Textile firms this year lived up to Alphabet Inc. and Google chief financial officer Ruth Poratthe’s mantra: “Unless you stay focused on innovation, you can be disintermediated.”
Fiber and fabric companies took major strides in advancing performance, sustainability and technology in their materials, sometimes extending their product lines or turning to more collaborative efforts.
Many of the innovation introductions in 2017 involved cellulosic fibers, often with the purpose of a better environmental footprint.
The Lenzing Group introduced its first filament fiber called Tencel Luxe, following launches this year of Refibra and EcoVero.
Tencel Luxe sustainable cellulose filament fiber is meant to offer luxury aesthetics, performance and comfort that allows it to be blended with other noble fibers such as silk, cashmere or wool. The smooth surface of the Tencel Luxe filament gives fabrics a silky feel and flowing drape. Tencel Luxe filaments are also naturally breathable due to their wood-based origin and offer strong color fastness, enabling designers to express bold color palettes.
According to Lenzing, the fibers set a new industry standard in sustainable viscose based on three pillars: the use of sustainable and certified wood sources, an ecological production process with significantly lower emissions and water impact than conventional viscose, and full supply chain transparency by identifying EcoVero fibers in the final product.
EcoVero fibers are made from wood that comes from sustainable forestry plantation. A special manufacturing system enables Lenzing to identify EcoVero fibers in the final product, allowing retailers and brands the assurance that they are incorporating the eco-friendly viscose and not a generic market viscose.
Refibra, made from cotton scraps and wood, is the first cellulose fiber featuring recycled material to be offered on a commercial scale.
Nanollose Limited produced what it believes to be the world’s first plant-free viscose fiber. Nanollose technology converts plant-free microbial cellulose into a valued commercial fiber product. Unlike conventional viscose, or rayon, Nanollose’s sustainable plant-free viscose is derived using microbes that convert biomass waste products from the beer, wine and liquid food industries into microbial cellulose, in a process that takes less than one month and requires minimal land, water or energy.
Finland’s Marimekko and Spinnova cooperated to develop a fiber spun with Spinnova’s technology that converts wood pulp directly into fiber without using chemical solvents.
Polyester and the like
Synthetic fiber maker Trevira launched a new brand called Sinfineco, its first range of recycled polyester yarns that meet the Global Recycled Standard and the GCS-NL recycled claim standard.
Trevira filament yarns are made from pre- and post-consumer recycled polymers derived recycled granulate from PET bottles. The company joins several fiber manufacturers that have created a range of branded recycled polyester fibers, such as Unifi’s Repreve and Sinterama’s Newlife.
Cone Denim’s S Gene with Repreve combines the advanced stretch technology of S Gene with the superior sustainability and performance of Repreve recycled polyester fiber, creating an advanced sustainable dual-core stretch denim.
S Gene with Repreve denim utilizes as many as three post-consumer plastic bottles in one pair of jeans. They are designed to offer the next level of sustainable superior stretch to the market and open a wide range of opportunities to denim brands to offer and promote the advanced performance of both S Gene technologies and Unifi Inc.’s Repreve recycled fibers.
Lenzing, Cone and Repreve have also teamed up for True Tone Cone Denim. The collection features Cone’s Future Black+ made with Lenzing Modal Black and Repeve recycled polyester fibers, culminating in a 50 percent to 60 percent lower environmental impact than conventional dyed fabric, fewer chemical energy use and 64 percent less water use in the dye process.
Invista introduced a new fabric weaving technology it developed to make bi-stretch “double beam” fabric. It uses two parallel warps—one of cotton indigo yarn and other Lycra-covered yarn that gets buried on the inside of the product. The result is low growth, easy to control warp shrinkage and can be used with a variety of fibers to create specialized fabrics. It requires a double- weaving setup and Invista is working with China’s Advance Denim on the first offerings.
[Read more about textile innovation: New Denim Fiber and Fabric Innovations to Increase Jeans’ Appeal]
Gore-Tex Active rolled out a new Shakedry technology in which water beads on the surface, letting the garment dry quickly.
The new active products feature an outer surface that repels water, while being light and breathable. Meeting the demands of running and cycling athletes, Shakedry products durably protect against wind and rain. The new product is also waterproof, windproof, packable and maintains wearing comfort in a broad range of weather conditions.
The fabric technology is also designed to eliminate the face fabric, preventing absorption of water to maintain comfort in high aerobic activities. The new laminate construction delivers strong moisture vapor transmission from the inside out.
DuPont’s new Apexa fiber, a biodegradable polyester that decomposes through industrial composting, is getting play in the environmentally conscious outerwear sector, noted Renee Henze, global marketing manager for Dupont Biomaterials.
In addition to minimizing textile waste, Apexa also blends with natural fibers such as wool, cotton or cellulose to enhance their attributes, making them stronger, softer and more durable.
Polylana yarn, presented as an alternative to acrylic yarn, but with a significantly lower impact on the environment, is a patent pending fiber produced from a modified polyester pellet, mixed with recycled polyester. Its proprietary blend gives the fiber a loft and feel equal to that of acrylic yarn or wool, and allows it to be dyed at low temperatures. In comparison to 100 percent acrylic yarn, the use of Polylana yarn requires less energy and water, while it also reduces waste, carbon dioxide and microfiber release during washing.
Blend Re:wind, a new process that recycles cotton and polyester, was introduced by Sweden’s Mistra Future Fashion. In Blend Re:wind, new viscose filaments from cotton are produced by a chemical recycling process of polyester and cotton fiber blends. The process generates three circular outgoing product streams. Cotton is turned into new high-quality viscose filaments and polyester into two pure new monomers.
Invista and its partner, Solvay, deployed new technology for nylon expected to substantially improve the production process.
The new technology, Invista’s most advanced adiponitrile, or ADN, has already been deployed and proven at Invista’s facility in Orange, Texas, and now the company will implement it at the Butachimie joint venture facility in France.
ADN technology is used for the hydrocyanation of butadiene using a homogeneous nickel catalyst. ADN is a critical intermediate in the production of hexamethylene diamine, which is reacted with adipic acid to produce nylon 6.6. The update extends the company’s ADN technology in several aspects, including improved product yields, reduced energy consumption, lower greenhouse gas emissions, enhanced process stability and reduced capital intensity, compared to existing technologies.
Nilit introduced Sensil, a new premium nylon 6.6 brand for apparel that was the result of extensive market analysis and research on retail industry shifts, consumer insights and fashion trends, Sensil represents Nilit’s master brand premium nylon 6.6 for fashion and performance apparel, with superior softness, strength and durability, retaining its qualities after many wearings and washings.
Sensil’s premium performance features include inherent odor control, temperature management, moisture management and UV resistance.
Supreme Corporation developed a highly conductive yarn for advanced smart fabrics called Volt Smart Yarns that the company said is capable of new levels of conductivity.
Supreme’s ultra-thin Volt Smart yarns are engineered for use with commercial sewing machines. The yarns can be woven or knitted into fabrics that heat, control switches and volume, interact with wireless technology and that can become sensors for impact and touch.
The company said the yarns are capable of sending power, ground and signals to make functional, wearable smart clothing.
Dyneema Bonded Leather, created in a collaboration with ECCO Leather, staked a claim as the thinnest, but strongest leather on the market.
Dyneema fiber, long considered the strongest fiber in the world–15 times stronger than steel, yet can float on water–is combining ECCO Leather’s reputation as tanning innovators to co-develop a new leather material bonding Dyneema Composite Fabric with the rich and organic properties of premium leather.
Dyneema Bonded Leather is rooted in a multi-phase development sequence involving pre-tanning, bonding, and a series of interim and final-tanning stages. The result is a new leather featuring a fine natural surface that blends aspects of distinctive Dyneema fabric structure with the leather’s original grain pattern. Dyneema Bonded Leather by ECCO Leather delivers on the performance expectations of Dyneema fabrics matching the tensile strength and comparable leather qualities at a fraction of the weight.