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09 / 09 / 2019
Alternative fiber materials for the growing sportswear industry
09 / 09 / 2019
Alternative fiber materials for the growing sportswear industry

The popularity of the athleisure wear has risen sharply as consumers are now looking to streamline their schedules, avoiding multiple wardrobe changes between home, office and the gym. Sportswear has thus risen as one of the fashion industry’s fastest growing sub-categories. In the female market alone, there is an expected compound annual growth rate of 7.7% from 2018 to 2025.

With echoes of fast fashion, increasing popularity of sportswear comes with costs to the environment. Oil-based synthetic materials such as polyester are the most common fabric ingredient in sportswear because they offer high stretch properties and moisture management qualities. However, on the downside, it could take up to 150 years for these non-biodegradable materials to decompose in landfills. Synthetic garments are also found to be the largest source of marine microplastic pollution, with up to 1.7 grams of plastic microfibers can be washed off a single garment per wash.

With limits on sourcing, sportswear companies are still struggling to fully transform their products to be more sustainable. Searching for better, more sustainable alternatives to synthetic textiles is therefore a key step towards a greener industry supply chain.

As a leading producer in sustainable fibers, Lenzing has served as an industry pioneer, advocating for the use of wood-based raw materials and partnering with other producers to create performance textiles with minimal environmental cost.

Compared to recycling polyester, wood-based botanic fibers offer the extra benefit of biodegradable when they come to the end of their product life. Made of renewable wood sources, TENCEL™ Active cellulosic fibers are not only 100% compostable and biodegrade in three months, but also possess exceptional cooling and fast-drying qualities, along with comfort and versatility. Compared to cotton, TENCEL™ Active cellulosic fibers are capable of absorbing 50% more moisture and generate high levels of perspiration essential for sportswear. For example, TENCEL™ Modal fibers, produced by Lenzing’s Eco Soft technology, are known for their exquisite softness, high flexibility and breathability.

TENCEL™ Active cellulosic fibers can also be blended with other materials to produce different types of performance textiles, creating alternatives to synthetic fabrics with less environmental cost. In early 2019, Lenzing worked with Solvay, a specialty chemicals producer, on an innovative fabric which blends TENCEL™ branded fibers with sustainable nylon. The move has successfully introduced new fabric material compositions for the activewear industry. The TENCEL™ Active segment also collaborated with industrial producer, Hyosung to develop sustainable outdoor fabrics with improved stretchability. Furthermore, Lenzing partnered with CoolVisions® to combine TENCEL™ Lyocell and Modal fibers with CoolVisions® dyeable polypropylene filaments, to produce an array of performance textiles in terms of construction, color and weight.

Forging ahead, Lenzing will continue to advocate for and commit to driving awareness and change within the sportswear industry to allow consumers to upgrade their active lifestyle with some much needed eco-care.