Manmade cellulosic fibers are materials derived from plants (mostly wood) and processed into textile fibers. The classification of these fibers is tricky, as they are manmade but derived from natural materials. The distinction is often in the required chemical processing stage and treatment of the fibers.
Why does it matter? Manmade fibers have been increasing in variety, use and production volume as companies seek new value for their products. These hybrid natural-manmade materials such as viscose, modal, acetate, lyocell, etc., fill various niches of versatility, durability, look and comfort that consumers and designers alike desire.
These facts are important to consider as more manmade cellulosic fibers are being produced every year (Fig. 1). This represents a cost-benefit transition in fiber production—why are manmade fibers being made more and more?
As a starting point, viscose and other manmade cellulosic fibers may require less resources than polyester. Data from waterfootprint.org estimates that compared with cotton and viscose, the synthetic petroleum-based polyester had the highest water footprint; only surpassed by cases of conventional cotton farming in which toxic pesticides are used. In the same report, viscose was found to have the lowest average water footprint. The relative efficiency of resource use behind manmade cellulosic fibers is a key driver of the trend illustrated in fig. 1.
With sustainability and resource efficiency coming into an ever-brighter spotlight, the trade-offs behind production, consumption and future generations quality of life will be a paramount topic of global market conversation.
Are manmade cellulosic fibers an answer to future directions for the fashion industry or a steppingstone on the path?
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