You know how you sometimes avoid certain fabrics like silk or suede because they are so high maintenance and often expensive? What a lot of people may not yet know is that there is an Eco-friendly alternative that is lower maintenance and just as durable and fashionable. Spoiler alert: it's made from trees!
From labour to production to by-products, the buzz of sustainable fashion has been growing for decades. In the 1980s, the production of a fiber now known to us as Tencel began. Tencel is now a branded version of the fiber Lyocell, which is a type of Rayon. The most interesting property about these fibers is that they are made using regenerated cellulose fibers obtained from the bark, wood, or leaves of plants. How someone went from starting at a tree to figuring out a way to make it into a fashionable garment, we may never know, but it seems pretty impressive.
The production starts with chipping down the chosen cellulose source, usually full logs, until they are small enough to process. The chips are treated using a non-toxic and reusable solvent that softens the fibers into a pulp. The solvent used is designed to be recycled, with sometimes up to 99% of the solvent recovered for future use, decreasing the amount of water and chemicals used in the production process. After the pulp is treated and dried, it is next put through spinnerets, which is some type of machine that we imagine whirls like a tornado to create the strands that are sent off to be woven into fabrics.
These days, the biggest and potentially only producer of these fibers is Lenzing Fabrics in Austria. They produce the fibers using eucalyptus as this species of tree has a high rate of growth in plantations that are maintained with a high level of consciousness given to the amount of chemicals and pesticides used.
So now we've got the fabric, what's so great about it? Being that it is made from a naturally occurring raw material, this fabric is an Eco-friendly, vegan option that can be substituted for many more labour intensive fabrics, like silk and suede. The production process is a closed-loop system as opposed to a linear system, meaning that all by-products created are useable. The trees are grown and processed, the solvent and water used is recycled, the fabrics created are biodegradable, and therefore will eventually return to the ground from whence they came. Linear production systems always have an end product that has no where to go. Many synthetic fibers are not biodegradable, and even if there was international infrastructure in place to recycle the fibers, they will still never be able to return to the Earth naturally due to the chemical manipulation they have undergone. This makes Eco-fashion an incredibly important trend, one that we hope continues to grow and revolutionize the textile production industry.
The first time you try on something made from Tencel, it is hard to believe that it is made from something that used to shade the forest floor. Depending on how the fabric is finished, it has the ability to imitate silk, suede, and even leather. It is an extremely durable fiber and unlike silk, Tencel is still just as strong when it is wet and garments can be washed or dry cleaned (some versions are dry clean only, so make sure you check the tag). It can shrink to around 3%, so be sure to check if your garment is pre-shrunk before deciding on a size. It has a very smooth, soft feeling against your skin, and is wrinkle resistant, making it even easier to store and care for. It is also very absorbent and soaks up dyes faster, resulting in richer colors and less dye utilized. Also a very breathable fabric, it has anti-bacterial properties due to it's ability to deal with moisture, making it even more long lasting and ideal for use in hot climates.
Thrive believes in improving the quality of life for everyone around us and for generations to come. Being environmentally conscious is a huge part of that equation, which is why we carry lines who make an effort to decrease their impact and produce with Eco-friendly fabrics and practices. We as well utilize environmentally sustainable fabrics in our own lines. Come see us in store so we can show you our latest Tencel styles and you can see first hand why we love it.