What do middle school students, astronauts, soldiers and your parents have in common? It’s almost guaranteed they’ve worn Polartec fabrics.
Polartec is a creation of family-owned and operated Malden Mills Industries, who have been revolutionizing textile technologies for 110 years. Their innovations can be found in hundreds of international garment brands, on the battlefield, and even in outer space! Best of all, they’ve never stopped manufacturing textiles in the United States of America.
In the late 19th century, a Hungarian immigrant named Henry Feuerstein got a job sewing blouses in NYC. After being laid off, he began sell to dry goods across the state and found some success. This led to a series of real estate investments, including a small mill in Malden, MA in 1906.
He called the mill “Malden Knitting” and began producing wool "workman's" sweaters and bathing suits. Soon, the company began experimenting with various fabrics and dyes and won a contract to produce uniforms for the U.S. Army. By 1956, they’d achieved "vertical" continuous production, which means one facility capable of dyeing, printing, and finishing garments.
In the 1960s, Malden Mills began to expand, opening a new knitting mill in Bridgton, Maine and experimenting with synthetic fabrics for the upholstery market. Their process became more automated and—unlike other textile manufacturers—they invested more resources in Massachusetts, rather than relocating to where land and labor were cheaper.
The next breakthrough came in the early 1990s when Malden Mills began experimenting with recycled fabrics and focused on ways to improve their environmental friendliness. The company reduced consumption, added further reuse and recycling programs and was recognized by the American Textile Manufacturers Institute (ATMI) for environmental "excellence" in the textile industry.
Today, most products sold with the Polartec name contain 80–100 percent recycled fiber. In addition, the company recently introduced Eco-Velvet—an upholstery fabric made from recycled soda bottles.
You can find Polartec American-made fabrics and technologies in hundreds of internationally manufactured garments. These include Patagonia, The North Face, Marmot, Mountain Equipment CO-OP, Mountain Hardwear, Cabela's, Lands End, LL Bean, Jack Wolfskin, and all branches of the United States Military.
You can also find them at all 2016 American Field events.
We thank Polartec for their continued sponsorship of American Field.