moisture and continuously pull heat away from your body, releasing virtually 100% of it. It comes complete with integrated pockets for essentials and a semi-structured fit that’s both flattering and capable through dynamic movements.
According to LifeLabs, the CoolLife Tee is the one product that defines the brand due to its comfortable fit, soft fabrics and innovative design that keeps you nearly two degrees cooler on a warm day. The fabric’s infrared transparency “allows your body heat to escape and your body temperature to drop, creating a continuous cooling effect” that’s both noticeable and incredibly beneficial. Made from 42% recycled materials by weight, it’s also better for the planet than your dresser full of conventional synthetic tees.
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