Discover TENCEL™ Lyocell
21 March 2021
Material innovation and seeking more sustainable alternatives whenever possible are key parts of the work we do at UGG as part of our ongoing sustainability journey.
In developing our Plant Power Collection and UGGplush™ material, we collaborated with Lenzing to utilize its TENCEL™ Lyocell – a sustainably-sourced fiber made with wood pulp. For this collection, TENCEL™ Lyocell allowed us to create the first UGG footwear capsule with carbon neutral, plant-based materials.
UGGplush™ is an innovative material that uses less water, less energy, and emits less CO2 when compared to virgin market wool – combining our proprietary UGGpure™ technology with a recycled polyester backing and TENCEL™ Lyocell fibers.
We spoke with Lenzing to find out more about how TENCEL™ Lyocell is made, and how it can support a more sustainable footwear industry.
Today, TENCEL™ is an established fiber brand for the fashion industry. What were the key problems in the textile supply chain you set out to solve when you started this journey?
In the 1980s, when Lenzing started the preparatory research for TENCEL™ branded lyocell fibers, neither sustainability nor environmental protection were top priorities of the textile and fashion industry. At the time, manufacturing plants around the world contributed to severe air and water pollution. Something had to change if the Lenzing production site was to stand the test of time. In 1990, Lenzing started construction of its first lyocell pilot plant featuring an award-winning efficient closed loop production process. Since then, a new chapter was written, not only for Lenzing, but also for the fashion industry.
What is unique about how TENCEL™ branded fibers are made? How do you ensure you minimize the risks traditionally associated with viscose, such as deforestation?
The production process of TENCEL™ Lyocell fibers is one of the most modern methods for producing wood-based fibers, and is also considerably simpler than viscose production. The underlying idea is to dissolve and process the pulp in a closed loop process. On the other hand, traditional viscose production involves chemicals and if not managed properly, these chemicals can pollute air, water, and soil surrounding the factories.
At Lenzing, we are committed to the highest environmental standards in our fiber production, from wood and pulp sourcing, to manufacturing, to preserving forests. Preventing deforestation is a high priority at Lenzing. We work closely in partnerships with various NGOs and organizations like Canopy to protect against the loss of biodiversity and climate change, which are becoming ever more important global issues. Lenzing also has a long-standing record of top rankings in Canopy’s Hot Button Report.
Can you talk us through TENCEL™ Lyocell fiber’s closed loop production process and technology?
It is a simple physical process. Only certified pulp derived from renewable raw material wood is processed for the production of TENCEL™ Lyocell fiber. Our Lyocell process involves direct dissolution of cellulose pulp in water and organic solvent. The technology used in the production of TENCEL™ Lyocell fiber enables a recovery rate of over 99% of the water and solvent for reuse in a closed loop production process. Our process has been awarded the European Award for the Environment for its ability to reuse and recycle the water and solvent, which results in very low emissions to the environment. In addition, our production plant in Lenzing is a biorefinery site which utilizes the raw material wood in such an optimal way that we not only produce pulp for our fibers, but also valuable products and co-products such as wood sugar xylose, acetic acid, and energy stored in the wood. Therefore, we are able to 100% utilize the tree resource, and our biorefineries are completely energy self-sufficient.
How do you see TENCEL™ Lyocell fibers from Lenzing influencing the future of the footwear industry?
At Lenzing, we have been offering TENCEL™ Lyocell fiber for almost 30 years. However, it was only recently that we focused on more resources to support the footwear segment. Given the growing demand for sustainable materials combined with a steady trend for textile shoe materials, Lenzing has experienced high demand and interest for our fibers in this category.
Looking back a few years ago, who would have thought it possible to use wood-based fibers for footwear? Yet today, our fibers are able to have applications in several components of a shoe.
We believe there is still immense potential for TENCEL™ Lyocell fibers in this category, not only for its sustainability and versatility, but also for its high comfort. The fiber naturally contributes to breathability, thermal regulation, and reduction of bacteria growth – all very important criteria to reduce odor and create an improved microclimate in footwear.
The Plant Power Collection reimagines our iconic fluff franchise using TENCEL™ branded lyocell fibers. What is so significant about making alternatives to fur and shearling using TENCEL™ fibers?
Unfortunately, alternatives to fur and shearling often involve the use of polymers and synthetic fibers derived using coal and petroleum. For example, fluffy faux fur or fleece materials made from these synthetics experience microfiber shedding, which contributes to the serious problem of microplastic pollution. These are tiny fragments of plastic fibers that leak into the natural environment, and also throughout ocean ecosystems and into the food chain. By replacing animal or petroleum-derived materials with wood-based fibers, brands like UGG are able to offer their customers the choice to buy alternative products with amazing quality while lowering the impact on the planet.
Our UGGplush™ material combines proprietary UGGpure™ technology with a recycled polyester backing and TENCEL™ Lyocell. How do material innovations like this support a more sustainable footwear industry?
In this collaboration with UGG, nothing was accidental or by chance. Everything was carefully considered during the partnership, from understanding consumer perception to comfort and product performance, etc. Shoemaking is a complex production process that involves many steps, layers, and components. Responsible shoemaking is about applying the sustainable concept to the whole construction of the shoe, such as analyzing and developing materials, adopting technologies, and implementing processes that work hand-in-hand to achieve a product with a lower environmental impact.
Innovative collaborations are a win-win for both people and planet and we are excited and committed to continuing the journey towards sustainability.
Discover more about the material innovations in our Plant Power Collection.