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LENZING – There is fresh evidence to suggest the luxury apparel sector is embracing sustainability. In an exclusive interview with Apparel Insider, Amit Gautam, executive vice president with Austrian speciality fibre maker, Lenzing, said the business is seeing “tremendous feedback from the market” for its Tencel Luxe eco-botanic lyocell filaments which were launched last year. Tencel Luxe was launched as the business spotted a gap in the market for a product with a similar profile to luxury fibres such as silk and cashmere, albeit without the associated sustainability challenges. The result, Gautam told us, is the “first major innovation in the natural filament market in the last 25 years.”

Tencel Luxe eco-botanic lyocell filaments are made from wood pulp of tree species including eucalyptus, spruce, pine and birch trees. They use pulp sourced from sustainable wood and are manufactured via a closed-loop lyocell production process, which received the ‘European Award for the Environment’ from the European Union. The process ensures minimal environmental impact due to low process water and energy use, raw materials and chemicals consumption.

Gautam told Apparel Insider market demand has been extremely strong – so much so that the business earlier this summer had to expand production capacity, with €30m to be invested in a further pilot line at the company’s Lenzing headquarters in Austria.

Such demand, suggests Gautam, was anticipated. “If you look at the high end of the fashion sector, fabrics such as cashmere, wool and especially silk – the dominant fabrics – all have sustainability challenges and some serious environmental issues,” he told us. “We realised there was a gap in this premium market for a sustainable fibre which also had the luxury touch, feel and drape one would normally associate with natural luxury fibres.”

So is Tencel Luxe a threat to natural fibres such as cashmere and silk? Gautam tells us: “Actually, the filaments and fabrics we make can be very easily be blended with other fibres such as cashmere, wool and silk. We don’t see these as a threat but as ideal blending partners.”

Gautam tells us Tencel Luxe has been very well received in the market. “We are working with some of the best fabric mills in Japan and Italy,” he says, adding that customers are regularly requesting new, more refined product specifications. “The market is pushing further innovation and our new investment will help drive that,” he says.

But what about price? Has Tencel Luxe been able to establish a price point which luxury brands are receptive to? “Price has never once been a discussion with brands – the biggest focus so far has been on quality and sustainability,” Gautam tells us.

Read further on this interview in the next printed edition of Apparel Insider.

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