It is prominent that sustainable innovation is a driving force for Schoeller Technologies, which all what they introduce to the market are Blue Sign approved, transparent and environmentally friendly. Schoeller Technologies focuses on realizing the goal to bring the functionality sustainably through traditional garments to work wear and corporate fashion.
Offering 7 technologies globally at the moment, Sevelen, Switzerland based Schoeller Technologies is active licensing its technologies since 2000. Committed with passion for introducing sustainable technologies over the years, Schoeller Technologies has been offering smart and innovative textile technologies for various needs and requirements as a subsidiary of Schoeller Textiles since many years. Schoeller Technologies focusing on innovations that make textiles smarter and more functional such as water repellence, protection against UV rays, quick dry or bacteriostatic, grants fabrics the greatest level of performance without compromising on high customer value and best quality. Schoeller Technologies consistently places emphasis on sustainable, environmentally conscious and responsible manufacturing.
We have conducted an exclusive interview with Hans U. Kohn, Chief Operating Officer of Schoeller Technologies regarding their licensed technologies of Schoeller, future of sustainable sports apparel, adaptability of sustainability to sports apparel, position of Schoeller Technologies in the Turkish market and the key elements that make their products sustainable.
Mr. Kohn is a textile engineer with an MBA in International Marketing from Export Academy Reutlingen. Previously, having served as a Sales Manager for Rökona Textilwerke in Tübingen, Germany and worked a as Consultant for the Gherzi Organisation in Zürich, Switzerland, Mr. Kohn is happy father and husband and an enthusiastic sailor.
Can you summarize the licensed technologies of Schoeller Technologies globally?
Schoeller Technologies is offering 7 technologies on a global base at the moment. One of the technologies we started with is 3XDRY®, which is a finishing technology giving hydrophobic properties outside of the fabric (water repellent) and hydrophilic properties (absorbing perspiration) inside the fabric. What comes next is our Nanosphere® technology that is based on C6 short-chain fluorocarbons in combination with nano-technology, what we call high performance water and soil repellency. Coldblack® is a dyeing technology, which is influencing the properties of a fabric in a way that dark colors behave like light colors in the sunlight so that they do not heat-up and stay cold. active>silver™ is an antimicrobial finishing for freshness and antimicrobial properties. energear™ is a kind of far infrared ray reflecting (FIR) technology stimulating certain influences on the human body such as improvement of concentration, fast recovery and better sleep. ecorepel® is our answer for the demand of PFC-free finishes in the markets. ecorepel® has a durable water repellency (DWR) which is PFC-free, biodegrable and environmentally friendly. Our latest technology that we introduced is solar+, which is a special finishing allowing us to coat fabrics in a way that they can take up the sunlight especially in the cold weather conditions. It absorbs the sunlight and heats up the fabric surface keeping the fabric warmer and making up the fabric more comfortable to wear. The insulation properties of the fabrics especially under sunny conditions are improved thanks to solar+.
How does Schoeller Technologies foresee the future of sustainable sports apparel?
We see an increasing importance of sustainability in the sports apparel industry, not only in the outdoor sports where we are mostly familiar with as Schoeller, but also in active sports apparel as well. But this is not only a trend that we only see in sports. We think that this is a global trend that is growing very fast and is being pushed especially through the campaigns carried out by major nongovernmental organizations, such as Green Peace’s Detox Campaign. Such organizations are putting a lot of pressure on the big apparel, especially sports apparel producers, via various campaigns. On the other hand we still see a high demand for function and performance, which still dominates in the sports industry today. At the moment we see that major companies principally carry out evaluations regarding the performance they can get based on a sustainable level. However, the consumer demand has not really developed that fast yet. The discussion is more intensive in the industry at the moment than on the consumer level. But this can switch very fast. Today both the social media and institutions like Green Peace that have such a wide base of people to be able to spread the information rapidly through social media will achieve switching this in the near future. The discussions going on about producing more and more environmentally friendly textiles for sports and for fashion is right. Because once the consumer has started to change its mind there is no time to react any more.
What are your experiences in the adaptability of sustainability to the sports apparel business?
Today, we see that they are lots of technologies available in the market that could make sports apparel more sustainable. We see trends in the yarn segment highlighting the recycled yarns that are growing very fast such as yarns derived of recycled polyester. Various sustainable solutions also in the finishing of the fabrics are also getting more and more important today, which are very good in terms of performance but never been spotlighted in the past. We definitely see the potential of a huge switch through more environmentally friendly technologies, but it will take some time for the industry thoroughly to change towards sustainability. To replace requires to be sure that the replacement is better than or as good as what it used to be before. So, the introduction of sustainability in sports industry is going to happen eventually, but it will some time to achieve a complete transformation.
What are the current trends that you observe in the manufacturing of sports apparel and how Schoeller Technologies manage to adapt these trends into their production?
On one hand we see the trend towards sustainability that is for sure. We also see environmental labels like Blue Sign is growing fast and getting more and more important. Another trend that we see is transparency. It means that the industry wants to have more transparency of the ingredients, chemicals and all the components that go into the product. In general we see a trend towards heat management in the sports apparel that includes features such as cooling, warming, keeping warm in sports apparel. It is actually nothing new, but today it is more and more marketed as a feature. It has now become an important function of the garments.
How fast does the market react to your sustainable technologies?
It varies across different segments. We see the major brands, consumer brands and volume brands that have to react very fast are reacting very fast to introduce environmentally friendly technologies. As they can put a lot of pressure on their supply chain it is easier for them to adopt sustainable technologies. We also see the awareness at smaller brands regarding the introduction of sustainability, but as they are smaller they do not have enough power to influence their supply chain. The smaller brands depend on what is available in the market. If their suppliers do not want or are not able to switch to sustainable technologies, the smaller brands will not have the freedom of choice as the big brands have. For this reason it will take longer for the smaller and medium sized brands to switch to sustainable solutions than it is for the big ones.
What are the social, economical and environmental benefits of Schoeller’s technologies? What are the key elements that make your products sustainable?
Sustainability is a touchy environmental story as a whole one side. However within the sustainability we also understand a long-lasting product. A long-lasting product means a high-quality product and high performance also if you talk about the technologies. Overall it is a complete package that makes our products sustainable and successful in the markets. On the other hand having a product just as a product is not enough for Schoeller. As Schoeller we also have strong marketing and brand-building capabilities. We do build up a kind of network between brands and mills. So we achieve that our technologies can be adapted not only technology-wise but also they are adapted and transported to the end consumer. Because the end-consumers have to understand the value-added, the sustainability, the performance and the quality they are getting on their garments. It is not just enough that we just act and react in our industry. We have to think about how to transport the information to the end consumer.
Can you evaluate the position of Schoeller Technologies in the Turkish market?
We have been very successful in the Turkish market with Schoeller Technologies. We have already established ourselves in the Turkish market in so-called fashion function segment. As you might already know, there is also a trend towards functionality in fashion. So far we have been successful with our technologies in traditional men’s suit. But we have also been successful also in sports apparel, especially in golf apparel, which is produced in Turkey and exported to all over the world. We now see an important potential for the home textiles market in Turkey as this market is in search for more innovation and manufacturing more value-added products.
What are your overall remarks regarding sustainability and Schoeller Technologies?
We are pretty sure that innovation, which has to be sustainable anyway, is a driving force for us. All of what we introduced to the market, which is Blue Sign approved and transparent, is sustainable technologies. We are sure that we always put the right product into the market from the very beginning. We also believe that there will still be big trends for technologies and functions on sports apparel. We will also have crossover trends via taking elements from the sports industry that will make casual fashion more functional. Work wear and professional work wear will also be a segment showing the tendency of getting more and more functional and it will also take lots of components and technologies. We aim to achieve to bring in this functionality sustainably through traditional garments to work wear and to corporate fashion.