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TENCEL™ insights
18 / 05 / 2021
TENCEL™ Insights: Better connect with nature through eco-responsible activewear
TENCEL™ insights
18 / 05 / 2021
TENCEL™ Insights: Better connect with nature through eco-responsible activewear

The global activewear market is currently expected to reach US$567 billion by 2024. This unique fashion segment continues to boom in popularity as consumers adopt a more casual and versatile wardrobe, which is perfect for workouts, and running errands thereafter.

As consumers emerge from the holiday period, activewear will be high on the priority list for many as they are keen explore more outdoor activities, seeking to abide by their new year’s health resolutions.

For the next instalment of our “TENCEL™ Insights” Series, we spoke with Andreas Gürtler, Senior Manager of Global Business Development Active Sportswear at Lenzing AG, to explore the latest activewear trends and how consumers can connect with nature using sustainable activewear pieces, without leaving the comfort of home.


Q: How has the activewear segment evolved during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Andreas: The activewear segment has been a profound cultural force for many years pre-dating the pandemic. The past decade was typified by a large-scale shift toward practical fashion, leading consumers to adopt activewear to meet the demands of their busy lifestyles whilst remaining stylish.

During the past year, we witnessed an accelerating trend of consumers purchasing activewear as people spent a majority of time indoors. Additionally, overarching themes around wellness, relaxation and recovery have emerged, hence yoga and meditation have become popular stay-at-home activities, further promoting the use of activewear. We have also observed a rise in activewear, particularly for cycling and hiking, alongside an increase in consumer care for their health and fitness.

Also, many consumers are not required to wear formal clothing while working from home, and as such have adopted a more athleisure inspired wardrobe that can carry them through from their morning home workout, to their evening meal.

Q: What should consumers look for when purchasing activewear garments?

Andreas: Any activewear pieces should be designed for long-term use, meaning the quality of the fabric is more important than ever. As such, activewear garments should remain looking fresh, even after multiple washes and remain comfortable on skin for long periods of time. Activewear garments should also remain breathable to support consumers even during the most intensive workouts. For instance, New Zealand outdoor clothing brand, Icebreaker, now uses TENCEL™ branded lyocell fibers in a blend with merino wool due to its moisture management properties allowing the fiber to remain 40% cooler than 100% wool, and wick away moisture 3 times as fast. In addition, The North Face is using FlashDry XD™ technology in certain collections that features TENCEL™ Lyocell fibers, which is also specifically engineered to wick away more moisture than standard fabrics, contributing to better breathability and comfort.

Additionally, activewear garments should be made from environmentally friendly materials, like TENCEL™ Lyocell fibers. Almost every leading activewear brands now offers a sustainable line and consumers should seek those out. The activewear segment has traditionally been a large contributor to pollution, however producers and brands are working hard to reduce their impact on the environment and now offer more eco-friendly options for eco-conscious consumers. If consumers are not sure about the quality of the garment, always check the product label to ensure you are wearing pieces from brands that seek to minimize their impact on the environment. Certain brands are making this easy for consumers such as adidas, which will soon use the Lenzing E-branding platform for its “Made with Nature” collection, contributing to guaranteed supply chain transparency.

Q: What makes activewear a traditionally large contributor to environmental pollution?

Andreas: The activewear segment has historically relied on synthetic materials for a majority of its products. Man-made synthetic fibers like polyester are incredibly resource and energy intensive relative to natural alternatives and can shed tiny micro-plastics into our planet’s waterways when washed. Micro-plastics pollution is quickly becoming a global environmental crisis.

Synthetics first became popular in activewear when innovations made them more durable than natural materials. But times have changed and new innovations with natural raw materials have created a new category of ultra-high-performance fibers with leading environmental credibility. At Lenzing, the TENCEL™ brand is at the forefront of these innovations and is working hard to address the negative environmental impacts of the activewear segment. Our approach includes optimizing our own production processes to mitigate environmental impact, and engaging industry stakeholders to improve the situation.

Q: You mentioned TENCEL™ Active. How do TENCEL™ branded fibers for activewear offer superior quality whilst contributing to a lower environmental footprint?

Andreas: Our TENCEL™ branded fibers, specifically designed for use in activewear garments, are durable, soft, breathable, and use 100% renewal, cleanly sourced wood-based materials.

For enhanced durability, we created Eco Color technology which involves embedding color pigments into dope-dyed fibers for longer-lasting color vibrancy. We also employ sophisticated moisture management techniques such as the use of submicroscopic canals between the microscopic fibrils of cellulose fibers. In layman’s terms, this means our TENCEL™ fibers naturally regulate absorption and the release of moisture, contributing to enhanced breathability. Sophisticated moisture management means there is less available moisture on the surface of the fiber for bacteria to grow, offering better hygienic qualities compared to synthetics.

All of these features are wrapped in an eco-friendly fiber that is natural for consumers, made from renewable botanic origins and produced free from harmful chemicals or excess waste. Crucially, our fibers also contribute to the circular economy helping to encourage the development of renewable and recyclable textiles as the industry standard.

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