Imagine creating groundbreaking, sustainable technology that changes the textile industry for the better—and then giving it away. That’s exactly what Sae Chang did when he founded HEAT-MX, a textile firm specializing in thermal insulation material. Not only are these materials used in everything from apparel to bedding to food bags and more, but they leverage technologies that both enhance performance and ensure true environmental protection. Sae drew on his experience in R&D and in many different manufacturing settings, which not only endowed him with a wealth of knowledge and insight, but also an awareness of how things could improve. His hands-on experience has helped HEAT-MX avoid the problematic “greenwashing” phenomenon and has made the firm a great success since its launch in 2021.
Today, there are more than 11 million labels proudly displaying the HEAT-MX logo, including Kamik, Walmart, and Caterpillar. They’ve also already earned multiple ISPO Top of Innovation awards across all categories, the top recognition in the textile industry, and have been featured in Denim Focus and Textile Journal for both their technological advances and sustainability.
But it’s not just about creating a high-performing material with half the weight and material usage of leading competitors. For Sae, it’s about sustainability and making sure everyone has access to technologies that can truly make a difference. It was precisely this mission that inspired him to found the Clean Recycling Initiative™, a not-for-profit organization, and then donate the HEAT-MX tech to the initiative so that manufacturers around the globe—including his competitors—can take advantage of it. Clean Recycling Initiative™ offers patent-pending technologies for recycling textile waste both pre- and post-consumption, and for manufacturing-specific processes, allowing companies to reclaim textile waste cleanly, as opposed to conventional plastic recycling, from which a lot of microplastics and use of toxic chemicals harm the environment. Founded in 2021, it shares its corporate base with HEAT-MX in Montreal. With subsidiary operations in China and South Korea, HEAT-MX and Clean Recycling Initiative are poised to change the textile industry for the better, and keep people warm while doing it.
We talked to Sae about how he’s providing solutions that work for manufacturers, distributors, retailers, and the public—for the betterment of all.
What is the inspiration behind your business?
There are, unfortunately, so many issues in the textile industry today. For example, many technologies claimed as sustainable, even by some of the biggest names in the industry, are mere greenwashing. Sometimes it happens without intention because there’s also a significant lack of knowledge. As an engineer with hands-on experience in everything from manufacturing to sales and marketing, distribution, consumption, and even disposal, it’s been really inspiring me to make things right for everyone involved. I’m proud that HEAT-MX provides the products with technologies that create true impacts for performance and sustainability.
What problem does your business solve?
It solves two problems. The first is performance related. There are many products that provide insufficient warmth. Many jackets, for example, are made with large areas called “cold spots,” which means that people have to overdress and thus overconsume textiles. HEAT-MX’s patent-pending technologies nDown™ and iDown™ solve those structural problems. And these can be used in other applications such as sleeping bags, home textiles like bedding, etc.
The second problem is environment related. Since the 1920s, people have been making an insurmountable quantity of synthetic fibers, which, in turn, created huge environmental issues like microplastic contamination, chemical and air pollutants all over the world. In order to reverse these negative impacts, we developed technology that enables either removing process waste altogether or recycling it without using chemicals or creating more microplastics. It’s a breakthrough innovation that can reshape the industry the world over. Another example is iDown™, which cuts down drying time by up to 75%, thus saving energy. There are too many sustainable technologies to cover and even more in the pipeline.
Can you share some of your accomplishments that you’re most proud of?
I’m most proud of being able to gain hands-on experience in diverse textile manufacturing environments and to build a successful career. The unique combination of my career path, covering opposite ends of the corporate operations spectrum, allows me deep insights into the market, so I know what people really need and how to manufacture them efficiently and effectively.
Do you have a role model or a favorite personal motto that inspires you?
My role model in business is Steve Jobs for the tenacity and intelligence to be able to change the world and how we live. My motto is “The price of inaction is far greater than the cost of making mistakes” by German philosopher Meister Eckhart.
Founder & CEO — HEAT-MX™, Clean Recycling Initiative™