TYPES OF TENCEL™ FIBRES
As noted earlier, TENCEL™ is Lenzing's flagship brand for textiles using modal and lyocell fibres. Both lyocell and modal fibre are neither synthetic nor is it a fully natural fibre. It is something in between; a semi-synthetic fibre with natural botanic origins.
TENCEL™ can be used in many different products such as denim, activewear, intimates, footwear, luxury fashion, and home. Its fibres are also being used in materials for designers and retailers including Ted Baker, Victoria’s Secret, Levi’s and by sustainable fashion brands such as People Tree.
TENCEL™ Modal fibres are mainly made from beech wood, sourced from sustainably managed forests in Austria and neighbouring countries. Modal is the 2nd generation of regenerated cellulose fibres (viscose/rayon being the 1st gen and lyocell being the 3rd gen) and was first developed by Lenzing who has the trademark for it. However many manufacturers are now making their versions.
Modal is made using a slightly different process to lyocell. The main difference between Modal and Lyocell comes down to the manufacturing process and the structure of the filament. Lyocell production uses a non-toxic organic compound that is easier to filter and re-use in a closed loop process which makes it better for the environment. This is a big and crucial difference, making lyocell fibre the most eco-friendly out of the three.
Due to the difference in production method, the internal structure of the Lyocell fibre is also more uniform which further improves its ability to absorb moisture.
Modal shares a lot of similarities with lyocell when it comes to softness, comfort, breathability and moisture absorption. However, the main difference is that Modal has a slightly more delicate touch and feel and is often made into lighter and thinner fabrics compared to lyocell.
Generic lyocell is often made from wood pulp from oak and birch trees. Whereas, TENCEL™ lyocell fibres are mainly made from sustainably sourced eucalyptus wood that is harvested from natural forests and sustainably managed tree farms. Eucalyptus trees are fast-growing and require no toxic pesticides and very little water to thrive. Lenzing is very committed to the ethical sourcing of their wood and fabrics comes with forest certification for their pulp production.
The eucalyptus tree trunks are chopped into small wood chips which are then soaked in a non-toxic organic solution to break the pulp down into a paste. This paste is then ejected under high pressure from a special spinneret nozzle to form fibre threads.
The threads are eventually processed into yarn which is then woven to make lyocell fabric. The water and more than 99% of the chemicals used in the manufacturing process of TENCEL™ Lyocell are recycled, making Lenzing fibre production the most eco-friendly of all cellulose regenerated fibres.
Not all lyocell are made equal, there is a difference between TENCEL™ branded lyocell by Lenzing and other types of generic lyocell. For a product to carry the Tencel trademark and Lenzing TENCEL™ certification, it must contain at least 30% of the Lenzing fibres.