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Underwear goes through trend cycles just like other fashion items. While it is no surprise that comfortability continues to be a paramount quality for intimate clothing, sustainability is becoming a top-of-mind priority for consumers and this is expected to make remarkable strides in lingerie.
Consumer consciousness towards sustainability in their purchasing behavior is awakening. In the US alone, sustainability’s share between 2014 and 2017 grew nearly three percentage points and consumers spent about $128.5 billion on sustainable products in 2018. The shift in consumer preference is going to present even more enormous opportunities for brands, as Nielsen, a research firm, predicts that consumers will spend up to $150 billion on sustainable products by 2021. However, there is a long way before the lingerie industry can reap the fruits, as sustainable innerwear only accounts for 2.4% of the market share currently.
Traditional textile dyeing has been the go-to for most manufacturers when producing lingerie due to cost efficiency. However, the harmful impacts to the environment this method brings is often neglected. As an estimated 8,000 synthetic chemicals are used to bleach and brighten clothes, textile dyeing has become the second largest cause of water pollution globally. The World Bank estimated 17 to 20% of industrial water pollution is caused by fabric dyes and treatments. The other downside of textile dyeing is that it may affect the consumer experience, as contact with synthetic chemicals may trigger allergic reactions, skin irritation, and rashes.
Mindful of these negative impacts brought by traditional textile dyeing and the rising demand, some manufacturers and brands have already started adopting more sustainable yet high quality alternatives, such as TENCEL™ Modal fibers, which are made from beech collected from the sustainable forest in Austria and the neighboring countries and through eco-friendly and sustainable processes.
Sun Hing Textiles has been using TENCEL™ branded modal fibers produced with Eco-Color technology to enhance efficiency and sustainability of their textile manufacturing process, and it proved a complete success. “As we have strict regulations of water usage in our Shenzhen factory, TENCEL™ Modal fibers produced by Eco-Color technology is an eco-friendly material which helps us save up to 64% of water in production. The adoption of TENCEL™ Modal fibers, which are certified with the EU Ecolabel, is definitely a big step for us to drive a greener supply chain in lingerie manufacturing,” said Benson Wong, General Manager of Sales & Marketing at Sun Hing Textiles. Textile Tech Enterprise is also a textile manufacturer committed to sustainability and a customer of TENCEL™ Modal fibers. “Eco Color technology for TENCEL™ Modal fibers is different from traditional dyeing as colored pigments are incorporated into the spinning mass solution prior to the fiber extrusion process, in turn offering long-lasting color-fastness. TENCEL™ Modal fibers with Eco-Color technology is the synonym of the latest generation dyeing process, which offer a high comfort level and sustainability,” said Iris Li, Director of Sales at Textile Tech Enterprise.
Tanitex, an international underwear and loungewear company, focuses on developing high-quality, durable and comfortable products without compromising on sustainability. In fact, sustainability has always been a core part of Tanitex’s sourcing strategy for years. “We consider sustainability in every step of our production, from using fibers from renewable sources like TENCEL™ Modal fibers, to knitting and dyeing in facilities that practice extensive recycling and with good water treatment. The feedback from consumers has been very positive, as they appreciate the consistently high quality of our products. They also feel that purchasing our products is not contributing to just more garbage in the land fill, as the products will last a long time and are sourced and produced sustainably,” said Michelle Tang, Director at Tanitex.
While comfortability is still part and parcel for innerwear, that is no longer the only factor appealing to consumers. To better meet consumer needs and maximize business opportunities in the lingerie market, it is essential for manufacturers and brands to work together to green the supply chain and reduce the environmental footprints. As sustainability becomes a larger part of the international dialogue, there is no better time than now to embrace innovative technologies for more sustainable alternatives.