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TENCEL™ insights
13 / 01 / 2023
TENCEL™ branded lyocell fibers drive circularity and transparency in functional wear segment
TENCEL™ insights
13 / 01 / 2023
TENCEL™ branded lyocell fibers drive circularity and transparency in functional wear segment

With sustainability expected to reshape the fashion sector in 2023[1], maintaining environmental balance is important when it comes to designing functional apparel. Users of outdoor apparel respect and enjoy the beauty of nature and care for the environment, which are values the TENCEL™ brand holds close to heart. Therefore, choosing the appropriate materials, technology, and manufacturing process to provide wearers with comfort, functionality, and eco-friendly requirements are of the utmost importance for TENCEL™.

Birgit Schnetzlinger, Head of Global Business Development for Functional Wear at Lenzing, joins us to share insights about the evolving functional wear segment and discuss how the TENCEL™ brand is driving a circular and transparent future.

Q: What are the latest innovations from TENCEL™ for the Functional Wear and Footwear segment?

Birgit: TENCEL™ is well-known for its forward-thinking sustainable fiber solutions and we strive to stay ahead of the curve in the functional wear segment with the latest textile innovations, trends, and consumer insights. We know, for example, that outdoor enthusiasts are very eco-conscious and demand the highest levels of function and durability from sustainable functional clothing. For us, it is important to ensure we provide functional wear, which meets or even exceeds the needs of end consumers.

Designed with the latest sustainability trends in mind, our three-fold Tree Climate fabric collection by TENCEL™ showcases polyester-free or enhanced synthetic fabric solutions for base layers, mid layers and outer layers for high comfort in different weather conditions. Beyond functional moisture wicking next-to-skin base layers, outdoor brands can design warming mid layers, biodegradable waddings as well as wind-resistant outer layers made of wood-based TENCEL™ branded lyocell fibers.

In addition, we pride ourselves on working with partners who, like us, have high environmental principles. We recently partnered with Sidonios Tech to create the Seamless Athleisure Set using 100 percent TENCEL™ Lyocell components. Comprising leggings and a long-sleeved shirt, the Seamless Athleisure Set was designed with TENCEL™ Lyocell filament to move away from petroleum-based filaments. By blending TENCEL™ Lyocell fibers with TENCEL™ LUXE filament, Sidonios creates a seamless bi-stretch product that uses only one raw material source – wood – and eliminates the use of petroleum-based stretch fibers. I am proud to say that the Seamless Athleisure Set won an award at the prestigious ISPO Awards 2022.

Q: Innovations in functional wear traditionally focus on improving performance. What is the importance of innovations around improving the sustainability profile of products?

Birgit: Innovations which improve the sustainability profile of products are very important. We have committed to over three decades of sustainable fiber innovation, and we remain dedicated to encouraging stakeholders to make informed eco-friendly decisions. This includes choosing TENCEL™ fibers as an alternative to polyester-based fibers, as the adoption of recycled PES in outdoor apparel does not prevent microplastics from entering the environment due to shedding. However, in order to do this, we must continue to raise awareness around the benefits of wood-based, biodegradable fibers and encourage the industry to offer better choices to the consumer.

As a sustainable enterprise, we understand the resources on this planet are limited, which is why we are strong believers in a circular economy. By keeping our raw materials – such as TENCEL™ Lyocell fibers – in a closed loop production process, we maximize resources, avoid waste, and increase the life cycle of our products. What’s more, TENCEL™ Lyocell fibers are fully biodegradable under soil, freshwater, and marine conditions, which means they do not contribute to microfiber pollution.

In addition, TENCEL™ fibers are identifiable in the fabric and in the final garment. This is thanks to our innovative Fiber Identification technology, which enables us to offer full traceability and transparency of the raw material source to our brand partners, who can promote the sustainability claims of their products with great confidence.

To ensure we achieve our sustainability goals, we cooperate with our stakeholders across the value chain to help them advance change, such as moving towards more circular solutions, traceability from fiber to final product or using less plastics. One of the latest examples is our partnership with Houdini, a circular sportwear brand, to launch the “New Naturals” collection. Created using TENCEL™ Lyocell fibers and Merino wool, from the base-layer to the mid-layer and the shell layer, the collection can be largely decomposed into their original components.

Q: Apart from creating polyester-free solutions, what other sustainability solutions has TENCEL™ been working on in the Functional wear and Footwear segment?

Birgit: We continuously develop resource-efficient technologies for the production of sustainable products and contribute to a circular economy in the textiles industry. A good example of this is our REFIBRA™ technology which incorporates cotton fabric waste to address the enormous textile waste challenges of industry and society. This unique upcycling technology utilizes pre-consumer cotton scraps and post-consumer garments from the textile value chain as raw materials.

Our goal by 2025 is to produce fibers with REFIBRA™ technology on a commercial scale which use up to 50% recycled content from post-consumer waste. Together with partners along the value chain, we aim to drive forward textile recycling and process 100,000 tons of textile waste by 2028. Effective textile recycling is one of the most important and complex issues facing the textile industry today and it is crucial to collaborate with the entire ecosystem to provide textile recycling on a large scale over the years to come.

An increasing number of well-known brands have incorporated TENCEL™ fibers with REFIBRA™ technology into their collections, including the TIMBERLAND Luxe Comfort Essentials and the TIMBERLAND EARTHKEEPERS® BY RAEBURN collection. Designed by Christopher Raeburn, the latest collection is made from materials that help reduce its impact on the planet. With TENCEL™ X REFIBRA™, Timberland is leading the way for circular innovation in apparel and footwear.

Q: What can we expect from TENCEL™’s functional wear segment in 2023?

Birgit: To help us achieve our ambitious sustainability goals, we will continue to focus on developing more circular products made from TENCEL™ Lyocell with REFIBRA™ technology. Together with our partners, we will present both TENCEL™ fiber and filament solutions for a cooling sensation designed for performance wear as well as TENCEL™ fibers for warming mid and outer layers. Examples of this include a polyester-free fleece for the colder weather which helps prevent microfiber shedding, warming fill fiber and water-repellent soft-shell solutions.

Looking ahead, due to the success of the Tree Climate fabric collection by TENCEL™, we are launching a second edition of the collection in 2023, and we also have a number of exciting brand partnerships with big fashion and outdoor labels in the pipeline. Stay tuned for more information.



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