Weaving Pandemic-Appropriate Clothing

Global textile industry development and future growth

The textile industry is massive in scale, global and very complex. It is also currently being reshaped by several forces, including changing consumer expectations, new technologies, the increasing importance of sustainability, and supply chain issues brought to the fore by the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing trade tension.

This is a time of great change for the entire textile value chain, and we expect to see the widespread adoption of new business models and sustainable business practices that make sense both environmentally and economically. For example, we anticipate increased demand for recycled fibers, an increase in nearshoring or onshoring of production, the diversification of supply chains for resilience, and the adoption of more stringent chemical and wastewater management regulations.

Given these disruptions, Huntsman Textile Effects sees even more value in our approach to helping mills and brands differentiate through innovation and collaboration.

Global trends in the textile dyes and chemicals segment

The textile dyes and chemicals sector is being shaped by three megatrends.

One is changing consumer demand. For example, the pandemic took PPE beyond the medical community and boosted demand for technical fabrics treated with antimicrobial and oil- and water-repellent finishes and anti-static agents to improve wearer safety and comfort. The pandemic also created a shift in performance textiles, with increased interest in athleisure and casualwear as people work more from home and prioritize being active and healthy. So, brands are looking for textiles that incorporate moisture-management and antimicrobial and odor-control solutions for long-lasting comfort. Durable water repellents for rain and stain protection and UV-absorbing technologies for lasting sun protection are other examples of textile effects that support consumers to take up healthy outdoor activities.

Second, economic disruption in the pandemic has ramped up pressure on brands to deliver better value and on mills to be even more cost effective. There are opportunities here for textile dyes and chemicals companies to deliver solutions that help brands differentiate to win market share and help mills upgrade their processes and work practices to reduce processing costs and increase yield and productivity.

Finally, sustainability remains hugely influential, with the shift towards circularity pegged to become a key driver of textile industry innovation for the future. This is about textiles that are not just free from harmful chemicals and produced in ways that are better for the planet, but that also resist fading, staining, and odors, so they need less frequent washing and look good for longer.

The mills in India and other Asian markets that consciously develop these capabilities have the potential to capture market share in the years ahead.

COVID-19 impact for textile dyes & chemicals manufacturers

There’s no doubt that COVID-19 has hit textile dyes and chemicals companies hard and continues to impact the industry globally. But as some economies begin to rebound, we are beginning to see how the pandemic is reshaping our industry as a whole. Our textile and apparel manufacturing customers are likely to become more geographically distributed as brands seek to diversify their supply chains, with reshoring accelerating this trend.

Collaborative supply partnerships are being established to bring more agility and innovation, but the availability of raw materials is an ongoing restraint. And digitalization to enable traceability and transparency is accelerating as sustainability becomes even more important.

Digitization benefits for textile chemicals manufacturers

As an advocate for sustainability, Huntsman Textile Effects champions the use of digital technologies to help the textile chemicals segment improve production processes, optimize supply chains, enhance transparency, innovate more rapidly, and work more closely with customers, partners, and peers. The goal here is to boost our efficiency and achieve better productivity and economies of scale, even in the face of extreme supply and demand volatility.

Bio & recycled solutions potential for textile dyes & chemicals segment

Huntsman Textile Effects is a key partner in the textile value chain, and we pride ourselves on leading the industry’s response to complex challenges, like the journey towards a circular economy. We believe strongly in optimizing the entire ecosystem to create shared value.

Take, for example, rising interest in recycled polyester (rPET) as a result of many of the world’s top apparel brands committing to eliminating virgin polyester from their supply chains. rPET is made of post-consumer plastic bottles and these vary in their degrees of whiteness. This creates challenges in achieving full whites and consistent shades.

Huntsman Textile Effects helps brands and mills overcome these challenges with rPET processing solutions that include pre-treatment chemicals, fluorescent whitening agents, state-of-the-art washfast dyes, and finishing solutions for high-performance protection and comfort. These are eco-friendly and can be easily incorporated into existing processes to deliver right-first-time quality, helping to maintain mill productivity and competitiveness.

For the future, closed-loop rPET, where garments made from recycled polyester are turned back into rPET fibers, may be possible. But more research is needed to ensure quality, scalability and cost-effectiveness.

Importance of sustainability in textile dyes and chemical segment

Textile production is very resource-intensive. In fact, it contributes more to climate change than international aviation and shipping combined. This means that the industry has the opportunity to make a real difference — and many of the world’s biggest brands are stepping up to do just that.

The textile dyes and chemicals industry is crucial to this shift. At Huntsman Textile Effects, we strongly believe that chemicals suppliers can be — and must be — key agents of change, helping mills and brands meet the expectations of governments, NGOs, and consumers while remaining economically viable.

Suggestions to adopt sustainability at an organizational level

Sustainability is becoming a core business strategy for apparel, footwear and household linen brands. It supports market differentiation, drives innovation, and engenders loyalty with customers, suppliers, communities and investors.

As we move toward circularity, key steps for textile businesses include:

  • Design products for longer lifetimes
  • Promote raw materials that are sustainably and ethically sourced
  • Make products reusable, repairable and recyclable
  • Use toxic-free, circular products and materials
  • Introduce Extended Producer Responsibility schemes for textiles
  • Promote Product Passports to ensure traceability and transparency

Having an edge over peers in the textile chemicals segment

Huntsman Textile Effects is an industry leader with best-in-class innovation. We hold 700 enforceable patents and have launched 200 new products in the past five years. Our technologies have made saving water and energy possible, with breakthroughs like Avitera® SE; enabled the shift to clean chemistries, with non-flouro solutions Phobotex® and Zelan®, for example; and helped brands differentiate and meet evolving consumer demand through High IQ® intelligent effects like Lasting Black eco, Sun Protect and Cool Comfort.

But just as significant is Huntsman Textile Effects’ long-held and ongoing commitment to collaborating with our customers, other stakeholders, and peers to create innovations that drive sustainability and make change possible. In 2021, for example, we partnered with Sciessent to bring revolutionary antimicrobial and anti-odor solutions to textile mills and brands worldwide.

Challenges faced by global textile chemicals manufacturers.

Even before COVID, the textile chemicals industry was facing cost escalation, raw materials shortages, and increasingly strict environmental standards. But we see this as an opportunity for the industry to improve; responsible companies that focus on innovation and sustainability make the best partners as they reduce risks for brands and help them grasp new opportunities.

This article first appeared on Chemical Today.

Craig White, Senior Marketing Manager – Global Brands, Huntsman Textile Effects

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