Tencel Fabrics Take Center Stage Amid Global Temperature Surge

Apparel retailers leverage Tencel fabrics and high-tech fibers for cooling fabrics amid rising global temperatures and recovering from sales declines.

Apparel retailers like Macy’s and Columbia Sportswear are seizing the opportunity to expand their offerings of “breathable” and “cooling” fabrics. TENCEL takes center stage, as soaring global temperatures fuel a demand for clothing that can provide relief from the heat. VF Corp (VFC.N) and Permira-owned Reformation are promoting warm-weather styles made with TENCEL. This is lyocell fiber, known for its superior absorbency compared to cotton.

This strategic push by clothing retailers comes as they seek to recover from a period of sales decline, influenced by inflation concerns causing consumers to prioritize essential purchases over discretionary spending. Apparel manufacturers and sellers are pinning their hopes on lightweight materials and performance fabrics. Tencel is designed to offer enhanced cooling effects beyond traditional cotton and polyester knits. Moreover, they are tapping into the potential of high-tech fibers that promise “active” cooling benefits.

TENCEL’s Evolution from Athletic Wear to Year-round Fashion Staple

Industry experts, such as Jess Ramirez, an analyst for Jane Hali & Associates, highlight that TENCEL and similar textiles have long been utilized in athletic wear. These include brands like Lululemon (LULU.O). However, the rise in temperatures has prompted more retailers to promote them for hot weather and expand into year-round styles as winters become milder.

Macy’s new line includes a $150 trench coat made with TENCEL and $24.50 tee-shirts made with modal, two lightweight, and breathable fibers derived from wood pulp. Macy’s Senior Vice President of Private Brand Strategy, Emily Erusha-Hilleque, emphasized that the department store chain conducts quality tests to back these “breathable” and “cooling” claims.

Reformation, a women’s brand, has recently introduced skirts, bottoms, and dresses made with TENCEL. Although specific sales data on “cooling” clothes is not widely tracked, the manufacturing of TENCEL and related fabrics have been on the rise. 

Challenges and Innovations in the Cooling Fabric Market

TENCEL-maker Lenzing has expanded its production capacity. It attributes it to growing demand from brands such as Patagonia and VF’s North Face. However, there are cost implications, with TENCEL fibers being priced at up to $0.10 more per pound than other materials.

It remains uncertain whether fabrics marketed as cooling can genuinely lower body temperature or merely provide a more comfortable sensation. Textile industry groups have developed tests to assess cooling abilities, mainly by measuring a fabric’s moisture distribution and quick-drying properties. However, specific tests are mandated before companies can make cooling claims.

Companies are also venturing into producing garments with performance fabrics, such as Lycra’s COOLMAX. This is a polyester yarn designed to wick sweat away for faster evaporation. Uniqlo has expanded its AIRism line utilizing super-fine, smooth fibers made from polyester and cupro.

Tencel Fabrics Advance Active Cooling Technology

The pursuit of “active cooling” fiber technology is another avenue of innovation. Materials are engineered to trap and release heat, surpassing the passive cooling provided by most conventional fabrics. Columbia Sportswear has launched a new sweatshirt featuring Omni-Freeze Zero Ice fabric. It combines “active” technology with sweat-wicking properties and an absorbent print.

The brand’s collaboration with Adidas, launching golf polo shirts using their material, has seen significant success. Interestingly, the demand for modified base layers and cold-weather clothing has also surged as more shoppers experience unseasonably warm winters.

The textile industry is increasingly prioritizing TENCEL and other “cooling” fabrics. As temperatures rise, cooling clothing could drive global sales and innovation for clothiers.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *