TENCEL TAKES ON NEW OPTIONS

Byline: Allegra Holch

NEW YORK — Tencel, Courtaulds Fibers’ five-year-old cellulosic, is coming of age.
That message was well illustrated as the fiber producer staged its first semi-annual Tencel global fabric fair at its offices here last week. The event put on display a diverse range of fabrics from the U.S., Asia and Europe for spring ’98 in 100 percent Tencel and in blends with such fibers as polyester, nylon, cotton, linen and rayon.
Over 180 people representing 80 apparel companies attended the five-day fair, according to June Lauck, marketing communications manager for Courtaulds Fibers Tencel here.
“The fabrics range from rarefied to practical,” said Sandy MacLellan, director of the London-based East Central Studios, a textile design consultant to Courtaulds who played an integral role in selecting fabrics from European mills for the fair. “There is more choice with Tencel fabrics now. It’s growing up a bit.”
The biggest news for spring, said MacLellan, are linen and Tencel blends.
“Tencel blended with linen is everywhere,” he said, pointing out fabric samples from the Prato, Italy, mill Imta Desii Mode. “The linen blends can be fluid and powdery or dry and crisp. The addition of Tencel helps with crease resistance and gives a comfortable feel to linen. It’s the touch and feel that’s at the core of Tencel’s appeal.”
Also of interest were “sophisticated polyester and Tencel mixes for soft, fluid tailoring,” and nylon and Tencel mixes with a “technical look — it’s putting two opposites together — something soft with something technical, so you get luster, gloss and polish.”
Jersey and knitted fabrics with Tencel were also featured. But MacLellan noted, “Jersey applications are a little underdeveloped. However, there are fine T-shirt weights, and yarn-dyed stripe effects with Lycra spandex from some Spanish mills.
“The technology side for knits is not as secure as wovens yet,” he said.
The knits were of primary interest to Cara Coniglio, fabric coordinator for Andrea Jovine. “We loved the unbelievably soft hand of the knits — basically I went nuts for the feel of it,” she said. “Tencel is really coming across as a luxury fiber. I think the show is a really productive work tool, because it’s pushing me to look a little more closely at Tencel.”
Beth Welsh, corporate director of piece goods for Chaus sportswear, was impressed with the dressier look that some Tencel fabrics are taking on.
“In the beginning, we used Tencel for sporty casualwear, but now I’m seeing it as appropriate for dressier career wear,” she said. “It’s smart to put all of these resources under one roof, because you can really see that Tencel has taken a whole new direction.”
Among the looks Welsh liked were stretch wovens with Lycra and some of the wool and Tencel blends and yarn-dyes she saw from Italy. “Some of the hands were super lightweight,” she added.
“We saw some very innovative new fabrics — Tencel and linen, Tencel and nylon, and printed Tencel from Germany,” said Robin Olgin, vice president and merchandiser for the Los Angles-based contemporary sportswear lines Pulp and Indigo Hand. “The knits looked really new and fresh, particularly the knits with Lycra, and a double interlock from Japan that looked a lot like matte jersey.”

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