For us, longevity means that all materials used are of the same [high] quality.
THE DEVELOPMENT OF OUR DYECOSHELL™ FABRIC BEGAN WITH TWO QUESTIONS:
1) WHAT FABRIC DO WE WANT TO USE FOR OUR TRANSIT LINE?
2) HOW WILL WE APPROACH THE ASPECT OF SUSTAINABILITY IN THE FUTURE?
It quickly became clear to us that we could not simply take a fabric off the shelf to achieve our goals. Instead, we invested more time and energy in the - fundamental - development of a fabric concept. Our goal was not "just" to find a solution for the product line, but also to have an approach that would define our view on fabrics in general. When defining the requirements for this particular fabric, both durability and sustainability crystallised as the most important factors to consider.
For us, durability means that all materials used are of the same [high] quality. This is especially true for wear parts such as zips and fabrics, which have to withstand heavy use over many years without losing their aesthetic value or functionality. For the fabrics, abrasion resistance was the most important aspect for us.
As for sustainability, unfortunately the brief was not so clear. We contacted our fabric suppliers (and even found new ones) to discuss the issue of sustainable fabrics that would meet our requirements. We met with people who specialise in different recycling methods and at the same time researched abrasion resistant fabrics, hoping to find one that combined both aspects. We came across some interesting approaches, but the lack of transparency of most recycling methods didn't quite convince us yet. For example, recycling PET bottles wastes a lot of energy and the resulting polyester fabrics do not offer the same durability as a piece of pure polyester fabric, especially for backpacks.
Recycling fishing nets, carpets and other waste is similarly arduous and often other plastics such as polyethylene and polypropylene are found in the mix. Different fibre lengths and molecular differences make recycling from different sources even more difficult. Some manufacturers also admit that the recycled material is often not as resilient as its counterpart made from new granules. Even though the processes are constantly being improved, the results are hardly equivalent: recycled materials often cost much more and are not as durable as the original material. That means you get less for a higher price.
WE BELIEVE IN LONG-TERM RECYCLING
We believe that recycling is an irreplaceable element of a truly sustainable product life cycle and we will continue to work on integrating it into our future developments. At the moment, we believe that using less but better fabrics to produce products is the right way for us. Therefore, we have been looking for extremely durable and abrasion resistant fibres and for this purpose we have tested different fabrics that are considered to be very durable and resistant. All these findings finally defined the standard for our base material. We wanted to be more abrasion resistant than anything we have used before, including fabrics used by military and law enforcement agencies around the world. No easy task.
In several trials we have combined Nylon 6.6 with UHMWPE (Ultra-High-Molecular-Weight Polyethylene), which has incredible tensile strength and is often used for extremely tear-resistant products. We made countless attempts to combine the two but never got past a certain point and the high use of the material was disproportionate to the improvement in abrasion resistance. Up to this point, we have found that combining different materials is a difficult task (above a certain thread thickness), even when we have conducted over 100 different abrasion tests with fabric blends made especially for us. However, the most promising was a specially treated and twisted nylon thread that is tightly woven and has a special coating that is waterproof to the fabric but leaves its freedom of movement.
The result was a robust fabric that (finally) met our abrasion resistance requirements but was still soft enough to avoid abrasion spikes outside the lab and comfortable to the touch. As the nylon recycling process proved to be very energy and resource intensive, we looked for other ways to reduce the initial footprint of new fabrics. Again, we asked around to different manufacturers and one process caught our attention: DOPE DYEING.
(Saving of resources compared to normal piece dyeing)
WHAT IS SPIN DYEING?
Dope dyeing is a process that simply omits the dyeing of fabrics with chemicals and water. After weaving, normal fabrics are exposed to different liquid substances depending on their colour. The dyeing process alone consumes about 89% of the water used for the entire fabric production. The same applies to energy consumption (60%), CO² emissions (65%) and chemical consumption (63%). This makes regular dyeing by far the most resource-intensive and environmentally damaging part of the entire fabric production process. As with conventionally produced fabrics, the raw material is processed in granule form and extruded under heat. The result is a single thin continuous filament. This is the basis for each yarn, and a different number of filaments spun together results in yarns of varying thickness. Normally these filaments are transparent to white and give a kind of "off white", also called "greige".
With DOPE DYEING, the colourless granulate is mixed with a coloured granulate before extrusion so that the filament is extruded directly in the previously defined colour. During weaving, the already coloured yarns are then woven into a fabric - without any dyeing at all. In our case, we chose two slightly differently coloured yarns, Black and Castle Rock Grey, so that the product not only visualises the principle of DOPE DYEING, but also brings a depth of colour to the fabric that cannot be achieved with regularly dyed mono-materials. DOPE DYEING has another major advantage. A popular example is the comparison between a carrot and a radish. The radish has only one coloured Flysheet, while the carrot is orange all the way into the core. This is also the case with DOPE DYEING, where the thread is coloured through - just like a carrot. This also makes it extremely resistant to fading and discolouration from abrasion and UV light. The same process is also used for carpets, which would otherwise fade very quickly due to the high abrasion to which they are exposed.
THE FINAL STEPS
In line with our plan for 2018, we have now further improved the composition of the base material and added another version to our fabric range, which we have named DYECOSHELL™: DYECOSHELL™. The improved version of the original fabric is called DYECOShell I and is now made of 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 and which contains the same ingredients: 420D nylon x 330D nylon, 100% warp-dyed, 3xPU coated (inside) + DWR (C6) coating (outside).
At the moment, both fabrics are available in two (yarn) colour combinations. The original is Black/Castlerock to show the difference in production, and the second and newest is Black/Black - well, because we like All Black. We will continue to add other colour combinations, despite the obstacles of the dyeing process. DYECOSHELL™ fabrics will continue to evolve and gradually expand 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 the DYECOSHELL™ fabrics, we are gradually replacing our normal 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 yet exhausted all possibilities and that there is still a lot to do, especially when it comes to sustainability, but we will constantly look at new recycling methods and resource-saving production processes and seek improvements.
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