Meeting the demand for new innovations
Otis Robinson, from the International Dyer & Finisher magazine, spoke with René Hermse, Global Manager Performance Textile Solutions at TANATEX Chemicals, about the growing trends in the performance finishing market
Headquartered in the Netherlands with a presence across Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Latin America, USA, India, Japan and more is TANATEX Chemicals. The company has been producing textile finishing treatments for global industry for decades, and its longevity is supported by its awareness of fast moving finishing trends, the company suggests.
This is because its customers move in rapid motion too. Retailers must respond to upcoming fashion trends constantly, forcing textile manufacturers to be ‘fast and flexible’ without compromising quality, says René Hermse, Global Manager for Performance Textile Solutions Hermseat TANATEX Chemicals. So, it’s all about finding clever ways to do more with finishing treatments, Hermse adds.
“Using technical finishes can help you turn a common piece of textile into something unique and brand new. Think about cosmetic finishes that can add a durable fragrance or refreshing aroma to the end-product; or a moisturiser that turns a simple pair of leggings into a high-end product that combines fashion with skincare on the go,” Hermse elaborates. “Add to this high stretch qualities, and either a warming or cooling feature, and you have all the tools to create several different product variations without having to completely change your production process.”
And in the modern market, these textile finishing solutions have a specific aim to add functionality and convenience to a garment. As demand for functional athleisurewear and sportswear teeters towards half of global consumers, it makes sense that finishing innovations focus on finishes that remove odour, counter microbes and make clothes more breathable for those engaging in physical activity.
Tanatex’s own finishes, which enable such features, allow the company to “meet the demand for new innovations, respond to trends and provide customers with an extra something”. Key to the company’s ‘constant’ research and development (R&D) efforts is its ability to focus on key, emerging performance trends, Hermse suggests.
“There is much focus on performance wear, and this market is growing fast,” says Hermse. “We expect that by 2035, 80% of all apparel products will have an additional performance attribute. Applications for outdoor, workwear and sports are winning further ground.”
In the global industry, there are handfuls of companies sharing with textile manufacturers new ways to add functional elements to sportswear and athleisurewear. The presence of sportswear in the fashion industry is domineering and the lines between fashion and casual exercise garments continue to blur, further encouraging the development of new functional finishes. Tanatex’s own chemical solutions to add breathability, remove odour and counter microbes are yet a few examples of this trend.
“But also our balance concept Qi-tex, which is growing fast. Thanks to reflected far-infrared energy, this finish sends energy back into the body, resulting in an improved balance,” Hermse explains. Such products reveal the possibility that the performance sector is a primary R&D environment within the textile industry. “The Qi-tex formulation contains a special selection of minerals, each of which is known to have specific functionality and together forms a synergetic mixture to fit the purpose we are seeking.
“These minerals are extremely effective in absorbing the infrared energy from your body and subsequently emitting it back into the body, which then uses this extra energy boost to optimise all kinds of processes in our bodies.”
Such advanced finishing solutions signify a new awareness from end-users. Hermse says that consumers are becoming much more aware of the production processes behind their clothes, as well as more conscious about what they wear and use. For the performance market, this does not just mean an increased knowledge of features and functionalities, but a wish to see companies embrace greener chemicals and ditch hazardous ones.
“Our experts are replacing as many hazardous or polluting chemicals with greener alternatives, increasing the safety of both the textile manufacturers and the end consumer. More than 200 of our products are bluesign® registered and currently around 200 products are ZDHC compliant and amounts are increasing fast. Fluorocarbon-based water repellents, for example, are often used in technical textiles, work wear, or apparel to protect wearers from severe weather conditions. We have stopped working with C8 altogether and started working with C6 fluorocarbons exclusively.”
Consumer demand has similarly risen with regards to hygiene. End-users want to improve the hygiene in their apparel, Hermse says, which the company anticipated with the use of Microban anti-microbials and cosmetic finishes to add a durable fragrance to the end-product.
Tanatex’s attitude to R&D exemplifies the rapidly growing performance and sportswear finishing segments and the specific sustainable, organic niche taking over them: “We are continuously developing and improving on existing products. By drawing on the properties and strengths of natural resources, we are enabling hazardous chemicals to be replaced with ecological solutions. Mineral technology, like clay, and water-based products are helping to make production processes more environmentally friendly while reducing waste.”
Digital application & growth
As the performance market proliferates, so does its application methods. The ‘next big thing’ taking over the performance sector is to print the functional finish with digital technology such as valve jet printing, Hermse says. She explains: “Increasingly often, functional finishes must be applied on a selected part of the fabric or integrated into the design. Examples are anti-odour finishes for the armpits, insect protection at the inside of the collar, stain repellents applied to the front of shirts and anti-abrasion for the elbow zone.
“Our experts found the ultimate chemical solution to integrate functionalised finishes by printing it on the fabric. Although in the development phase, it’s already breaking ground in the textile industry,” Hermse says.
With ‘close relationships’ to brands and retailers, Tanatex has also been able to summarise other popular end-user demands into what Hermse titles ‘megatrends’. In search of key concerns, the company examines these megatrends to “see how these are impacting our industry”. Specific attention is paid to the areas of “well-being, vitality, protection, sustainability and quality”, most of which are key attributes of the performance and sportswear market.
In conclusion, Hermse summarises: “We observe the market to see which trends are upcoming, and our R&D is constantly looking for new technologies and improvements, for both long and short term.