THE DEVELOPMENT OF OUR DYECOSHELL™ FABRIC BEGAN WITH TWO QUESTIONS:
1) WHAT FABRIC SHOULD COAT OUR VERY NEW TRANSIT LINE?
2) HOW WILL WE APPROACH THE ASPECT OF SUSTAINABILITY IN THE FUTURE?
Quickly we realized that to meet our goals we couldn‘t just take an off-the-shelf fabric. Instead, we invested more time and energy into - fundamentally - developing a fabric concept. Our aim was not “just” to find a solution for the product line but also to have an approach that would determine our view on fabrics in general. When defining the requirements for this particular fabric, both durability and sustainability emerged as the key factors to consider and lead to a critical realization that a product‘s sustainability increases with its durability.
For us, durability means that all materials used are of the same [high] quality. Particularly on wearing parts like zippers, hardware, and fabrics that need to withstand heavy use over many years without losing their aesthetic value or their functionality. In terms of fabric, abrasion resistance was the most crucial aspect for us.
Concerning sustainability, the mission was not that clear, unfortunately. We contacted our fabric suppliers (and even found new ones) to discuss the topic of sustainable fabrics that would fulfill our requirements. We met with people who are specialized in different recycling methods and - at the same time - researched abrasion-resistant fabrics, hoping to find one that combines both aspects. While we came across interesting approaches, the lack of transparency in most of the recycling processes did not fully convince us so far. For example, when recycling PET bottles, a lot of energy goes to waste and the polyester fabrics resulting from this don‘t offer the same durability as a piece of virgin polyester fabric, especially when it comes to backpacks.
The recycling of fishing nets, carpets, and other waste is similarly laborious and often you will find other plastics such as polyethylene and polypropylene in the mix. Varying fiber lengths and molecular differences make recycling from different sources even more difficult. Some manufacturers also admitted that the recycled material is often not as resilient as its counterpart made of new granulate. Even with the processes constantly improving, the results are hardly equivalent.Very often, recycled fabrics cost much more and are not as durable as the original material. Which means you get less for a higher price.
WE BELIEVE IN RECYCLING IN THE LONG RUN
We do believe that recycling is an irreplaceable element of a truly sustainable product life cycle and we will continue working on integrating it into our future developments. For now, we believe that producing less but better fabrics and therefore products is the right path for us. That is why we were looking for extremely durable and abrasion-resistant fibers and for this purpose, we tested different fabrics that are considered to be very durable and resilient. All these findings finally defined the benchmark for our base material, which - unfortunately - did not exist. We wanted to be more abrasion resistant than anything we’ve used before, including fabrics used by military and law enforcement all over the world. Not an easy task.
In several experiments, we combined Nylon 6.6 with UHMWPE (Ultra-High-Molecular-Weight Polyethylene) which has unbelievable tensile strength and is often used for extremely tear-resistant products. We tried countless ways to combine both, however, we did not get beyond a certain point and the high use of the material was not proportionate to the improvement in abrasion-resistance capabilities. To this point, we have noticed that combining different materials is a difficult task (from a given thread strength onwards) even when performing over 100 different abrasion tests with fabric blends made just for us. However, the most promising of them was a specially-treated and twisted nylon thread, tightly woven and with a special coating that is waterproof but leaves the fabric room to move.
The result was a strong fabric that (finally) met our goal for abrasion resistance yet still was soft enough to avoid abrasion peaks outside the laboratory and provides a nice hand-feel. Since the nylon recycling process proved to be very energy- and resource-intensive, we considered other possibilities of reducing the initial footprint of new fabrics. Once again we made a round with different manufacturers and one process attracted our attention: DOPE DYEING.
WHAT IS DOPE DYEING?
Dope Dyeing is a process in which the dyeing of fabrics in chemicals and water is simply omitted. After weaving, regular fabrics are exposed to different liquid substances depending on their color. The dyeing process alone consumes about 89% of all water, which is used for the entire fabric production. The same goes for energy consumption (60%), CO² output (65%), and chemicals consumption (63%). This makes regular dyeing by far the most resource-intensive and polluting part of the entire fabric production process. As with conventionally produced fabrics, the raw material is processed in granulate form and extruded under the influence of heat. The result is a single thin continuous filament. This is the basis for each yarn and different numbers of filaments spun together result in yarns of different thicknesses. Normally these filaments are transparent to white and result in a kind-of “Off White” also called „Greige“.
In DOPE DYEING, the colorless granules are mixed with a colored granule before extrusion so the filament is extruded directly in the color previously defined. During weaving, the already colored yarns are then woven into a fabric - without any dyeing at all. In our case, we have decided to use two slightly different colored yarns, Black and Castle rock Grey.Thus the product not only visualizes the principle of DOPE DYEING but also brings a depth into the color that cannot be achieved with regularly dyed mono-material fabrics. DOPE DYEING has another big advantage. A popular example is a comparison with a carrot and a radish. Radish only has a colored outer layer, whereas the carrot is completely orange to its core. This is also the case with DOPE DYEING where the filament is dyed-through - like a carrot. This also makes it extremely resistant to fading and discoloration by abrasion and UV light. The same process is also applied to carpets that would otherwise fade very quickly due to the high abrasion they are exposed to.
THE FINAL STEPS
Following our plan in 2018 we now further improved the base material composition and added another version to our fabric line-up which we named: DYECOSHELL™. The improved version of the original fabric is called DYECOShell I and is now made from 840D Nylon x 660D Nylon, 100% dope dyed, 3xPU coated (inside) + DWR (C6) coating (outside)It is accompanied by a lighter version which we call DYECOShell II featuring the same ingredients: 420D Nylon x 330D Nylon, 100% dope dyed, 3xPU coated (inside) + DWR (C6) coating (outside).
At the moment both fabrics are available in two (yarn) color combinations. The original one is Black/Castlerock, to subtly showcase the difference in production and the second and latest one is Black/Black - well because we like All Black. We will continue to add other color combinations despite the obstacles the dope dying process brings along. DYECOSHELL™ fabrics will continue to evolve and gradually expand in the portfolio. With new materials, different coatings, and modern techniques we will make our products more durable and sustainable without giving up our aesthetic signature.In addition to DYECOShell™ fabrics, we are gradually replacing our regular fabrics with Dope Dyed fabrics. For example, the lining of the entire Transit Line is made of dope dyed polyester. We are aware that we have not uncovered all the possibilities out there and that there is still a lot to do, especially when it comes to sustainability but we will constantly review new recycling methods and resource-saving production processes and look for improvements.