London - As the fashion industry heads towards a future where textile resources are scarce, natural fibers such as cotton, which remains a resource-intensive material, and petroleum-based fibers like acrylic, polyester, nylon, and spandex remain high in demand. But as the production of these fibers continues to cause irreversible damage to our environment, more and more companies are seeking out an alternative, sustainable fibers, and fabrics. In this series, FashionUnited explores the future possibilities offered by sustainable innovations in the textile and fashion industry. In this installment, FashionUnited examines the new, more responsible option to viscose - EcoVero.
Viscose, which is also known as rayon, has been used to make soft, silky fabrics, luxurious feeling fabrics. Made from purified cellulose, it is produced from specially processed wood pulp and is often compared to silk and cotton. However although the fabric made from this fiber may be beautiful, viscose remains a semi-synthetic, chemical fiber. Often the timber used to for the wooden pulp stems from irrigation-intensive monocultures, which negatively impact the earth. Large amounts of highly toxic chemicals, such as carbon disulfide are used during the production of viscose, which has led to a number of worker poisonings. In addition, shipping the cellulose-based fiber around the globe also increases the level of Co2 emissions, making it a harmful fiber.
EcoVero - the new and improved sustainable alternative to conventional viscose
“This is about as dirty as it gets”, said Christian Brandt COO of eco-friendly fashion brand Armedangels. “We can’t possibly justify using fabrics like [viscose].” However, rather than give up their search for a more sustainable alternative to the fiber, the label continued its search until it stumbled across the most responsible viscose fiber available - EcoVero.
Produced by Lenzing, leading cellulose fibre producer, near the Attersee Lake in Austria, EcoVero is made using sustainable wood from controlled sources which are either FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) or PEFC (Program for Endorsement of Forest Certification Schemes) certified in Europe, instead of bamboo or eucalyptus which is commonly used in normal viscose production. More than 60 percent of the trees used to produced EcoVero fibers come from Austria and Bavaria to ensure lower emissions.
The cellulose fiber is produced on-site at a state of the art facility via a new, innovative environmental process which has significantly lower emissions and water impact than conventional viscose. Nearly all the chemicals used during the production of EcoVero are recovered and reused. Compared to conventional viscose production, the production of EcoVero causes 50 percent less emissions and takes up half as much energy and water in addition to its pulp bleaching being 100 percent chlorine-free.
What’s more, Lenzing also offers full supply chain transparency which makes EcoVero fibers identifiable in the final product through its innovative identification technology. “We are supporting the trend in the fashion industry towards greater transparency,” said Robert van de Kerkhof, Chief Commercial Officer at Lenzing. “It is becoming increasingly important to know where the products come from and which path they have covered.”
Armedangels is the first and only organic, sustainable fashion brand to incorporate EcoVero into its collections for winter 2017, and visited Lenzing production facility in Austria to see first hand how the eco-fiber is made. “EcoVero really elevates viscose to a whole new level,” said Brandt, after inspecting the EcoVero fabrics. “We are especially happy about the fact that these fibers do not come from monocultures - as it is the case with bamboo or eucalyptus - but from sustainable forestry. The transport is not as much of an issue either, as it doesn’t need to be shipped around the globe since they use timber from Europe that is processed into fiber right on site at Lenzing in Austria. This is the best argument for us.”
Although some argue that EcoVero remains a viscose product, whose production still requires the use of potentially hazardous chemicals even using newer, more sustainable production processes, the new fiber is still a welcome alternative to conventional viscose. Over the years Lenzing has invested several million euros into improving its viscose production to ensure it is environmentally friendly as possible. In addition, the production location is key for many fashion brands keen to source the fiber, as the laws and regulations concerning production are stricter and monitored more tightly than in other developing countries which have become sourcing hubs for the industry.
“Our goal is to raise awareness among as many customers as possible for the consequences of what they decide to buy,” added Van De Kerkhof during Armedangels visit, a goal the brand is keen to help achieve. Both companies hope to make a difference when it comes to the fashion industry shift to a more sustainable model, and Armedangels is keen to continue working with Lenzing, even if other competitors are also using EcoVero.
“There is no other manufacturer for viscose who is this open,” pointed out Brandt. “Passion and mutual trust are more important to us than just drafting long-term goals.” The first items from Armedangels made from EcoVero include a blouse and a dress, are currently available online for sale.
Photos: courtesy of Armedangels and Lenzing