Lutfu Okman (Source: Huntsman Textile Effects)
At the moment, every new development, every new product should also be sustainable and environmentally friendly. What is your approach to a greener world in the finishing processes of textiles?
Huntsman Textile Effects is proud to have long been an agent of change in our industry—working closely with textile mills and brands to find solutions to tough challenges. Right now, we have a threefold focus. First, to continue to find innovative ways for mills to increase production efficiency, and save water, energy and other resources. Second, to introduce more sustainable chemistries that are better for consumers, textile workers and the environment. And third, to continue to develop products and solutions that increase the lifespan of garments. These include dyes that resist fading, so garments look better for longer, and stain-resistant finishes that cut down on the need for laundering.
Will it also be possible in the future to develop a PFC-free alternative to the oil and water repellent fluorocarbon treatments for all different applications? Is there some kind of timetable for when and how oil, water and stain repellent finish will be completely PFC-free?
Huntsman Textile Effects has steered the industry towards high-performance fluorine-free durable water repellent (DWR) finishes for more than a decade. We introduced Phobotex R in 2010 to protect a wide variety of textiles against rain and everyday stains. This was followed in 2017 with the launch of Phobotex RSY for extreme DWR performance on synthetic textiles. Now, in 2022, we have released Phobotex R-ACE to deliver excellent PFC-free water repellence and trouble-free production on synthetic and cellulosic fibers.
PFC-free oil repellency is a different story. Making a PFC-free oil repellent requires new approaches and is the holy grail for our research scientists. It is something we have been working on for quite some time. We have some very interesting and promising leads, but there is a long way to go.
Environmental standards are increasingly more stringent. What influence have these regulations for sustainable textiles on the competitiveness of the textile and apparel companies?
We work hard to help mills and brands stay ahead of regulatory change while remaining competitive and keeping abreast of evolving consumer trends. In fact, the market is increasingly being driven by eco-conscious millennials and Gen Z consumers. Sustainability is now a ‘hygiene factor’ that companies must provide in order to operate; those that fail to invest will be quickly eliminated.
However, I think it is very important to appreciate that sustainable solutions do not necessarily add costs and lead to more expensive end products. Our groundbreaking Avitera SE dyes dramatically reduce the dyeing and washing-off cycle and generate water and energy savings of up to 50%—helping mills cut costs when dyeing cotton and cotton-polyester blends. Similarly, our Eriopon E3-SAVE textile auxiliary shortens processing time, and saves water and energy during polyester processing.
In August, Archroma entered into a definitive agreement to acquire the Textile Effects business from Huntsman. Will there still be 2 independent companies? Are there already plans and ideas which synergy effects can be useful?
The transaction is subject to regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions and is expected to close in the first half of 2023. Once regulatory approvals are secured and the transaction closes, Huntsman Corporation will no longer operate in the textile industry. The merger of Archroma and Textile Effects will bring together two highly complementary business and product portfolios together to create a leading specialty textile dyes and chemicals provider. The combined company will be a leader in sustainability and innovation with greater scale to serve customers in every region and market.
As part of the transaction, research and technology resources will be transferred on closing to enable continuity in product development and technical collaboration with our customers globally. Until transfer, our research and new product developments activities will continue as usual.
After the transaction closes, customers will have access to a much broader portfolio of leading solutions reflecting the company’s leadership in sustainability and innovation. There should be no negative impact to our customers. We will continue to run on a ‘business as usual’ basis until the transaction is closed.What are the biggest challenges for the textile industry in times of pandemic and war in Europe?
The pandemic has hit textile dyes and chemicals companies hard and impacted the industry globally. Even before this, the textile chemicals industry was facing cost escalation, raw materials shortages, and increasingly strict environmental standards. And just as economies were beginning to rebound, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine introduced further uncertainty. Costs have increased rapidly in both the commodity and logistics sectors. This is adding to already high inflation levels, particularly in the European economies, which are more dependent on supplies from Russia and Ukraine.
We must view these challenges as an opportunity for the industry to improve. Textile and apparel manufacturers are likely to become more geographically distributed as brands seek to diversify their supply chains, with reshoring accelerating this trend. Collaborative supply partnerships are being established to bring more agility and innovation, but the availability of raw materials is an ongoing restraint. And digitalization to enable traceability and transparency is accelerating as sustainability becomes even more important. Responsible mills that focus on innovation and sustainability make the best partners as they reduce risks for brands and help them grasp new opportunities.
Phobotex, Avitera, Eriopon – registered trademarks
The interview was conducted by Mechthild Maas, editor of TextileTechnology, with Lutfu Okman, Vice President for Global Revenue at Huntsman Textile Effects, Singapore.