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Textiles Took Strides Toward Raising Performance and Methods in 2018

The adage goes, “Innovate or die,” and for fiber and fabric companies this year, the aim was to innovate by raising performance levels with new technology and advancements in sustainability.

Cotton

The cotton industry was busy in 2018 upgrading its wearability and production methods.

Cotton Incorporated, the marketing arm of U.S. cotton growers, launched Purepress, a durable press technology that keeps clothes wrinkle- and formaldehyde-free. The technology utilizes already available chemistries in a patent-pending combination that performs as well as, or better, than conventional resins.

Mary Ankeny, vice president of product development and implementation operations for Cotton Inc., noted that when wrinkle-resistance chemistry was introduced in the 1990s, it used formaldehyde-containing resins to crosslink, or give memory, to the fibers to hold those bonds in place, resulting in a smooth fabric.

Formaldehyde is a naturally occurring substance found even in apples. However, some global health organizations have identified significant exposure to formaldehyde as a probable carcinogen. Purepress technology claims attributes that include creating smoothness equal to that of conventional resins, removal of byproduct effects of formaldehyde, and improved tensile strength, tear strength and abrasion resistance, as well as not promoting yellowing, shade change or cause odor.

Working to meet its 2025 sustainability goals, Cotton USA introduced the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol, an integrated data collection, measurement and verification procedure that will document U.S. cotton production practices and their environmental impact.

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The U.S. cotton national sustainability goals aim for several targets by 2025, including a 13 percent increase in productivity and an 18 percent increase in irrigation efficiency. To achieve this, the industry will have to rely on increasing the use of irrigation-efficiency tools, such as sub-surface water sensors, irrigation schedulers and flow meters, James Pruden, senior director of public relations for Cotton Inc., noted.

The details of the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol are being fine-tuned and a pilot program will be launched in 2019 and fully implemented with the 2020 cotton crop year.

Albini Group, Supima and Oritain created a partnership meant to set a new standard for responsible fashion through the first market adoption by Kering of 100 percent traceable Supima organic cotton. The companies said the partnership demonstrates the value of transparency and innovation in the supply chain, from field to fiber to finished garment. The goal is to create a pioneering path with proven provenance, ultimately establishing a more sustainable and transparent fashion industry.

Cellulosics

The Lenzing Group, a major producer of wood-based cellulosic fibers, said it was investing around $116.5 million in sustainable manufacturing technologies and production facilities through 2022. A major goal of the ongoing initiative is to upgrade all Lenzing sites to fulfill the EU Ecolabel standard by 2022.

Lenzing said the investments underline the company’s commitment to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as guiding principles for its sustainability agenda. Lenzing chief commercial officer Robert van de Kerkhof, said. “With our Refibra technology, Lenzing is innovating to support a more circular, bio-based economy, contributing in particular to SDG 12.”

Lenzing’s Refibra technology takes cotton scraps collected from garment production and wood pulp from responsibly managed forests and transforms it into virgin Tencel lyocell fibers. The fibers are produced in a closed-loop production process using bioenergy and can be used for fabric and apparel production.

Eastman Chemical launched Naia, its sustainably sourced cellulosic yarn, in the women’s wear market, after a successful run marketing it in the innerwear sector last year. Eastman said the inherent qualities of Naia give fabrics made with the yarn strong breathability and moisture management characteristics.

The cellulosic yarn is produced in a safe, closed-loop process where solvents are recycled back into the system for reuse. In addition, Naia has an optimized, low-impact manufacturing process with a low tree-to-yarn carbon and water footprint.

Polyester

Polartec introduced Polartec Power Air, a new fabric technology engineered to reduce fiber shedding. The new platform, which encapsulates lofted fibers within a multilayer, continuous yarn fabric construction, offers advanced thermal efficiency that the company said is proven to shed five times less than other premium mid-layer weight fabrics. Fiber shedding has been linked to ocean pollution when polyester fibers are disassembled from apparel during washing and make their way into the wastewater stream.

Polartec feels that Power Air, which it claims is the first fabric construction to encase air with a continuous yarn, is a “foundational technology platform” that will lead to providing shedding reduction to all existing apparel categories, including insulation, lightweight next-to-skin and extreme weather protection.

Polartec had earlier introduced Polartec Power Fill that rounds out its range of temperature-regulating performance fabrics. Polartec Power Fill is a soft and pliable matrix of polyester engineered with a proprietary hollow fiber construction that is softer and more durable.

Power Fill is designed to form thousands of air pockets that continuously capture and contain body heat, while maintaining a resilient, equalized thermal layer between the colder air on the outside and the warmer temperatures on the inside. Made with 80 percent post-consumer recycled content, Power Fill insulation technology provides greater warmth retention in colder conditions, without added weight or bulk.

Unifi Inc. introduced its Profiber brand that provides options to integrate multiple performance “Tru-technologies” into polyester and nylon yarns that offer increased fabric comfort, performance and functionality. Unifi’s proprietary Tru-technologies offer a wide range of performance properties such as wicking, thermal comfort, full coverage, bounce, stretch, sun protection and water resistance.

Unifi said brands and retailers can combine a wide range of Unifi Tru-technologies with Profiber virgin polyester and Repreve recycled yarns “that offer multiple performance benefits.” Examples of new Tru-technologies and benefits are TruTemp365 high-tech fibers that provide year-round comfort in warm or cool weather and TruDry breathable, moisture-wicking fiber technology. In addition, TruCover fibers deliver flexible, lightweight stretch and coverage, TruFlexx fibers allow fabrics to move freely and stretch without binding or sagging, TruCool performance fibers feel cool to the touch and TruTouch fibers have a cotton-like softness.

Japan’s Teijin Frontier developed a new linen-like fiber that promises properties like freshness, a natural appearance and added comfort for outerwear, bottoms and blouses. Using a technique to capture linen’s naturally uneven feel, the company developed the fiber, which it says offers the resilience, luster and natural look of linen, but also leans on some of polyester’s properties, like easier care and functionality.

Leather

Bolt Threads, the maker of Microsilk, introduced its second material–Mylo–the world’s first commercially available imitation leather grown from mycelium, the root structure of a mushroom. To do it, Bolt Threads partnered with biomaterials company Ecovative to license the initial mycelium technology and then perfect the process for commercial viability.

Mylo looks and feels like hand-crafted leather and because Bolt Threads can control the environment and process through which Mylo is grown, it is able to manipulate the leather’s properties, including thickness and shape, to craft into individual products.

Applied DNA Sciences Inc. combined with Eurofins BLC Leather Technology Center to bring Applied DNA’s SigNature T-based leather traceability system to market. The system applies DNA to animals on a farm to test for recovery when hides are delivered to a tannery. It also includes applying DNA after initial tanning to test for recovery following leather splitting on both grain leather and drop splits, and applying DNA during the leather finishing process to test for DNA recovery.

Wool

After three years, Patagonia reintroduced wool into its product array, this time with fresh standards and certifications. The outdoor specialist noted that in 2015 it made a conscious decision to put a pause on wool sourcing “until we can assure our customers of a verifiable process that ensures the humane treatment of animals.”

Patagonia noted that as part of its wider responsibly sourced wool strategy, it has worked with sheep farmers and its manufacturing supply chain to obtain certification to the Responsible Wool Standard. The company said, “This ensures that the responsible wool that was shorn at the certified farms was not mixed or swapped with conventional wool from other sources.”

Nylon

Cordura launched TrueLock fiber that’s made from parent company Invista’s nylon 6,6 multi-filament fiber that is solution dyed, locking the color in at the molten polymer extrusion level to create deep, durable color throughout the fiber structure.

Plans currently being put into action include expansion of the Cordura TrueLock filament product line to introduce additional standard colors and deniers, as well as the flexibility to fulfill smaller minimum order quantities and custom colorways.

Silk

Kraig Biocraft Laboratories Inc., a developer of spider silk-based fibers, said it completed the production of its first roll of pure Dragon Silk fabric, marking the first time that the company’s proprietary recombinant spider silk fibers were used to create a 100 percent woven silk fabric.

The company had previously developed sample products in pure and blended knit configurations using its Monster Silk materials, including shirts and gloves, but this marks the first time its newer and stronger Dragon Silk will be transitioned into an end product.

Coatings and additives

Huntsman Textile Effects launched High IQ Sun Protect to help mills, brands and retailers meet consumer demand for apparel and accessories with built-in sun protection. High IQ Sun Protect provides an Ultraviolet Protection Factor of up to 50, offering the wearer with the highest level of protection for the lifetime of the garment.

Covestro developed new products to guard against the weather under its Insqin brand. Covestro created a coating applied in a two-layer system using newly developed polyurethane dispersion products Impraperm DL 5249 and Impraperm DL 5310. They enhance the performance of outdoor apparel and provide increased functionality and comfort.

Bolger & O’Hearn introduced Stormproof/Breathable OmniBloq, an advanced durable water repellent (DWR) technology engineered to keep apparel dry and consumers comfortable, even when exposed to pounding wind and rain. The Chemours Company introduced Zelan R2 Plus, expanding its commercial product offerings of nonfluorinated DWR products. Zelan R2 Plus contains 30 percent renewably sourced, plant-based raw materials and is focused on delivering a high level of DWR for all material substrates.