Focus on Fibre - Tencel®

Tencel®.

The (Ag)+(Au) Collection uses this fibre almost singularly. It is absolutely my drop dead favourite fabric on the market right now – soft and luxurious to the touch, lightweight and cool on the body. Most importantly, SUSTAINABLE and WEARABLE. Appropriate for your rough and tumble lifestyle, and the perfect fabric for a sustainably focused, rough and tumble lifestyle brand like (Ag)+(Au)!

 But here’s the thing. I can expound on the wonders of Tencel® all damn day when I’m at market or hosting a pop-up shop, but my customers all stare at me with the same, blank look. I worked retail for years, and every single day I got asked the same question over and over: what exactly is Tencel®? 

If you, too, have asked this of your favourite sales associate, they probably told you something along the lines of “Oh, it’s amazing. It’s breathable and lightweight and soft and washable and…” without actually telling you what the fabric was made of. It’s a tough one, and can be a little confusing to explain. But here we go…

Tencel®, a branded name for the fabric ‘lyocell’ (think Kleenex for tissue) is a fibre made from cellulose found in wood pulp.  It was created by an Austrian Textile company called Lenzing and is a man-made, natural fibre, so it falls under both the natural and synthetic groups of fibres.

I know, I know. WTF? 

This is just a complicated way to say that the raw materials that make up lyocell are harvested from all-natural sources, but are converted into fabric using a very complicated (and man-made) scientific process of breaking the raw material down, and then regenerating it into a fibre that still keeps a cellulose structure very close to that which is found in nature. Yay, Science!  To break it wayyyy down, the wood pulp that makes up the raw material is dissolved with a solution of water and solvent making a kind of liquefied pulp. It is then run through a super-speedy spinning process which spits the pulp out as a very, very thin, but solid, thread which is called a filament. These filaments are then spun into a fibre and that fibre is woven into what we call lyocell or Tencel®.

The wood pulp that is used to create lyocell is derived from various hardwood trees such as oak or birch.  These trees are grown sustainably, without using pesticides or chemical fertilizers, and are grown on land which has been deemed unsuitable for agriculture. According to Lenzing, enough trees can be grown on only half an acreof farmland to produce a TONNE of Tencel®!  And remember, this is land that can’t be used for farming, so it’s not competing with food production.  Moreover, farming these trees uses 20 times less water than harvesting cotton.

Yaaay, Science!

One more super-cool sustainability fact for you: Tencel® is produced in a closed-loop system, which means that the majority of the chemicals and solvents (99% in fact!) used in the process of breaking down the wood pulp are recovered and recycled with very little waste and very low emissions.  Less water wasted, less land wasted, and less energy used. Compare this to a synthetic fibre such as polyester which uses in its production more than 70 billion barrels of oil each year (I KNOW. More on this in a future blog post, I promise – this is important shit). 

And something to always, always, always keep in mind is that fibres (or anything) produced from oil are not bio-degradable and WILL NOT BREAK DOWN the way a natural fibre will.  This means that it will stick around in our ecosystem, pilin’ up in our garbage dumps and stinkin’ up our oceans for thousands of years after it has been disposed of.

But not natural fabrics!!!  (See why I’m so obsessed!?)

Most importantly, due to all their hard work and dedication to sustainability, Lenzing has been awarded the "European Award for the Environment" from the E.U. which celebrates companies at the forefront of eco-innovation.

Now for the tangible stuff:  Tencel® is soft, breathable and less prone to wrinkles than say, cotton fabrics of a similar weave.  And, because it is a naturally derived fabric, it doesn’t collect odors the way synthetic fabrics do.  It can be washed without worry, and dries quickly.

Now are you getting why I won't shut up about this stuff?! 

Check out the shop to find our collection and see just how many ways I use this fabric! And if you still have questions about Tencel®, drop me a line!  I loooovvee to chat sustainable fabrics, and can even send some resources your way if you're into that kind of thing :)

xx  Kait