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TENCEL™ insights
06 / 04 / 2022
TENCEL™ Insights: The sustainable revolution for the world’s best-known fabric: Denim
TENCEL™ insights
06 / 04 / 2022
TENCEL™ Insights: The sustainable revolution for the world’s best-known fabric: Denim

From the heritage styles of Americana to perfect Parisian chic, every trendsetter knows that a good pair of denim jeans is a closet staple. Despite how democratic denim is – as a fabric, it has outlived fads and transcended seasons – how it is produced is decidedly less so. Denim is universally considered as one of the more resource-heavy, environmentally damaging garments and for conscious consumers, the question of purchasing another pair of blues becomes a tricky predicament. Which presides over the other: style or sustainability?

Thankfully, the evolution of the denim industry has kept up with the latest eco-friendly textile innovations in order to fit current consumers’ expectations for the fabric. We sat down with Tricia Carey, Director of Global Business Development for Denim at Lenzing AG, to discuss the denim industry’s transformation in the fashion world, and the role that the TENCEL™ brand plays in making denim more sustainable.

Q: How has new denim recreated classic styles of the garment to factor in a sustainable ethos?

Tricia: While we have seen resurging interest in vintage options, newer denim brands or collections have also endeavored to offer more sustainable garment styles. Advancements in denim manufacturing have had a positive impact on the fashion industry’s overall environmental footprint; and brands are also mindful to take into consideration what consumers look for when choosing a pair of jeans.

Brands are keen to explore the use of emerging eco-innovations, such as new dye technology or lower energy consumption methods, that can achieve both style and sustainability. As an industry leader, we are constantly helping brands reach their environmental goals with our cutting-edge technologies and expertise.

When it comes to the coveted lush of blue denim, the TENCEL™ brand has helped companies, such as Italy’s Officina+39, Japan’s Moririn and Turkey’s Calik Denim to replace conventional indigo dyeing altogether with TENCEL™ branded modal fibers with Indigo Color Technology, which significantly reduces the amount of resources required. Moreover, we believe circularity is the next frontier for the textile business, so we work closely with brands to drive greater circular initiatives. One example would be working with the iconic heritage brand Levi’s to create classic 501® jeans made with TENCEL™ Lyocell fibers.

Q: Can you tell us about some of the latest offerings TENCEL™ has introduced to create an even brighter future for sustainable denim?

Tricia: Our goal as a fiber production leader is to always stay toe-to-toe with the demands of brand and mill partners. Recently, our new matte TENCEL™ Lyocell fibers were launched to diversify denim offerings, after our partners expressed desire for a denim fabric with reduced shine. We therefore ensured our customers and brands could opt for a darker denim while knowing it was manufactured sustainably, in a resource-efficient closed loop production cycle.

At Lenzing, it’s not about the way things are conventionally made, but rather how we can challenge the status quo and come up with new products, technologies and applications. One example would be offering TENCEL™ Modal fibers with Indigo Color Technology as a solution to traditional indigo yarn with high crocking issues. When compared to conventional indigo dye, savings of water, heat and energy are significant. It’s also inherently versatile as it enables the implementation of multi-fiber blends.

In 2020, we launched our carbon-zero TENCEL™ Lyocell and Modal fibers to meet the market needs for carbon footprint reduction. Our carbon-zero TENCEL™ fibers received positive feedback from brand partners and have been adopted by global brands such as Jack & Jones, to make denim products.

With the recent completion of our Thailand lyocell plant, we are able to better meet the increasing demand for lyocell fibers for consumers, thus moving the textile and denim industry forward.

Industry collaboration is key in catalyzing and implementing systemic change. Fashioning a circular system for the whole industry will require participation from numerous players within the value chain. From collecting and sorting discarded textiles to the recycling process and eventual purchasing of recycled materials by brands and retailers, all parts need to work together to scale up circularity. Therefore, the TENCEL™ brand will continue to work closely with stakeholders throughout the supply chain to improve the ecological sustainability impact of denim production.

Q: What steps can stakeholders in the denim industry take to ensure a fashion piece is truly ethical?

Tricia: It’s not enough to simply recognize the need for change – for the denim industry to be truly ethical, the relationship between suppliers, brands and consumers needs to be fully transparent. Brand loyalty is earned when a customer knows how their clothes were made, what ingredients they were made from and whether any harmful processes were involved. For brands to succeed in this respect they need to develop comprehensive resources that highlight each step of the process from fiber to shelf.

For TENCEL™ fibers, we have a fiber identification system which relies on physical identification of the fiber, enables traceability, avoids counterfeiting, and provides assurance to partners that their products are made of real TENCEL™ fibers. Furthermore, we also have a Lenzing E-Branding Service where stakeholders can showcase their use of TENCEL™ fibers in a certified manner. Something as straightforward as creating hangtags with information on, can help consumers make proper informed decisions about their purchases.

Q: Finally, what are your top tips for purchasing a new denim staple?

Tricia: The decision to purchase denim, as with any fabric, should be carefully considered and oriented towards pieces that can last for multiple seasons. Consumers should remain cautious of trends that shorten the useful life of the fabric and instead focus on versatile options. Denim jeans shouldn’t just be fashion statement pieces, rather they should be designed to mix-and-match with everything in your wardrobe.

As denim manufacturers begin to experiment with new fiber blends, consumers should remain conscious of sustainability. Using eco-friendly fibers like TENCEL™ which are 100% compostable and biodegradable, and offer enhanced breathability and thermal regulation, can make denim pieces more wearable with consumers able to wear them throughout the year.

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