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Fiber firms are stepping up.

This story first appeared in the November 20, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

From Dow Chemical and DuPont to Lenzing and Invista, companies are responding to consumer needs with fresh products created from innovative technologies that take into account state-of-the-art sustainability techniques.

Dow Microbial Control and Huntsman Textile Effects are each addressing the issue of protection against bacteria that can cause fabrics to retain odors and degrade, with silver-based antimicrobials with slightly different properties and applications.

A unit of The Dow Chemical Co., Dow Microbial Control is introducing Silvadur Antimicrobial that provides long-lasting freshness and reliable protection against bacteria that can cause unpleasant odors, decay, rot and discoloration in fabrics. Karel Williams, global strategic marketing manager for hygiene and personal care for Dow, noted that Silvadur combines the long-known effectiveness and safety of silver as an antimicrobial agent with an innovative polymeric delivery system that infuses silver ions onto fabric surfaces when undesirable bacteria is present.

“Consumers can feel secure in knowing their garments provide intelligent freshness that won’t harm them or the environment, and that’s very important to us at Dow, as well,” Williams said. “Based on Dow’s leadership and expertise in microbial technology and the results of our extensive third-party testing, we’re confident that Silvadur technology offers game-changing potential for fabric and textile manufacturers, retailers, brand owners and consumers of sports and fitness apparel, socks, intimate apparel and home textiles.”

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Silvadur’s antimicrobials are offered in an easy-to-apply liquid formulation and can be processed in multiple methods, including pad and exhaust applications. Williams noted that Silvadur products are compatible with natural and synthetic fibers and a broad range of common textile chemical additives, detergents and other finishing treatments. Silvadur has been certified by the International Oeko-Tex Association for its sustainability and is registered to meet REACH requirements in the European Union. This means Silvadur-treated articles are nonsensitizing and nonirritating to humans, it does not release silver particulates into the environment, it is recyclable and reusable during processing applications due to its inherent stability to light and water solubility, and it helps processing plants reduce their overall raw-material purchases and usage of energy and water.

Huntsman Textile Effects and HeiQ have formed a strategic alliance to launch Pure by HeiQ, which is also marketed as a high-performance silver antimicrobial that uses silver’s inherent qualities to achieve odor-reduction efficiency with minimal dosing. Their technology is applied only at the finishing stage by padding on all fibers and fabric types, except wool. Pure by HeiQ is engineered with a silver micro-composite that brings long-term protection and freshness to the fabric for more than 100 home launderings. Similarly, the effect makes it possible to keep garments odor free by inhibiting the growth of odor-causing bacteria and is aimed at products such as socks, activewear and workwear.

The Singapore-based company explained that Pure by HeiQ doesn’t require high-temperature curing and has no negative influence on hydrophilicity, handle or breathability. Pure by HeiQ is registered by Bluesign, which offers a seal of approval for environment, health and production safety, as well a resource efficiency in the production site, and is also certified by the Oeko-Tex Standard 100 scheme for its use in textile applications and consumer products. For a textile to be labeled with an Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certificate, all products and treatments are tested for their safety to humans and the environment.

HeiQ is a Swiss high-tech company developing, producing and ingredient-branding high-performance sustainable effects for textiles. Huntsman Textile Effects develops textile solutions across the supply chain, with a commitment to sustainable processing with low environmental impact.

Tricia Carey, USA merchandising manager for the Textile Fibers unit of Lenzing Fibers Inc., said the company’s latest commercial introduction is Lenzing Modal Color. Carey said, “One advantage of the spun-dyed fiber is its eco-friendliness — dyeing is no longer necessary as a result of the color pigments embedded directly in the fiber. Resources, such as water and energy, are spared when producing fabrics.”

Lenzing Modal Color, which also includes black, claims to use 80 percent less energy and up to 75 percent less water in jet-dyeing compared with standard fibers. The process results in no bleeding of colors, which makes it applicable to products such as socks, lingerie, shirts and loungewear. Lenzing Modal color is produced in an eco-friendly process using the firm’s Edelweiss technology. Produced in Austria from beech wood, it is carbon neutral, and up to 95 percent of processing chemicals are recovered during production.

Another development at Lenzing is a partnership with Optimer for blends in Drirelease Tencel and Modal with FreshGuard. Drirelease is a patented yarn technology that enhances the performance attributes of synthetic fibers while maintaining the look, hand and feel of natural fibers. This spun-yarn blend is made with 88 percent Repreve recycled polyester and 12 percent Tencel that won’t wash or wear out. It also moves moisture and dries up to four times faster than cotton, requires less drying time, leading to energy conservation, and leaves skin feeling up to six degrees cooler.

The product also puts Lenzing in the antiodor game. The FreshGuard Odor Neutralizer System is built into yarn and inhibits the growth of bacterial odors permanently. The company noted that FreshGuard avoids costs associated with antimicrobial treatments, is machine washable and dryable, resists pilling and wrinkling, has strong stain-release properties and is UV resistant.

DuPont Sorona, which in 2009 was designated by the Federal Trade Commission as a “triexta” fiber, a new generic classification along with other fibers made with PTT, or polytrimethylene terephthalate polymers, is developing new uses. PTTs like Sorona, which replace a petrochemical-based ingredient with one made with a renewably sourced ingredient — corn-derived glucose — requires 30 percent less energy and reduces greenhouse gas emissions 63 percent compared with the production of an equal amount of nylon.

Kathryn Lee, global marketing manager for DuPont Sorona, said the new fiber developments using DuPont Sorona include blending it with a variety of cellulosic fibers such as cotton, wool or rayon to create fabrics that provide comfort stretch with strong recovery to be used in stretch khaki, denim and dress pants and suits. Draw-textured yarn and air-jet textured yarn made with Sorona are providing a high degree of color fastness, resulting in bright or neon colors that dry faster in seamless applications for underwear, sport T-shirts and leisurewear.

In addition, Sorona’s UV- and chlorine-resistant performance that stands up to color fading after frequent uses has it being used in swimwear, while its shape memory provides permanent wrinkle-release performance for utilization in trenchcoats and outerwear, Lee added.

Polartec has introduced Polartec Alpha synthetic insulation, which allows for the use of more open and breathable fabrics on the outer and inner layers of “puffy” style garments. As a result, Polartec Alpha provides active warmth that allows air exchange for breathability and comfort in more dynamic situations. Polartec Alpha also maintains insulation values while wet, and offers dramatically faster dry times than existing puffy-style fabrics on the market. Highly compressible, it also provides inherent wind resistance and warmth without weight.

Polartec Alpha was developed to meet the performance requirements of the U.S. Special Operations Forces for a material that was warm, wind resistant, highly durable, quick drying and more breathable than any existing insulation products. Polartec Alpha jackets are in production and will be introduced at trade shows in January and at retail by September.

Invista recently introduced innovative technology to intimate apparel, swimwear, hosiery and denim. For intimates, Lycra fiber W Technology offers a package of enhancements that improves visual and physical fabric uniformity with an optimized luster, dye pickup and new proprietary spinning technology. In swimwear, Xtra Life Lycra fiber features lasting fit, resists fiber breakage and fit loss caused by sunscreen, pool water and oxidation, and fiber longevity that stands up to the swimwear environment five times longer than chlorine-resistant spandex. In Hosiery, Lycra Xceptionelle hosiery technology provides exceptional fit and comfort and makes it easier to put on hosiery and is designed for the plus-size woman.

Lycra dualFX fabric technology combines Lycra fiber plus Lycra T400 fiber in the same yarn to bring high levels of stretch and shape retention to denim fabrics and garments. The technology has been so well received in denim it is moving into piece-dye fabrics.