Tencel: trial and error

What is Tencel and why should you care? Tencel (also known as Lyocell) is an eco-friendly form of viscose. Viscose is a popular material for women’s clothing because of it’s smooth & silky texture. Normal viscose is not a very eco-friendly material: the wood pulp that is used as a base is often coming from non-sustainable sources (e.g. slowly renewing forests) and a lot of toxic chemicals are needed to turn the wood pulp into viscose.

Tencel has been developed by an Austrian company called Lenzing to tackle these issues: the wood pulp is coming from sustainably sourced Eucalyptus trees. Eucalyptus forests are very quickly regenerating and need relatively small amounts of water to grow. Secondly Lenzing has developed a closed loop system which recycles 99% of the chemicals used to turn the wood pulp into Tencel.

So in short Tencel has all the benefits of viscose without its negative ecological impact. Yeeey!!

You’ve maybe seen Tencel being used at other sustainable brands. It is often used to create very beautiful and very expensive women’s clothes. So about 10 months ago, we thought to ourselves: we should do Tencel the Honest Basics-way.

We’ve been working with the help of our German-Bangladeshi agency to develop Tencel in Bangladesh. It turns out we’re one of the first ones in Bangladesh to start working with Tencel. We think that’s pretty cool: Bangladesh is the second largest exporter of clothing in the world. The fact that Honest Basics launches a new sustainable material there, means we’re one of the most sustainable brands working in Bangladesh.

It hasn’t been easy to develop Tencel in Bangladesh: we’ve had trials, failures and more trials. We’ve had multiple discussions with the Austrian parent company. Visited two trade fairs. And have been in contact with over 5 different sales representatives of Lenzing in South Asia. But now we’re almost there!

Our goal is to launch two projects with Tencel. First of all we want to start making Tencel garments. With Tencel we can make a whole new type of products. For example: t-shirts with silky feeling, blouses, pants, dresses. You name it. We can use the benefits of Tencel to create smooth, soft and silk-like basics. And we can even mix Tencel with organic cotton to get the best of both worlds.

The first over-sized t-shirts made from 100% Tencel are ordered! The material feels very nice on the first samples we received. It’s going to keep you looking and feeling cool on those hot summer days.

The second project: we’re trying to replace the polyester sewing yarns that we currently use in all our garments. It is standard industry practice to use polyester yarn. But still this hidden use of polyester has been bothering us since the start. Surely there must be a more eco-friendly solution to this problem?

Our friends from Circular Fashion first introduced us to the idea of Tencel sewing yarns about 1 year ago. To be successful, the Tencel yarns should have similar behavior to polyester yarn: smooth surface and high tensile strength are needed for sewing with industrial machines. There seem to be currently only one or two companies in Europe that produce these type of Tencel sewing yarns.

We set out to be the first in Bangladesh (and India!) to create these type of sewing yarns on the market. Currently we’re at trial 3 still running into the issue that the yarns are too weak. We will keep persisting. Until one of the trials succeeds and we can change all sewing yarns to a more sustainable alternative than polyester.

Tencel t-shirts launching in March / April 2020.