The Benefits of Lyocell

SANVT Journal

If you’re a fan of sustainable fashion then there’s a fair chance you’ll have noticed lyocell appearing on product labels or descriptions. It’s an innovative fabric that’s used to make clothing more eco-friendly. But what are the benefits of this material compared to the old classics like cotton or polyester? Why are we seeing it in so many different places?

Let’s take a closer look at three of the key benefits. But first, here’s a summary. Skip straight over to get to the finer details.

The benefits of lyocell: summary

  • Biodegradable and compostable, as it’s made from wood.
  • Sustainable production overall, with minimal waste.
  • Super soft and silky smooth - and highly breathable.
  • Lightweight but also non-transparent.
  • Durable and stretchy, despite the svelteness.

    What is lyocell and is it a natural or synthetic fabric?

    First things first; a quick primer on lyocell. It’s a fabric that’s made from wood. Well, more or less. It’s made from wood pulp that’s then processed with chemicals to create the fibres. For this reason it exists somewhere between a natural and synthetic fabric. But it’s generally grouped in with the natural fabrics because of its plant-based origins, as well as its sustainability - which brings us onto our first benefit.

    P.s. If you’d like a little more background first then take a look at this other SANVT blog post on what lyocell is.

    Benefit 1: Sustainable

    As a fabric made from wood, lyocell has some strong sustainability benefits. The first is that it’s biodegradable and compostable. The second is that its production doesn’t involve any harm to animals, as some other natural fabrics like silk, wool and leather often do. Lastly, the closed-loop production reduces the waste from the chemicals involved.

    But you may be wondering about all those trees that are chainsawed down to create the fabric? Thankfully, this isn’t so much of an issue because lyocell is normally made from Eucalyptus trees. These trees grow like weeds, require very little irrigation or pesticides to grow, and can also be cultivated on land that would otherwise be useless. As such, deforestation isn’t typically an issue, although as with many other fabrics it’s best to check. In the case of Tencel™ lyocell (which is one of the most popular types) the wood is always sustainably sourced. So you’re safe with that.

    On the downside, the production of the fabric from the wood can be energy intensive. But no fabric is perfect on the sustainability side. Overall, lyocell’s production is less wasteful and pollutive than that of other fabrics.

    Benefit 2: Soft

    It’s a little counterintuitive because of the hardness of the wood it comes from. But one of the best things about lyocell is its super soft feel. Think of pleasant natural fabrics like cotton but with the silkiness dialled up several notches. Rather than trees, it’s almost like lyocell is made from clouds.

    Lyocell combines this trademark softness with being lightweight and breathable. It’s super kind on the skin because of these properties. Yet, while a lot of lightweight natural fabrics can be a bit see-through, which is often undesirable, lyocell maintains its non-transparency like heavier fabrics do. This is also helped because the fabric holds dye easily - with less dye needed to give vivid, long-lasting colours.

    In the summer, all of these properties come together so that lyocell can shine. It’s one of the best fabrics that you can wear in hot weather and perfect for summer t-shirts.

    Benefit 3: Durable

    The softness of lyocell might lead you to believe that a garment made from it might not last. The type of lightweight luxury that might be indulged for a few wears but after that, off to landfill!

    The truth, however, is quite the opposite. The thing about lyocell is that despite the lightweight facade, it’s actually extremely strong due to its elasticity. In fact, it’s one of the strongest and most durable fabrics because of its resistance to tears and misshaping pulls. 

    The stretchiness of lyocell also leads to an elegantly attractive drape. Which is another little advantage to add to the list.

    So as a recap, lyocell is sustainable, soft, silky, and the stretchy-ness means you’ll be good with your garment for a while. What’s not to like?

    Of course, you may pay more for all this, but then SANVT’s point of view is that it can be just as affordable to pay for quality instead of throwaway fast fashion garments that need to be incessantly replaced.

    Lyocell at SANVT

    At SANVT, we’re now using lyocell. It’s what we’ve built our Lightweight T-Shirt around, alongside premium extra-long-staple (ELS) cotton. It’s the perfect tee for the summer and draws on all of the advantages of lyocell that we’ve mentioned in the post. Here’s a little more about it:

    • 160gsm fabric, made from lyocell (67%) and premium cotton (33%).
    • Handmade in the EU, in Portugal, under fair factory conditions.
    • Customisable length and width, leading to 24 different size combinations.
    • Carbon neutral, as all of SANVT’s garments are (3.7kg of CO2 is offset).

    Are you interested in learning a little more about lyocell? Then take a look at this other blog post that’ll tell you a bit more about what lyocell is.