Due to the increased demand for sustainable performance apparel, brands and retailers are actively seeking new material technologies that will gratify discriminating consumers.
The performance apparel market is estimated to be worth $79 billion by 2020, according to researchers at MarketsandMarkets. As such, textile firms are experimenting with a variety of fibers to create utilitarian, technology-driven materials.
At the summer edition of Texworld in New York, Denine Woodrow of DP Woodrow & Co. represented its client, Südwolle Group, to present a lecture on wool technology and the lesser-known properties of performance wool. Woodrow’s presentation, titled “Creating Performance Merino: Can It Be Done Sustainably?”sponsored by Lenzing Fibers, spotlighted Südwolle Group’s Naturtexx product, a sustainable, machine-washable and tumble-dry wool created through a plasma etching treatment. The material was first brought to the market in 2015 after ten years of research.
Südwolle Group is a family-owned worsted wool spinner based in Nuremberg, Germany. The 50-year-old firm produces 29,000 tons of yarn each year; its dye capacity is 13,800 tons annually; and its turnover for 2016 reached $420 million euros.
Its Naturtexx material is an ecological alternative to chemical and chlorine-based treatments for wool and is powered by renewable energy. Naturtexx addresses the most common wool stereotype, which is the scratchy sensation that results from the felting process. Naturtexx’s antifelt treatment prevents the all-too-familiar itch, according to Woodrow: “What we’re trying to do is treat the wool in a way that does not allow for felting to happen,” she said.
By utilizing plasma in lieu of chemicals to modify the surface of the fiber, the interaction of electrons and ions in the plasma interact with wool fibers to alter the “friction profile” of the fiber’s surface, which removes the typical felting effect often experienced with untreated wool. The breakthrough material could eventually replace the current industry standard, Woodrow noted. Naturtexx received the Gold Award in the “Sustainability Innovators” category at the OutDoor trade school in 2015.
Wool is one of the fastest growing performance fibers in textiles and is noted for its versatility, as wool fibers are renewable, fire retardant, UV protected, biodegradable, water-repellent and can manage moisture. And its fibers allow for all year-round wear, due to its thermoregulation properties. “Wool is actually a really nice year-round product. Especially now that we’re blending with a lot of other fibers, wool does contain and offer a lot of thermoregulation for year-round comfort,” Woodrow explained.
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