Clothes Fashion

What Exactly is TENCEL? We Investigate

It’s used by more and more brands – sustainable and not. But what exactly is TENCEL?

By Roberta Fabbrocino

Known for their natural comfort and top-quality, TENCEL branded fibres are becoming increasingly popular, and are being used by many renowned green designers and retailers. But what exactly is TENCEL, anyway? And what’s so great about these fibres?  

Since it is becoming so popular with sustainable fashion creators, we decided to investigate. And we were surprised at what we found!

In a nutshell, the TENCEL brand creates extremely versatile cellulosic products that are sustainably sourced and produced. What makes this possible is cutting-edge, responsible technology, which was developed by Austria-based company, Lenzing, a truly green textiles pioneer that has been producing fibres from renewable raw wood for around 80 years. But there are still lots of misconceptions about what TENCEL branded fibres actually are.

Common misconceptions about TENCEL branded fibres

First up, many people believe that the TENCEL branded fibre is actually a material itself. But that’s not exactly right. Lenzing produces its TENCEL branded lyocell and modal fibres through a pulp-to-fibre process, in which wood chips are transformed into a pulpy substance. This is then spun into fibres or blended with various textile fibres to later become new fabrics. 

Another common misconception about TENCEL fibres is that they are the same as other textile fibres such as rayon and viscose, since they’re all derived from wood pulp. That’s not true, either. While viscose itself is a plant-based fibre made from renewable materials, its use in modern fast fashion has changed the way it’s being manufactured.

Today, some manufacturers may not have taken all the necessary environmental precautions in their viscose fibre production process, hence leading to a highly polluting process that releases toxins into the environment. In addition, some viscose on the market could still be made from new wood derived from non-sustainably managed forests. 

The result? Devastating effects on the workers’ health and the inhabitants of the areas surrounding the production plants.

Why TENCEL is different from other kinds of fibres

There are two types of cellulosic fibers under the TENCEL brand: TENCEL Modal and TENCEL Lyocell fibres. The latter are responsibly produced/spun via a closed-loop system from wood. These smooth, skin-friendly fibres absorb moisture more efficiently than cotton, and thanks to their microscopic fibrils, they can support our bodies’ natural temperature regulation system. 

TENCEL Modal fibres are made mostly from beech wood, a renewable raw material, sourced from sustainably managed forests in Austria and its neighbouring countries. The fibres have long-lasting quality of exquisite softness that lasts even after repeated washing. 

Manufacturers can mix both fibre groups with other fibre offering endless design possibilities and enhancing the overall product’s softness and functionality. The TENCEL brand prioritises sustainability and produces environmentally responsible fibres that can fully revert to nature. 

Sustainability goes beyond manufacturing though. Lenzing uses a three-pillar approach for a more transparent supply chain. This consists of a fibre identification system, blockchain, and collaboration in the supply chain. This approach ensures a greater level of transparency along the entire supply chain through to the finished garment. 

Want to know where you can find clothing made from these eco-friendly fibres? Read on!

Some leading fashion brands using TENCEL fibres

Given their many eco-friendly qualities, TENCEL Lyocell and Modal fibres are being used by ever-increasing numbers of fashion companies. Here are a few examples, below.

Amour Vert

We love Amour Vert for their sustainability and ethics. So we weren’t really surprised to discover that a unique TENCEL fibre blend features in this eco-conscious brand’s tees, sweaters, blouses and other garments. 

what exactly is TENCEL?

Tentree

If you’re a nature lover and wonder about beech trees being cut down for TENCEL fibres, this is the brand for you! Tentree is so-named as they plant not one, not two, but TEN trees for every purchase made! So in other words, this blouse made with TENCEL fibre, below, actually represents ten new trees in the forest.

what exactly is TENCEL?

Mara Hoffman

This sustainable, vegan designer is best known for her resort wear. So she must have been delighted to discover how light and breathable TENCEL fibres can be! She has used it to wonderful effect in this floaty, tulip-sleeved dress, below, as well as in many other garments.

mara hoffman dress

Reformation

This LA brand is well known for its sexy dresses. But one of the very sexiest? This cherry red one, made from TENCEL fibres! The fun, young fashion brand has also used TENCEL fibres in other pieces, including sweaters and trousers.

what exactly is TENCEL?

Eileen Fisher

This popular eco-friendly brand shows just how elegant and eternally chic TENCEL fibres can be! Whether you’re looking for something to wear to work, or simple, mix-and-match pieces that will go with everything in your wardrobe, this is the place to shop.

eileen fisher

So, what exactly is TENCEL? In short, it’s the foundation for modal and lyocell, and it’s made from sustainably managed beech tree forests, in an eco-friendly way. TENCEL fibres are biodegradable, making these fibres part of the circular fashion economy.

PS: Did you know TENCEL fibres are also perfect for lingerie? There are many brands using it for gorgeous underwear, which you can see here.

So, now that you know exactly what TENCEL is, we hope that you’ll seek it out for all your sustainable wardrobe needs, from activewear and underwear, to outerwear and everyday basics. The planet will thank you!

All image credits are courtesy of the brands. Main image: TENCEL. Second image: Reformation Helena dress in TENCEL

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