Tencel requires 5 times less land and 20 times less water than cotton to produce the same amount of fabric.
Tencel vs Cotton & Bamboo
Currently, the most common fibres used to make underwear are cotton and bamboo. The production of cotton requires intense levels of chemical and water, with research showing that it takes 3kg of chemicals and 4,300 litres of water to make just 1kg of cotton. While organic cotton is an improvement from a chemical perspective, it often requires an even higher rate of water use to produce.
Bamboo fibres are almost always produced through a viscose process involving a highly toxic substance, Carbon Disulfide. This chemical poses a health risk for both the people producing the fibre, and local communities through water pollution (eutrophication).
We believe that the production of cotton and bamboo present too great a cost to our planet. , Therefore, we have chosen to make our underwear with the sustainable and regenerated fibre, Tencel. Tencel, which is Lenzing’s brand name for the fibre process ‘lyocell’ , is made using the wood pulp of FSC certified Eucalyptus trees, meaning it is a renewable planetary resource. Eucalyptus trees are some of the fastest growing in the world, requiring no irrigation or fertilisers, and sequester carbon as they grow.
Tencel fabric requires 5 times less land and 20 times less water than cotton to produce the same amount of fabric, making it a sustainable material.
The ‘lyocell process’ (the method for turning wood pulp into Tencel fabric), is very different from a chemical perspective to the viscose process, it uses a safe surfactant in a closed-loop system, 99% of the water and solution are recovered and used over and over again. When released it is safe.
Chemicals in production
The fashion industry currently uses over 8,000 chemicals in the processing and manufacturing of materials. Many of these chemicals are not even identified, let alone researched for safety. Of the ones that have been investigated, over 2,000 pose a significant threat to human health and are categorised as ‘substances of concern’. Due to decentralised supply chains, there is a lack of transparency in the fashion industry regarding chemical use and their full effects on the environment. To divert from these unsustainable and toxic chemical practices, we use Oeko-Tex certified dyehouses to ensure no toxic substances are used in the dying of our fabrics.
Seam-free Recycled Nylon
Nylon is a synthetic fibre, which is fossil fuel based and directly linked to climate change. There are so many synthetic fibres and plastics circulating in the fashion industry and so much industrial waste that needs adverting from landfill. The good news is, synthetic fibres are infinitely recyclable with no loss of performance, making them perfect for a circular economy. It takes energy to make clothing, if we can retain and recapture that energy rather than discard it, then we can achieve far less waste and a much lower carbon output. Even for Tencel, whilst it is 95% compostable (5% being elastane), it is still preferable to keep the fabric circulating, as opposed to discarding it, in order to utilise the energy that was consumed to make the product.
We have chosen to develop our bras from recycled nylon and elastane seam-free tubes. Our seam-free yarn is made from Global Recycle Standard (GRS) certified recycled nylon. This recycled nylon is created using repurposed industrial waste material, blended with elastane for extra support. At present, the elastane we use is not recycled but we are in the process of developing recycled elastane yarn in our knitting.
The seam-free machines we use, similar to sock machines, knit the exact width and hem required with no waste. This means that the tube construction tension and pattern are programmed into the machine to create the perfect fit for our products. The ‘arm’ and ‘neck’ offcuts are removed and repurposed for the insulation industry in China, diverting the waste from landfill.
In the future, it will be easy to use a process called ‘chemical recycling’, where cellulose and synthetic fibres can be broken down, dye removed and remade into a new fabric that is back to a virgin quality. This has not been scaled yet, but there are rapid changes coming for the industry - and we are ready to jump onboard. We are also continually seeking to improve our production, wherever possible. We are currently speaking to recyclers and taking part in pilots to be even better in the future.
recycled nylon elastic
Elastic needs to be soft, supportive to create a frame for underwear. It needs enough elongation to stretch and be comfortable to wear, but also enough power to hold.
While there are many suppliers of elastic, recycled elastic is very difficult to source, so we created our own. Our in-house elastic is a beautiful, soft elastic that is made from GRS certified recycled nylon.
The decision to be uncompromising on our standards delayed our launch, but we were unwilling to use virgin nylon.
Utilising nylon manufacturing waste to create recycled nylon diverts waste from landfill.