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Over the past three decades, the TENCEL™ brand has been at the forefront of driving a more sustainable future for the fashion and textile industries. In the world of denim, Levi Strauss & Co. is a pioneer of the denim evolution, not only for design and aesthetics, but also for raw material usage and sustainable practices across the supply chain.
To learn more about how the brand drives change, Neil Bell, Director of Material Innovation Levis Design Innovation Team at Levi Strauss & Co. joined Tricia Carey, Director of Global Business Development Denim and Americas at Lenzing for a conversation around the transformation of sustainable denim.
Tricia: Thank you so much Neil, for joining me today. We’ve been working together for a long time now. Can you start by telling us how long you have been working with TENCEL™ and why you partner with us?
Neil: I've worked with TENCEL™ for more than 30 years. At the very beginning, we had no idea we could produce fiber from wood pulp. I have witnessed both the evolution and the challenges faced by TENCEL™ throughout the years. It is a wonderful fiber - the softness is amazing. The performance is fantastic, but you also have to work with it from a technical point of view. So, I've done a lot of work with spinners, weavers and knitters to bring this fiber to life. It's really been a journey.
Tricia: In the fashion industry, we are always saying that consumers have changed, and they are looking for a balance between sustainability, comfort and aesthetics. As your brands engage with consumers firsthand, do you have any observations on how consumers respond to TENCEL™?
Neil: Our consumers have been especially responsive to sustainability. They respond emotionally to the story around sustainability and the idea that we are Levi Strauss and we're taking a responsible position. We're very aware of making sure we use the right fibers in our products. We are transparent in everything we do and consumers are also starting to recognize the Lenzing name as the brand responsible for TENCEL™ fibers from all the work that has happened over the last 30 years.
Tricia: As we continue to embark on a journey that drives sustainability in denim further, what is your vision or what are your thoughts towards the future of TENCEL™?
Neil: For us at Levi Strauss, we’re always challenging TENCEL™ to push even further in terms of sustainability. As you know, we have a huge waste problem in the world today and we're trying to challenge all our fiber suppliers to gather waste and answer circularity within the fiber business. We rely on TENCEL™ to be able to work much more in this space.
Tricia: Yes, in fact, we have been expanding our technologies to not only use pre-consumer cotton scraps from garment manufacturing for production of TENCEL™ Lyocell fibers with REFIBRA™ technology, but also post-consumer textiles collected via our industry partner Södra. Of course, we will continue to look out for other opportunities to expand our sustainability initiatives and drive a circular fashion and textile industry. Thanks again, Neil, for partnering with TENCEL™ and we look forward to more decades of collaboration together!