First produced commercially in Mobile, Alabama almost 30 years ago, lyocell is currently enjoying a lot of attention as a plant-based fibre used for clothing. Both luxury and high street labels are investing in the buttery-soft textile: Swiss loungewear brand Hanro recently released a shirt made of 100% lyocell, London label Mother of Pearl uses it and Zara, Mango and H&M have also placed their bets on it. Selfridges calls it a “miracle fabric”. So what exactly is it, and is it really that good?
How is lyocell made?
It all starts with wood. Mostly, it’s eucalyptus, though oak and birch will also do. After being harvested, the wood is cut into penny-sized pieces and ground into a pulp, dissolved by the chemical amine oxide. What remains is raw cellulose – a sticky, viscous liquid. The mixture is pushed through spinnerets, and bright, white lyocell fibres emerge, which, after washing and drying, are ready to be spun into yarn and eventually woven into fabric.