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Can Modal Fibers Be An Answer to the Textile Industry to Strengthen Sustainability?


There is a great deal to think about when setting up a brand and putting together a collection. Fabric choice is imperative and has to work well with the silhouette, the form and function of the design. Additionally, it needs to feel soft and comfortable against the skin while maintaining durability as well as being easy to care for. All this and we haven’t even discussed prints, colours, weights, knits and weaves yet. Plus, living in an era where sustainability is called for widely, questions surrounding what the fabric is the clothing made out of, how was it produced and if it’s eco-friendly have come to the top to many brands.

Many designers today understand that eco-friendly fibers are no longer a niche market. Moving forward in the fashion business means undertaking a sustainable approach that involves being environmentally aware at every step of the supply chain.

At the stage of fiber selection during design development, we turn our attention to modal fibers. For those new to the material, modal fibers are extracted from naturally grown beech wood by an environmentally responsible integrated pulp-to-fiber process, which is self-sufficient in energy and recovers co-products from component parts of the wood.

Modal was first developed in the 1950s[1] and has become renowned in the industry for its exceptional softness. Initially due to its soft texture, modal would often be used for sleepwear, underwear and next-to-skin products. Latterly the fiber has shone through in other market sectors such as T-shirts and tops as modal could be blended with other fibers to enhance lightness and softness of the garments.

Image credit: Lenzing

Here are 10 good reasons to consider modal when thinking about fiber choice:

  1. Eco-friendly – Sourced from regenerative plants, modal is often considered as a more eco-friendly alternative to cotton. If you want to ensure that the chosen material meets internationally recognized environmental standards, look out for fibers with FSC® or PEFC™ certification.
  2. Low environmental impact – Producing modal fibers can involve low energy and chemical consumption. We know that some industry pioneers, such as Lenzing, have been investing a lot to make the production more sustainable by using renewable energy and recovers chemicals. Thus, modal fibers produced under the standard have a lower environmental impact.
  3. Biodegradable – Composed of natural material, wood-based modal fibers are biodegradable and compostable under industrial, home, soil and marine conditions, and can fully revert back to nature.
  4. Eco-efficient color – Modal has an excellent absorbency rate, therefore the fibers tend to take and hold dyes used to create colors exceptionally well. Special dyeing technology can now save up to 50% of water and energy consumption compared to conventional dyeing, generating significantly lower emissions.
  5. Flexibility – Modal’s flexibility makes it ideal for everyday items like t-shirts, leggings and activewear.
  6. Breathable – Modal is great for underwear and everyday clothing because it is breathable.
  7. Lightweight & Soft – Modal is incredibly soft and is gentle against the skin.
  8. Absorbent – Again great for sports and warmer climates, modal is 50% more absorbent than cotton; micropores inside the fibers absorb any water or sweat they come into contact with.
  9. Long-lasting softness – Modal fibers can stay super soft even after repeated wash and is therefore suitable for garments and homewares that are used regularly.
  10.  Drapes well – Modal has a soft and natural drape what makes it ideal for blouses, ladies dresses and other clothing where drape plays an important role.

Modal is clearly ahead of the game when it comes to finding a fiber that performs as well as it looks along with ticking lots of those all-important sustainability boxes. Sourcing modal from a reputable textile manufacturer is key. With increasing demands from consumers for transparency, it is important for every designer to know about the origin of the fibers they use within their collections.

Today, most modal fibers are produced by the Austrian company[2], Lenzing, which owned the trademark for the fiber – TENCEL™ branded modal. TENCEL™ Modal fibers are manufactured from the renewable raw material beech wood, sourced from sustainable forests in Austria and neighboring countries. Earlier this year, Lenzing announced its Eco Pure technology, which is considered as the most environmentally responsible option to produce modal fibers in the industry, with a total chlorine-free bleaching process. The benefits also extend to consumers, as they will be allowed to make more sustainable purchases, with fiber identification information that comes with this type of TENCEL™ branded modal fibers.

Image credit: Lenzing

Deborah Shulton, Fabric Technologist and mentor comments: “Using TENCEL™ Modal fibers will give your fabric softness, drape, breathability and washability whilst offering the customer a sustainable choice of fiber. Lenzing are at the forefront of sustainability in textiles and so will give you, the designer, as well as the customer, the confidence of working with a trusted brand.”  

Among existing fibers in the market, modal can be an alternative if you are looking for eco-friendly fiber for its sustainable sourcing and production process as well as extraordinary quality. As one of the pioneering sustainability leaders in the area of wood-based cellulose fibers, Lenzing, producer of TENCEL™ Modal fibers, takes sustainability and environmental issues very seriously. Committed to the decrease environmental footprint, working with eco-conscious fiber producers is just what today’s designers and brands need to ensure a committed approach that spans the entire garment life cycle.

[1] https://www.masterclass.com/articles/fabric-guide-what-is-modal-fabric#12-benefits-to-using-and-wearing-modal-fabric


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