April 11, 2021

Is this new fiber a game changer for denim and fashion?

5 min read

At the latest digital edition of Kingpins held this week, Lenzing launched Tencel Modal with Indigo Technology, a new lower impact fiber that lends itself to different and new applications in the denim and fashion markets.

This fiber is achieved by infusing pigment into fibers directly during the spinning process. To create Modal fibers, Lenzing first turns wood pulp into a liquid form, or dope. In dope dyeing, color is added to this liquid before it is spun. This cuts back significantly on the use of resources and reduces water consumption by more than 99% and wastewater by over 99% compared to conventional indigo yarn dyeing processes. It also reduces wastewater significantly. Meanwhile, chemical use is cut by over 80%, electricity use is 99% lower and heat energy use declines 100%.

“Innovation is at the core of what we do, from sustainable fiber sourcing through industry leading features and production processes, with the ever-present goal of safeguarding our environment. Tencel Modal with Indigo Technology sets a new benchmark for indigo application and sustainability in the denim industry,” said Florian Heubrandner, vice president of global textiles business at Lenzing AG.

Jeans made with Tencel Modal with Indigo Color Technology by Candiani Denim

Jeans made with Tencel Modal with Indigo Color Technology by Candiani Denim

Lenzing worked with mills Candiani Denim and Cone Denim to commercially launch this new fiber technology. Denim veteran Adriano Goldschmied, founder of House of Gold, has also developed a concept capsule with woven, circular and sweater knit fabrics using Tencel Modal with Indigo technology in partnership with Blue Diamond for denim fabrics, In The Loop for knitwear, with Shima Seiki as machine producer, Tonello for finishing and Crafil for developing 100% Tencel sewing threads.

Goldschmied’s new capsule collection for the launch of the fiber is called Seed of Joy. “I chose this name as thanks to this innovation, we have more joy, the joy to do a product that is much more sustainable and the joy that we can create in a different way and different kinds of products that are not only five-pocket jeans, but also sweaters, jersey and French Terry pieces, kimono jackets and gym trousers among otehrs because of the characteristics of the fiber. Moreover, this fiber also gives the advantage of the hand feeling and the comfort, another key aspect in days when people spend much time at home wearing athleisure and comfortable clothes,” he explained.

Seed of Joy collection by Adriano Goldschmied for Tencel Modal with Indigo Color

Seed of Joy collection by Adriano Goldschmied for Tencel Modal with Indigo Color

“This collection is also going back to fashion. Fashion is very important for consumers because, of course, they are motivated by the sustainability in order to buy a better product, but also they can go back to the emotion that fashion is giving. For this Modal Indigo opens up to more fits, more products, more categories and more fashion that people are looking for today,” Goldschmied continued.

Adriano Goldschmied, denim veteran and founder, House of Gold

Photo: Glenda Goldschmied

Adriano Goldschmied, denim veteran and founder, House of Gold

“I think Tencel Modal with Indigo is going to be a milestone in our industry,” added Goldschmied. “Basically thanks to this new technology we skip the rope-dyeing step. Consider that rope dyeing is taking a minimum 20,000 liters of water plus chemical, energy and it produces a huge amount of CO2 emissions. So Tencel Modal with indigo shows there is another way–which is incredible in terms of sustainability. Along with it, the Tencel Modal indigo is creating a product that has very low crocking compared to regular rope and the traditional dyeing methods. And this is opening the possibility of using Indigo Modal in different areas. I guess that one day, by learning from Lenzing, we are going to learn to dye cotton in the same way and change the industry in better.

Dress for the Seed of Joy collaboration between Adriano Goldschmied and Tencel

Dress for the Seed of Joy collaboration between Adriano Goldschmied and Tencel

“Collaborating with Adriano Goldschmied to develop Tencel Modal with Indigo Technology was an amazing honor,” commented Tricia Carey, director of global business development denim at Lenzing. “Bringing his history of denim design, as well as using Tencel branded fibers, Adriano used his passion to reduce environmental impacts. From initial conception to application development to industry partnerships, Adriano’s vision to bring this innovation to commercial reality was limitless.”

Tricia Carey, director of global business development denim, Lenzing

Tricia Carey, director of global business development denim, Lenzing

Lenzing commissioned DyStar to create an indigo pigment that meets the strict requirements of Oeko-tex Class 1 standard, including very low levels of aniline, to use in the dope-dyeing process. The new technology has also been awarded the EU Ecolabel and BioPreferred designation from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Speaking about indigo properties, while the new fibers had better color retention than other indigo-dyed fibers when tested for wet and dry crocking, with home laundering, the fibers also resist fading. However, for brands seeking a faded look, commercial laundries can create worn or vintage looks with traditional and modern laundry techniques. According to tests carried ahead by Lenzing, the fiber achieves very good results when treated with laser and ozone.

The fiber is also very versatile and can be used in different ways explained Carey. “It can be used in blends or 100%. It really depends on the construction. Our trials with our partners Cone Denim, Candiani Denim and House of Gold used Tencel Modal with Indigo Color Technology in both warp and weft. It could be interesting with mechanically recycled cotton from indigo in order to provide color boost and still have wash effects. It is not about re-engineering an existing fabric, it is really thinking about something completely different. The technicians in the denim market are quite clever and layering technologies will provide endless possibilities.”

Two looks showing jeans made with Tencel Modal fiber with Indigo Color technology

Two looks showing jeans made with Tencel Modal fiber with Indigo Color technology

The re-use of the fiber at the end of its life is being investigated. “It can be mechanically recycled. In theory it could be chemically recycled because it is from cellulose. However, we have not done any testing on this yet. Though the high resource savings for producing this fiber are incredible to mention–99% water savings, 80% chemical savings, and 99% energy savings over traditional rope dyed indigo yarns,” said Carey.

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