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Why Fiber and Fabric Competitors Say Collaboration Makes Better Activewear

In there’s one field of apparel that is ripe for collaboration, it might just be activewear, as the need for performance and comfort weigh equally in product development and consumer desire.

Lenzing Fibers, which has joined with several mills and manufacturers in recent years in creating new blends of yarns and fabrics, stressed that point in a recent webinar, “Collaborating for Today’s Activewear,” conducted in conjunction with three fiber and fabric competitors.

Lenzing business development manager for activewear Sharon Perez, who moderated the panel discussion, noted that the active apparel market is expected to reach $547 million by 2024, with a 6.5 percent compound annual growth rate, according to Allied Market Research.

With Lenzing’s wood-pulp-based fibers such as Tencel, Modal and Refibra known for their softness flattering drape, and biodegradable and compostable attributes, the tendency is to blend them with other natural fibers. But the trick is to find ones that enhance and expand on their characteristics and result in improved fabrics.

“In our industry, it’s really challenging not to use synthetic fibers because of the wonderful attributes that they have,” Perez said.

When collaborating with competitors, Lenzing prioritized moisture management, stain resistance, durability, and stretch and freedom of movement, all vital in activewear, while maintaining comfort and aesthetics.

Susan Lynn, global brands manager for Indorama Ventures, which produces among its wide range of fashion and industrial fabrics, the CoolVisions dyable polypropylene line, recently introduced a collection of knits and wovens that combine CoolVisions with Lenzing’s Tencel Lyocell. This line, Lynn said, blends the strong aesthetics with the performance characteristics of both fibers.

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“Collaboration allows us to go back to the beginning of the value chain and combine the different attributes of both of the fibers,” she said. “We really found that this was very valuable to our companies and for the brands and retailers, as well. These collaborations really marry the inherent benefits of both fibers.”

Lynn said collaborating also strengthens supply chain relationships, capitalizes on brand recognition and allows brands and retailers to gain interest.

“It also offers a lot of creativity and increased circularity and innovation,” she added.

Last fall, Dupont Sorona and Lenzing launched a mill-certified sustainable fabric collection “that we believe is the perfect match, and all derived from nature,” Alexa Raab, global brands and communications leader for Dupont Sorona, said.

Raab said when Sorona is combined with Tencel, “it allows Tencel to maintain its feel. The two fibers work together to enhance each other.”

The collaboration blends DuPont Sorona fibers and Lenzing’s Tencel Lyocell and Modal fibers to give soft garments greater resilience in stretch, recovery and dimensional stability.

“Our commitment is to [foster] sustainability through bio-based and recyclable materials,” Raab said. “We also want to [make] products that are performance driven. We also believe it’s important to develop products that are accessible.”

She said Sorona helps activewear retain its shape and resist bagging, therefore prolonging the life of the garment. Other qualities include wrinkle resistance, quick drying and reduced pilling.

The Sorona brand is made from 37 percent renewable plant-based ingredients–mainly corn–while Tencel is derived from sustainably sourced natural raw material wood.

Simon Whitmarsh-Knight, EMEA marketing director for Hyosung Creora Fibers, said collaborations help build a greater marketing base and story-telling with customers.

“For us, collaborations are important from a human perspective–people working together toward a common goal–and also from a commercial point of view, it helps align the value chain and get adoptions more quickly,” he aded.

Last year, the two global fiber manufacturers got together to create a fabric collection that showcases the benefits of their top brands–Tencel Modal from Lenzing and Creora elastane from Hyosung.

The collection offers Lenzing EcoVero with Creora eco-soft for a softer touch and whiter whites. EcoVero fibers are made from wood, a natural and renewable raw material that comes from sustainable forestry plantations, while Creora eco-soft is a low-heat settable spandex that offers reduced energy consumption.

The new collection also features Tencel Modal and Creora PowerFit for a smooth, natural feel with superior shaping and compression, and Tencel Modal and Creora Black for breathability, a softer touch and deeper blacks.

Whitmarsh-Knight said the collection delivers enhanced performance with fibers made with low energy and water usage.