April 2019

Sustainable textile innovations: FLOCUS™ kapok fibres

In view of resources dwindling fast and natural fibres like cotton being resource-intensive to process and petroleum-based fibres like acrylic, polyester, nylon, and spandex not being the most environmentally friendly, it is about time to look for sustainable alternatives when producing fibres and fabrics. In this series, FashionUnited explores the sustainable alternatives and textile innovations that are currently being pursued all over the world.

Shanghai-based textile brand Flocus produces sustainable yarns blends, fabrics, and fillings made with kapok, a natural cellulose fibre found in the dried fruit of the kapok tree. Kapok is the most sustainable fibre in the market today, leaving no human footprint behind. Combine this with numerous properties like being silky soft, and dry to the touch, as well as antimoth, antimite, and insulation properties comparable to down and one has a useful, sustainable fibre.

Kapok trees are self-sufficient and produce a soft, silky fibre

In addition, the kapok tree has developed a natural way to protect itself from animal attacks: hard spines on its trunk so that no human intervention or pesticides are required for the tree and fruits to thrive. Hundreds of pods can be found in each fruit, containing the seeds of the tree protected by a fluffly, silky and soft fibre.

Sustainable textile innovations: kapok fibres

The only drawback is that although the fibre can be woven into fabric, there is no 100 percent kapok as the fibre is not suitable for that. However, blending it with other materials like cotton can save tremendous amounts of water. For example, if one kilogram of cotton, which is needed to make four t-shirts, is blended with just 30 percent of kapok, a whopping 3,000 litres of water is saved, which is the equivalent of 15 full bathtubs!

Sustainable textile innovations: kapok fibres

Why is kapok not being used more widely, one may ask. While kapok has been used wildly for fillings, being one of the lightest hollow fibres, but until 2006, the fibres could not be spun. However, since then, the technology has improved and kapok fibres have been used in fabric blends that can be spun, making the resulting fabrics, softer and more comfortable to wear.

Kapok blends are sustainable and save water

Flocus specialises in kapok fibre blends with the highest percentage of kapok used in the thinnest counts with the possibility of low minimum order quantity per blend, using the most advanced technology in the market. The company manufactures sustainable yarns, fabrics and fillings made from finest kapok fibres that combine performance with naturalness for any application.

Sustainable textile innovations: kapok fibres

"Utilising kapok, Flocus offers products that can reduce the presence of animal and synthetic products in the market, utilising a completely natural alternative without abandoning functionality. Flocus is a 100 percent sustainable ‘open’ source textile concept in which buyers can tailor-blend their needs for their sustainable collections".

Not surprisingly, this has been rewarded and Flocus has for example, been awarded an eco-award from Performance Days in late 2015. Its winning kapok fabric was chosen out of almost 850 other fabrics as Performance Days' most innovative and ecological for 2015.

In 2016, animal rights group PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) awarded Flocus its progress award and the OutDoor Friedrichshafen industry award. Last year, international sports fair ISPO counted Flocus' vegan filling among the Top Ten products for the fall/winter collection.

Even more recently, Flocus has also been chosen as one of the 15 start-ups that will take part in Fashion for Good's Plug and Play accelerator initiative. Chosen among hundreds of applicants, Flocus will take part in a “robust curriculum” that will include mentorship from its partners as well as assistance and support to scaling-up their technologies, methodologies, and business models.