Tencel is one of those popular fabrics that appears at the top when searching for sustainable fabrics. Since it is versatile and lightweight, many sustainable clothing brands that care about the environment use it today. From underwear to activewear, Tencel fabric is considerably talked about, for all the right reasons. But is it actually natural and sustainable? Read on to learn more!
What is Tencel fabric?
The Austrian company Lenzing AG is the rightful owner of the trademark TENCEL®. Although the term ‘Tencel’ can also apply to Lenzing’s modal fabric, it typically refers to Tencel Lyocell.
Tencel lyocell and modal are those sustainable fabrics branded by Tencel™ with environmentally responsible processes. They are made from wood, a natural raw material obtained sustainably. Due to the rise in demand, Tencel is today used as a sustainable clothing material by leading brands and retailers.
Tencel fabric is very similar to rayon, i.e., viscose, as the fashion industry refers to all of them as ‘regenerated cellulose’ fibers. However, Tencel is synonymous with lyocell, much as GoodGuilt is with sustainability!
Why is Tencel so popular?
Due to its exceptional softness, Tencel stands out as the best sustainable fabric. Sustainable materials made from Tencel fabric also have a great drape and flow to them. Additionally, you can relax knowing that your chosen sustainable clothing materials won’t wrinkle easily and are breathable.
It is also regarded as the best fabric; the difference between rayon and Tencel is that rayon requires more chemicals and energy to produce. This makes it both wasteful and toxic for the workers who make these fabrics in the factories. While in contrast, Tencel is one of those sustainable fabrics that use chemicals that are less toxic and recycles them in the process, so there’s minimal waste. Another amazing feature of Tencel fabric is that it is made from wood obtained from sustainably managed forests.
Tencel sustainability is also well-known for its dye retention and ability to regulate moisture, helping in temperature regulation. It makes this sustainable material a great option for bedding and clothing brands.
How is Tencel made?
Tencel is a form of rayon, like modal and viscose, as we previously explained. The same method is used to create all these cellulose fibers — wood pulp is dissolved, and a unique drying procedure known as spinning is used. Manufacturers dissolve it in chemical solvents to create a wet mixture before drying. To create the threads, this mixture is then pushed through an extruder. The fiber lengths are then spun into yarn and woven to create the cloth. But does the final result have a positive environmental impact? Let’s find out.
Is Tencel natural and sustainable?
Yes, you can say it is! Tencel has a natural origin as it is made from wood, but the final fiber is man-made, so it doesn’t 100% qualify as a natural fiber. So, the textile industry refers to it as regenerated cellulose instead of synthetic or even natural, for that matter. But, this doesn’t stop the fabric from being the top choice as a sustainable clothing material. Even if Tencel fibers are compostable and biodegradable, it is, however, not one of the ‘best’ sustainable materials. This is because dyes are used in the process, and the final products, including the toxic materials, end up in the soil along with the fabric.
Few brands that use Tencel fabric
Fortunately, there are a number of brands that use Tencel fabric in their sustainable clothing, if you want to choose Tencel. But, let’s look at our top three favorites below:
1. MATE The Label
This is one of those labels that appreciates Tencel’s sustainability. Their clean essentials are made with GOTS-certified, organic fabrics, and low-impact dyes. The US brand, MATE, is a great place to find clothing made from sustainable fabrics like Tencel, including tanks, shorts, and jumpsuits.
Talking about brands that use sustainable materials, if you haven’t heard about Patagonia, you’re probably behind in the slow fashion game. The brand truly lives and breathes outerwear, including skiing, surfing, hiking, and all things fun and comfy!
This LA-based brand values the environment and uses sustainable clothing materials for its clothing. For example, it makes one-of-a-kind underwear and bras from eco-friendly materials like Tencel and recycled plastic bottles. Proclaim also ensures the workers in its California factory earn a fair living wage.
Conclusion: Should you opt for Tencel fabric?
If you’ve begun choosing only the best for you and the planet, then yes, you should opt for this sustainable fabric. Tencel fibers are breathable, making them great for summers, follow sustainale practices, and have high-quality performance features. So, just like other sustainable fabrics, Tencel too comes with its pros and cons, as discussed above.
Before opting for any brand, you can always look for their Tencel products first or even browse through the Tencel website for brands that provide them.
To learn more about choosing slow fashion brands and the reasons why some textiles shouldn’t be in your closet, refer to our Good Guides.