Eco Elevated


Technology that brings sustainability to the table with ambitious innovation and appealing aesthetics is the order of the day when it comes to satisfying the desires and demands of the performance textiles marketplace currently. Offerings slated for the Spring/Summer 2024 season serve up elevated eco in new and different ways, across fiber and fabric categories, with curated collections laser-focused on responsible make, reduced carbon footprint and climate-positive storytelling. 

According to Alexa Dehmel, whose expert overview of the latest fabric advances at the recent Functional Fabric Fair and Performance Days shows stated, “Today’s sport textiles demonstrate how fashion x function represents the current cultural Zeitgeist.” 

Her presentation outlined categories of textiles that lower environmental impact and encourage circularity. These include: Better Synthetics, such as variations made from recycled poly, polyamide or polypropylene; Better Naturals, like Tencel, hemp, Naia spun fiber or recycled natural fiber variations; Better Processing that refrains from the use of chemical dyeing process, instead being spun dyed or with the use of dope dyed yarn; and Better All Around products defined by those fibers that do it all. (See sidebar box for specific examples within each category.) 

Then there’s the matter of new-to-the-scene carbon capture technologies. Understanding and communicating how these technologies work will require a learning curve as this category evolves, scales and comes to commercialization. To get started, think back to lessons taught in biology class on photosynthesis and how carbon dioxide is processed by plants for oxygen to be returned. That carbon, removed and stored, is then used as the new polymer basis for a synthetic yarn. 

A more immediate area to watch is today’s contemporary take on eco performance that features a versatile blend of functionality, durability, and aesthetic attributes with sustainable fabrications built on measurable and manageable environmental impacts. 

A Contemporary Approach 

Lenzing ushers in its 30th anniversary with a strong sustainability statement that comes across loud and clear in a new collection called Tree Climate. Launched at last month’s Performance Days in Munich, the comprehensive system of fabrics, headlined by Tencel, work together, from base layer to outerwear, to provide optimal outdoor functionality with a reduced carbon footprint. 

The three-fold collection is built on synthetic-free and enhanced synthetic content layering solutions for different weather conditions. The environmental impact of the fibers is among the lowest of all materials according to the Higg Materials Sustainability Index.

A few highlights from the Tree Climate line include 100 percent nature based hemp/Tencel blends for base layer; a new generation tech fleece from Pontetorto with a unique combination of durability and comfort; and a recycled poly/Tencel sherpa from Kingwhale featuring an on-trend look and great hand. 

“Lenzing products have long been known for softness, fluidity, drape and now more and more for eco attributes,” stated Sharon Perez, Business Development manager, Functional Wear, US, Lenzing, AG. “This Tree Climate collection represents a new chapter in Lenzing’s 30-year history.” 

Marco Weichert, founder of Performance Days and CEO of Weichert Agencies, began consulting on the project three years ago with the idea of innovating an anti-microplastic fleece by replacing conventional polyester with Lenzing fibers. He said, “The nature-based, biodegradable fibers offer superb functional attributes such as climate control and moisture management.” 

David Parkes, founder and CEO of Concept III Textiles, also consulted on the development of the collection. “Sustainability is the driver in today’s market and Lenzing has a very strong sustainability story, along with key performance features of comfort, thermal properties and a ‘kind’ hand with incredible drape,” said Parkes. 

Next Gen Sustainability 

Ingredient suppliers are re-evaluating convention through a modern lens of sustainability and extending eco performance to well-established treatments. Two prime examples of this trend are a new stain protection treatment from Green Theme Technologies (GTT) and Santized’s new odor control product. 

Green Theme Technologies’ water-free EMPEL DSR with PFAS-free chemistry provides durable stain protection across a wide range of textiles. The eco-friendly, high-tech treatment has been shown to outperform other currently available C6 and C0 options. When a variety of tricky stain makers — mustard, red wine, coffee, salad dressing, suntan oil, and motor oil — were applied on polyester and acrylic fabrics commonly used in upholstery and outdoor furniture and left for 24 hours, and then washed in a home washing machine for one cycle in cold water with liquid detergent, the post laundry scores showed excellent results following the AATCC 130 stain standards, according to GTT. 

What differentiates GTT technology from others is that the EMPEL DSR product encapsulates each fiber inside a yarn with an ultra-fine protective polymer. This polymer barrier prevents stains from contacting the fibers and from adhering to fabrics. GTT VP Martin Flora, stated, “The goal was to safely protect fabrics from stains for easier cleaning at lower temperatures.” 

Textiles specialist Sanitized is expanding its Odorex portfolio for odor-neutralizing technologies with the introduction of OX20 product that is usable on cotton, viscose, or synthetic fibers. It does not contain any biocides, it is highly wash-resistant, and it can be combined well with other effects, according to the company.

The basis for this biocide-free OX20 product is a metal-free polymer that neutralizes odors and meets market requirements regarding wash-resistance with excellent results after up to 50 household washes. “We are convinced that biocide-free solutions that fight sweat odor are on their way to becoming the new market standard. And this fact mainly applies to outdoor, sports, and workwear,” remarked Urs Zihlmann, product manager of textile additives at Sanitized AG.

The company describes the new product as versatile, comfortable, eco-responsible and highly cost-efficient. Zihlmann believes Sanitized Odorex is the technology of the future. “It meets industry standards as well as consumer standards regarding durability and sustainability, and since it is a biocide-free system, OX20 is not subject to any regulatory restrictions.” A property increasingly important to the textile industry.