One of the responsibilities at my full time job is sourcing fabrics. 4 years ago we haven’t heard of sustainable or eco/organic fabrics and 2 years ago we have received our first enquiries. Of course, I had to quickly educate myself in able to help our customers on the journey of becoming more and more sustainable and ethical.
In the beginning the fabric mills I’ve worked with had a very high minimum for orders and the prices for recycled polyester and eco vero viscose were extremely high. Something you will say it’s worth paying to protect the environment but it wasn’t that easy for our customers. We had to think about the price as well.
However, in the past 2 years the business has changed and the fabric suppliers and everyone involved in the process of becoming more sustainable improved their facilities and lowered their prices as this was a way for them to gain more business of course, due to an increased demand from many brands and retailers at the time.
It’s incredible what the fashion industry achieved so far and I feel good I was witness of the whole process and I’m part of it. Everything is still in the beginning, that’s why we all need to collaborate and share knowledge in able to make a difference.
My education of what fabrics are available and what actually means sustainable/organic started with deep researches in the Internet, but I gained more knowledge mainly throughout discussions with fabric specialists getting information first hand and from people with enough experience.
Every other month we will publish articles about different organic or sustainable fabrics. We have decided to start with Lenzing group, as their innovative approach has developed more than just one sustainable fabric, so it’s worth to see more about their products.
Lenzing Group – The Lenzing Group is an international company with its headquarter in Lenzing, Austria, and production sites in all major markets. The company was founded back in 1938 and since then their ambition and passion is to develop fibers for industry, brands and retailers - in sectors like fashion, beauty care, cleaning and hygiene. Lenzing fibers are made from natural wood. They are botanic products derived from renewable sources and processed with unique resource-conserving technologies. This is how they take responsibility for our planet’s future.
Under the Lenzing group we can see three different brands (Ecovero, Tencel, Veocel).
ECOVERO - Viscose, which is also known as rayon, has been used to make soft, luxurious feeling fabrics. Made from purified cellulose, it is produced from specially processed wood pulp and is often compared to silk and cotton. Although the fabric made from this fiber may be beautiful, viscose is a semi-synthetic, chemical fiber. Often the timber used to for the wooden pulp stems from irrigation-intensive monocultures, which negatively impact the earth. Large amounts of highly toxic chemicals, such as carbon disulfide are used during the production of viscose, which has led to a number of worker poisonings. In addition, shipping the cellulose-based fiber around the globe also increases the level of Co2 emissions, making it a harmful fiber.
Lenzing group innovated EcoVero Viscose, which is made again from wood, but sustainable one and its coming from controlled sources, like FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) or PEFC (Program for Endorsement of Forest Certification Schemes) certified in Europe. More than 60 percent of the trees used to produce EcoVero fibers come from Austria and Bavaria to ensure lower emissions.
The cellulose fiber is produced at a state of the art facility via a new, innovative environmental process which has significantly lower emissions and water impact than conventional viscose. Nearly all the chemicals used during the production of EcoVero are recovered and reused. Compared to conventional viscose production, the production of EcoVero causes 50 percent less emissions and takes up half as much energy and water in addition to its pulp bleaching being 100 percent chlorine-free.
Armedangels is the first organic, sustainable fashion brand to incorporate EcoVero into its collections for winter 2017, and visited Lenzing production facility in Austria to see first-hand how the eco-fiber is made. Today, a lot of other brands are using Ecovero and although Ecovero is still a viscose product, which production requires the use of potentially hazardous chemicals, this fiber is still a welcome alternative to conventional viscose.
TENCEL – Tencel is a brand name for a set of fibers called lyocell and modal. Tencel is very similar to Viscose. Very soft, drapey fabric. Much softer than cotton and I would say feels a bit more luxurious than viscose as it has this natural shine to it. Another benefit of Tencel is that it doesn’t wrinkle easily.
The fibers are manufactured in an award-winning efficient closed-loop process, contributing to the circular economy in the textile industry. The process is very similar to producing a viscose/ecovero fibers, however during the production process of Tencel there is a less water and chemicals that are less-toxic and often get recycled in the process so there is minimal waste.
How sustainable is Tencel? Tencel uses less energy and water in comparison with cotton and the fibers are biodegradable and compostable, however any chemical dyes and finishes from the fabric would end up in the soil along with it, so it’s not a natural fibre yet, but a very good option to start with.
VEOCEL – a botanic fiber brand promoted by the Lenzing Group. It has been created to take care for everyday consumer needs using sustainable nonwoven fibres. The fibers top feature is their liquid absorption and are ideal for sanitary and baby care products, facial sheet masks, cosmetic pads, and all other kinds of wet and dry wipes.
The cellulosic fibers originate from the renewable raw material wood created by photosynthesis and are certified bio based. The production is done in an environmentally responsible process. They are compostable and biodegradable and can fully revert back to nature. No harm is done to nature and the waters are kept clean. The fibres are certified as a USDA biobased product and Lenzing has been awarded for their innovative manufacturing process of the Lyocell fibers, process which recycles water and reuses the solvent at a recovery rate of more than 99%.
I hope this blog has been interesting for you, but if you have any questions or if something is not clear please drop us a message in the comments section.
In our next blog we will talk about Linen, why is one of the most sustainable fabric and what is the impact on the environment when Linen is used.