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In September 2017, Lenzing opened a new Application Innovation Center (AIC) in Hong Kong, the headquarters of the company’s North Asia operations. An integral part of Lenzing’s global technology network, the facility is one of three such centers in the world – Austria’s focuses on fiber innovation and quality control, Indonesia’s on yarn development, and Hong Kong’s on fabric innovation and new applications.
One year on, the center has already developed new applications for Lenzing fibers, as well as tested them – among them are applications for recent innovations like the TENCEL™ branded Lyocell fiber with REFIBRA™ Technology, as well as LENZING™ ECOVERO™ branded Viscose fiber.
Rex Mok, the General Manager of Lenzing Hong Kong, shared more about the AIC’s work, and what the center’s future holds.
Tell us more about the role and purpose of the AIC.
Rex: Innovation, advanced technologies, and education are at the core of Lenzing’s business and strategy. The AIC is a manifestation of that – a new state-of-the-art fiber and fabric testing center. Our team here creates and develops sustainable fabrics, which are then sent to brand offices across the city.
The AIC is where ideas come to life, enabling prototype production of textile fabrics made of Lenzing fibers, from the concept, dyeing and finishing to the precise measurement of all product data. We have the latest digital machines at the center, ensuring optimal efficiency in production – everything needed to transform fibers into fabrics, from spinning to weaving to dyeing machinery. We also conduct experiments at the center to ensure that the fabrics created are fully sustainable and decomposable.
Raising awareness on the potential of sustainable fibers and fabrics across the entire supply chain is another major goal for the center. Each year, we welcome over 700 visitors to the center. Our guests include students, teachers, and industry stakeholders. Even though we hold around 100 company visits annually, averaging about 1 to 2 visits per week, we’re proud to say that we’re still able to tailor each tour to the needs and interests of participants. For example, if a certain brand wants to know more about denim, we’ll host a specific workshop for them. Through regular engagement with customers, designers, and others in the industry, we’re able to work more closely with all aspects of the supply chain and advance the industry together.
Of the wide range of Lenzing products, what have been the focuses at the AIC in Hong Kong when it comes to innovation?
Rex: The Lenzing AIC focuses primarily on creating fabrics for the apparel industry. For example, one really exciting area we’ve been exploring is the sustainable footwear market. We’re seeing that many footwear brands, such as those in the sports industry, have been exploring ways to launch sustainable collections, demonstrating that eco-friendliness is on the rise across all segments of the fashion world.
TENCEL™ Active fibers are definitely attractive to these eco-conscious sports brands in the region, as it has a higher raw material cost margin than other types of apparel. The AIC is working to develop yarns from TENCEL™ branded fibers to cater to these types of applications. The footwear market has a relatively clear supply chain, which makes it easier for us to trace our successes and identify areas of improvement.
What’s next for the AIC?
Rex: In addition to continuing the work I’ve described already, we also want to build a better-connected industry network, connecting various stakeholders across the value chain.
Furthermore, as e-commerce advances, we hope to identify better ways in tracing the achievements of our work and develop more accurate and effective strategies. We’re even considering opening a store ourselves, as the AIC is now capable of small-scale production.
We’re also looking into setting up Lenzing standards for the industry, creating objective standards with digital data. For example, currently how we evaluate the “touch” of a fiber or fabric is very personal, and we may want to develop a set of standards to define different touches with data collected from the AIC.