Traditionally in the fashion world, mills have been middlemen between fiber firms and brands. However, escalating sustainability demands are building more direct relationships between material suppliers and retailers.
Consumers are asking more nuanced questions about the environmental profile of fabrics, and due diligence regulations are creating a legal imperative to know the facts behind fibers. In this changing landscape, synthetic material manufacturer Hyosung has stepped up its support for supply chain partners, positioning itself as a total textile solutions provider for the industry.
“As brands and retailers look for more verification and certification of claims, they are moving further up the value chain and connecting with fiber suppliers,” said Simon Whitmarsh-Knight, Hyosung Global Marketing Director, Textiles. Despite its size, Hyosung is still the “best-kept secret in the trade,” but this is changing as brands pay more attention. “You might not have heard of Hyosung, but you’ve probably got our fibers in many of your fabrics,” he added.
The South Korea-based company’s textile division is a one-stop shop for three major synthetic materials: spandex, nylon and polyester. Hyosung is continuously growing its range of sustainable products across these yarn types to address customers’ different priorities and align with various product stories. “Textiles has traditionally been seen as detrimental to the environment,” said Whitmarsh-Knight. “We’ve talked about doing less bad as an industry, but at Hyosung, we want to talk about doing more good.”
Hyosung’s regen line of 100 percent recycled spandex, polyester and nylon fibers creates new uses for waste streams including discarded fishing nets and post-consumer waste such as ocean plastic and PET bottles. Since launching its regen platform, Hyosung has raised the portion of recycled inputs to 100 percent. For categories like denim that use just 1 to 2 percent spandex in a garment, this allows for the maximum impact in the minor blending partner.
A more recent entry to Hyosung’s portfolio is creora® bio-based spandex, which commercially debuted in 2022. This spandex is made by replacing 30 percent of fossil fuel inputs with ingredients derived from corn. Not only is corn a renewable resource, but the crops pull carbon from the atmosphere. Compared to conventional spandex, creora® bio-based spandex has 20 percent lower carbon emissions. An early adopter of creora® bio-based spandex is Pangaia, who is using the fiber for its Activewear 3.0 line.
Two new launches this spring are creora® regen Black spandex and creora® bio-based Black spandex, which combine the sustainability stories of regen and bio-based with an added color benefit. During the production process for these yarns, black pigment is added to the spandex solution before extrusion, dyeing the yarn with less water. Spandex fibers are typically white and cannot absorb dye at the yarn stage, so the stretch material stands out or “grins through” the fabric in apparel like stretchy performance attire. Using dope-dyed fibers creates a more uniform look.
“We’re constantly trying to keep ahead of what customers are really looking for so we can get things adopted and help brands get going faster,” said Whitmarsh-Knight. Sustainability strategies today are fragmented, but the hope is that eventually there is more consensus on the ideal approach, which would focus demand to support better pricing. “We can’t do it on our own,” he noted. “To get scale, we’ve got to get everybody going in the same direction.”
Supply chain partnerships
As an example of its brand-minded innovations, Hyosung has worked closely with backpack label Osprey on fabric development. Osprey released the first backpack with Hyosung’s regen robic durable nylon. “Hyosung has been a true strategic partner to Osprey,” said Loc Tran from Osprey’s material team. “They have always done their best to anticipate and fulfill our demands.”
To support improved speed to market for new yarns, Hyosung collaborates with major global mill partners. For denim textile manufacturer Tejidos Royo, what separates Hyosung is consistency. “We have trialed hundreds of different suppliers’ fibers, and we end up only with two or three key suppliers,” said Jose Royo, vice president of Tejidos Royo. “Hyosung is one of these companies that immediately gave us assurance of quality. They know what they’re doing.”
As Hyosung becomes more known in the B2B market as an ingredient brand, it is also working with its retail customers to speak to the end consumer. Its marketing support includes digital storytelling—such as educational YouTube videos—and bespoke hangtags with elements like QR codes.
“That full chain of storytelling and substantiation is so important, and brands and retailers value it because in this area of sustainability, there are so many claims, and not all of them are rigorous, thoughtful and done in a compliant way,” said Whitmarsh-Knight. “At Hyosung, it’s really important to be saying the right thing, claiming the right thing and helping our customers do that as well.”
Click here to learn more about Hyosung. Visit the company at the Functional Fabric Fair, booth 1413A in Portland from April 4-5, and see Hyosung’s solutions for denim at Kingpins Show in Amsterdam on April 12-13.