The Changing Landscape of Innovation: From Peaches to Progress

Posted on Jul 30, 2018 8:59:14 AM, by Mollie Williams

Peach trees have a rich history in South Carolina. The official state fruit, peaches have enriched the Palmetto State economy since the early 1700s. They are also of significant meaning to Milliken, a reminder of how our company has grown and evolved.

Milliken moved the company’s headquarters to Spartanburg, South Carolina in 1958, settling on a 600-acre plot of land home to a former peach orchard. There, Roger Milliken and architect firm Skidmore Owings and Merrill partnered to design a forward-thinking corporate campus and dedicated research center, which would soon produce advancements in textiles that would revolutionize the consumer experience. 

During this transition, in addition to changing Milliken’s physical headquarters location, we were also changing the way we thought about textiles. The 1950s saw the birth of a consumer-driven society, and Milliken responded with textile innovations made possible by an enhanced focus on broad-based technology research by scientists and engineers.

Introduced in 1956, Agilon™, the leading yarn for producing one-sized stretch women’s hosiery, was the first direct Milliken Research-derived product of global significance. In fact, the same premise behind Agilon™ innovative stretch qualities is what makes stretch active wear, like yoga pants, possible today. Soon after in 1959 came Belfast®, the first self-ironing 100% cotton fabric and one of the first breakthrough products created from the new Spartanburg offices.

In the early 1960s, research efforts led Milliken scientists to discover polymers that enhance fabrics with improved soil release, reduced soil re-deposition and enhanced wicking. You’ll find the resulting VISA® technology serving as the backbone for many Milliken fabrics today, including the famed Milliken Signature Stripe table linens, a beautiful cloth napkin seen in trendy restaurants across the United States.

We’re approaching 60 years of innovation at our Spartanburg campus, and in lieu of peach trees, the physical landscape at Milliken now includes more than 3,000 noble trees, from the ‘Green Vase’ Japanese Zelkova to the Slender Silhouette Sweetgum. Reflecting on its evolution either intentionally or through the simple elegance of a Milliken Guest House signature Peach Bellini, reminds us the beauty of change — what it means for a person, a community, and for us, a company. For it is embracing change that has allowed Milliken to diversify and become a leader across markets such as specialty chemicals, floor covering, and performance and protective textiles.

Topics: Innovation

Mollie Williams

Written by Mollie Williams

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