Sustainability is becoming more ingrained in individual values and is being adopted as part of companies corporate social responsibility. There is a unique opportunity to develop new processes and products to meet these demands. In textiles, initiatives are gradually being adopted that make the processes used by the supply chain less damaging to the environment. Clothing and fashion are highly visible elements of society, making them great examples for promoting a sustainable and eco-friendly world.
Clothing goes through many processes before entering your closet (fabric production, dyeing, finishing, cutting, sewing, labelling, shipping and more). Fabric can be grown (natural fibres) or created in factories, it is then processed into thread, and woven, before it is even touched by the fashion house, which transforms a simple fabric into a complex garment with a distinct style. The life-cycle of different fabrics varies from plant to final product and allows us to determine which fabrics form part of a sustainable future.
Lyocell is a biodegradable fibre made from eucalyptus trees, an extremely fast-growing resource that requires low amounts of water and virtually no pesticide inputs to grow. A nice alternative to cotton which requires substantial amounts of water. Once eucalyptus trees are harvested (often sustainable farms), the wood is soaked in a non-toxic solution called amine oxide, a petrochemical solution. The sustainable aspect is that 99.5% of amine oxide is reclaimed, purified and reused in the process of extracting raw cellulose. Put simply, water and wood go into the factory and fibre comes out.
Lyocell is soft, renewable, breathable, biodegradable and wrinkle-resistant. The European Union awarded the Tencel manufacturing process an Environmental Award in “technology for sustainable development.” The fibres are a pure white colour so it doesn’t require bleach and is highly absorbent to dyes, spreading faster and with brighter colour, requiring less dye.
The downside is the manufacturing process is energy intensive. Renewable energy will solve this dilemma over the long term. Our verdict is that lyocell is a worthy contender in the world of sustainable fabrics. The best part is that designers like working with it too.