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Behind every Lenzing product, process or application is the same vision – to address evolving market needs, solve existing problems differently, and accelerate circularity across the textile value chain. This vision is placed into action through the forward-looking ideas and innovations of Lenzing’s Technical Marketing and Development (TMD) team, creating new growth opportunities for mill and manufacturing partners using Lenzing fibers.
Lenzing has long bridged the gap between its innovations and partners, collaborating closely to respond responsibly to changing market trends, evolving industry requirements and technical manufacturing challenges, as well as working to enhance sustainability in the value chain with the potential to increase the use of botanic fibers like TENCEL™ fibers from Lenzing across different textile segments.
To learn about Lenzing’s latest developments for various textile applications, we spoke to Rex Mok, Vice President of Fiber Technical Marketing and Development at Lenzing to find out more about how these innovations help progress the textile industry towards a circular future through supply chain collaboration.
1. Why has it been so important for Lenzing to “look beyond the fiber” and support circular developments and innovation?
The textile sector is undergoing constant change amidst growing environmental consciousness globally – for Lenzing to truly drive the industry towards a more circular future, it’s important to adopt a holistic look at the needs of our partners in the value chain and ecosystem to help them adjust business practices to ensure that we create a real impact to the industry. We understand doing so comes with considerable challenges, and for this reason, we have always believed in sharing expertise and developing solutions for and with our partners in pursuit of a common goal.
2. What are some of the technical challenges Lenzing’s value chain partners might encounter when it comes to adopting botanic fibers? How has Lenzing responded?
It goes without saying that the textile industry’s transformation from the linear to circular model is not without its challenges, one of which is the obstacles faced in the adoption of alternative fibers. Keeping our partners at the heart of our innovation, our mission is to provide viable, forward-looking solutions to these very challenges and needs they have.
Working closely alongside our partners has helped us gain a deeper understanding of key challenges they might experience, like resource efficiency or cost-effectiveness. For example, in the innerwear segment, we observed a lingering issue of discoloration caused by the high temperatures involved during garment production. While chemicals to minimize discoloring are available for synthetic materials, they have been known less effective in wood-based cellulosic fibers, presenting a pain point for manufacturers who want to increase their adoption of such fibers.
To address this, we recently introduced a new technique that mitigates the yellowing of garments and fabrics made with wood-based cellulosic fibers during high-temperature production conditions. In doing so, we’ve not only addressed and eliminated a bottleneck that plagued fabric mills, but also expanded the design possibilities of garments made of wood-based cellulosic fibers.
3. Are there any other TMD developments that encourage the circular economy model in textiles?
To move the textiles industry towards a circular future, another key challenge is the scaling of the adoption of eco-responsible materials while responding to changing market trends. Our priority is reducing environmental impact during downstream manufacturing processes. At the same time, our value-chain partners are seeking ways to widen the design and color spectrum available for fabrics made from alternative fibers.
For instance, our new dyeing approach for TENCEL™ Lyocell fibers can create wash-down aesthetics or vintage looks on any knit fabric without the water-intensive bleaching processes that are typical of intensive bleaching processes. By overcoming the limitations of traditional dyeing, our new approach is a resource-efficient alternative that encourages more responsible production practices and more competitive operational costs for fabric mills.
We are also constantly working strategically with mill and manufacturing partners to develop and promote fabric types from recycled materials.
4. How is the industry responding to these innovations and developments? What are some future development ideas?
So far, the initial response from our value chain partners has been positive. In fact, fabric mills appreciate the extra effort we take to provide technical analyses of fibers and fabrics, expert recommendations, and ongoing support. We will continue to collaborate with value chain partners and provide them with any solutions or support needed to achieve their sustainability goals.
In terms of future developments, fiber and fabric developments for sporty fashion and other functional or outdoor apparel will be a key direction as we continue to see a global push towards cellulose-based materials. Recently, we worked with The Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel (HKRITA) to support in their development of innovative bio-based materials for functional sports fabrics. The collaboration has received a Silver Medal Award from the 48th Geneva International Exhibition of Inventions. We look forward to working with them to commercialize these fabrics to the market and provide the segment with a high-quality fabric alternative that mirrors all the functional properties of fossil-based materials with lower environmental impact.