Trinseo | Designing Sustainable Alternatives for Luxury Apparel

Thought Leadership

September 13, 2021

Designing Sustainable Alternatives for Luxury Apparel

Aldo Zanetti, Global Market Leader, Medical and Personal Care

Today’s fashion industry is massive – valuing more than $2.5 trillion USD and employing 75+ million people worldwide. Clothing, footwear, and apparel production have been fast growing over the past decades, and they continue to do so, driven by economic gains and unprecedented population growth. Unfortunately, the industry’s global impact also includes the environment, which has been negatively impacted by its operations.

Fashion production constitutes about 10% of humanity’s carbon emissions, while also depleting freshwater sources and polluting natural environments. This has drawn increased attention as consumers escalate demands for sustainable apparel. In fact, most global consumers have expressed that they expect brands to support social and environmental issues, and indicated they’d be willing to pay more for sustainable products.

The challenges of balancing fashion and sustainability also present exciting opportunities for innovation, which is where Trinseo is playing a pivotal role.

Innovation in Synthetic Textile Products

One area of fashion with significant opportunity for improvement and sustainable innovation is apparel – in particular, semi rigid synthetic textiles resembling leather. Demand for these products has grown over the years, however they have well-known environmental impacts.

For example, traditional leather goods beget social concerns over animal welfare, in addition to the environmental impacts of intensive farming. Synthetic leather predominantly made with fossil-based PU and PVC have taken hold in their stead but are not without their own environmental shortcomings, particularly where end of product life is concerned and with life-cycle assessment (LCA).

Bio Synthetic Textiles

At Trinseo, we're helping address this dilemma through the development of Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU) compounds containing up to 50% biobased content that are suitable for producing sustainable synthetic textiles. Our APILON™ 52 C BIO T L series of bio-based ether-TPU compounds is tailored for sustainable synthetic leather, produced through a solvent-free coagulation process, and provides physical and mechanical properties that resemble conventional fossil-based synthetic leather. We also offer APILON™ 52 BIO TNE, a series of bio-based ether-TPU compounds developed for the extrusion and calendaring process. These products contain about 50% bio-based content and boast key performance properties like good processability, soft touch, and flexibility.

Together, the APILON™ 52 BIO families form the inner and outer layers of synthetic textiles, which can be used in footwear, belts, bags, apparel, accessories, and even furniture and automobiles. Not only do they have physical and mechanical properties similar to conventional alternatives made with PVC and PU, but they also provide a soft touch resembling natural leather, GMO free, and can be produced through a solvent-free process.

At Trinseo, we deliver innovative and sustainable solutions to help our customers create products that are intrinsic to our lives. Our TPU solutions for footwear and apparel have a long and successful history of meeting the highest requirements for aesthetics, durability, and, most importantly, sustainability. With our APILON™ 52 BIO TL and TNE series, we can produce high quality and sustainable synthetic textiles suitable for apparel applications with measurable environmental benefits. As the industry evolves, we are keen to lead the movement toward a more sustainable future with material solutions.