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There are many factors to consider when designing shoes, particularly performance shoes, such as functionality, aesthetics and last but not least, sustainability. It can be a challenge to strike the perfect balance between all three given that a single pair of shoes can be made up of various parts that all have different material requirements and manufacturing processes.
In setting out to create the industry’s first-ever synthetic-free footwear uppers and fabrics, it was this exact challenge that the teams at Lenzing and Coats Footwear found themselves facing. This resulted in an innovative collaboration between Lenzing and Coats Footwear, taking Lenzing’s TENCEL™ Lyocell Filament and weaving it using Coats Footwear’s revolutionary ProWeave™ technology to create bespoke synthetic-free shoe uppers for Circle Sportswear’s ‘SuperNatural Runners’. This high-performance shoe is designed for runners of all levels and marks the first time TENCEL™ Lyocell Filament, renowned for its luxurious properties, has been used in a performance sportswear application.
We sat down with Paul Jackson, ProWeave™ Business Unit Leader, to discuss how this collaboration with TENCEL™ came to be and what lies ahead for the future of footwear.
Q: How do Circle Sportswear’s ‘SuperNatural Runners’ shoes compare to conventional running shoes?
Paul: Conventional running shoes are made of a combination of materials – usually plastic or synthetic materials that form the sole and upper, as well as rest of the shoe’s covering. Circle Sportwear’s ‘SuperNatural Runner’ has an upper made from a blend of botanic filaments, TENCEL™ Lyocell Filament and RWS-certified wool woven together using our ProWeave™ technology. Taking the sustainability element one step further, the shoe’s midsole is created from ricin plant for low-impact cushioning and its outsole from a natural and biodegradable rubber.
Q: What is ProWeave™ technology and what benefits does it add to the overall product?
Paul: To create the footwear upper and fabrics for Circle Sportswear’s ‘SuperNatural Runner’, we partnered with Lenzing to weave TENCEL™ Lyocell Filament with RWS-certified wool using our ProWeave™ technology, a unique patented jacquard weaving process compatible with a range of different fibers and yarns. The technology allows for the creation of materials with different elasticities, tenacities, and abrasion zones within the same weave. ProWeave™ effortlessly blends yarn of different thicknesses, weights and compositions to create intricate fabrics that have distinctive gradients, textures, colours, elasticity, transparency and three-dimensional effects. Owing to this, adopting ProWeave™ technology allowed Circle Sportswear to consider more diverse designs and planet friendly raw materials, while still meeting the specific functions that a performance shoe calls for. Our technology combined with the use of TENCEL™ Lyocell Filament also ensured optimal comfort by enabling a precise fit, superior movement flexibility and enhanced physical property benefits, such as breathability and softness.
Q: How did the partnership between Coats and Lenzing begin? What are the shared values that have enabled such a successful first collaboration?
Paul: We couldn’t have been more excited to be chosen by Circle Sportswear to develop a sustainable footwear upper solution that brings the ‘SuperNatual Runners’ to life. Given our shared commitment to lowering the environment impact of textile and footwear production processes, our partnership with Lenzing felt natural from day one. Our mission at Coats is to prioritize eco-friendly production practices and strive for efficient utilization and processing of all raw materials. This aligns strongly Lenzing’s values and we both are of the strong belief that collaboration across the supply chain takes responsibility, innovation and technology further for the industry as a whole. As a result, we have been able to channel these shared principles to create a truly, innovative product for the footwear market.
Q: What future trends/innovations do you see on the horizon for textiles technology and the footwear segment?
Paul: The demand for biodegradable textiles has only continued to grow over the years and brands are increasingly looking for viable solutions for bio-based performance footwear. This feeds into the larger focus on circular fashion that has been transforming the industry, referring to the idea of creating a closed-loop system where waste is drastically reduced and resources are efficiently used. This could involve everything from using recycled materials and sustainable production process to implementing strategies for recycling old products. At Coats, we believe we have delivered – and continue to deliver - on these elements alongside our industry partners like Lenzing which is further amplified tenfold when we join forces to collaborate.
Q: Are there any future developments in the pipeline for Coats and Lenzing?
Paul: Lenzing was a clear choice of partner for us as both Coats Footwear and Lenzing have combined commitments and goals when it comes to responsibility and innovation. The combination of TENCEL™ Lyocell Filament and ProWeave™ technology proves that innovation is boundless. Our shared vision to help our customers and partners lower their environmental impact by providing best-in-class materials and manufacturing technologies further unites us. Building on this foundation, we are excited to explore further opportunities with Lenzing for the development of next-generation, planet-friendly material solutions that contribute to a more dynamic textile industry.