“We’ve spent nearly three years developing the Sumo because we’re so dedicated to the vision of achieving the highest, longest-lasting performance with natural fibers,” said co-founder Luisa Kahlfeldt. “Each textile and component is custom developed from the fiber.”
In 2019, Kahlfeldt, award-winning industrial designer, and Caspar Böhme, entrepreneur and creative director, created a design space in Berlin, Germany, dedicated to making everyday products more beautiful and safer for users and the environment. Finding an alternative to disposable baby diapers fits well with these goals.
“We cannot continue to pollute the planet with an average of 5,000 disposable diapers per child. Growing pollution requires a quick overhaul, the use of more sustainable materials and smart solutions for parents,” says Böhme. “There aren’t many hygiene products on the market that combine bio-based materials and reusability, and these often lack performance.”
The Sumo diaper system – and the removable superabsorbent Ufo inlay – are based on plant-based fibers which, according to the founders, outperform polyester and cotton – the main material of most reusable diaper systems. The absorbent pad exhibits a reduction of approximately 40% in rewet value and a reduction in acquisition time of approximately 45% compared to polyester and 40% compared to cotton. At the same time, the product is thinner, weighs less and is breathable.
Sumo partnered with Kelheim Fibers, a German supplier of viscose fibers and polylactic acid (PLA), to develop the core. Kelheim’s Galaxy trilobal viscose fiber forms capillary channels to allow efficient distribution of liquids into the acquisition delivery layer. In the absorbent core, Kelheim’s Bramante segmented hollow fiber stores liquid not only between but also within the fibers. Bramante can absorb up to 260% of its own weight.
The core was constructed using a combination of needling and thermal bonding processes. Needling gives both types of fibers more space to absorb liquid and higher storage volumes. Thermal bonding provides bulk and increases strength, allowing the nonwoven to be fully washable. The founders say the product should last throughout potty training and could even be passed down to younger siblings.