Eastman to expand textiles innovation in fibres segment pivot

Author: Joseph Chang


NEW YORK (ICIS)--US-based Eastman Chemical plans to expand its textiles business to pivot its Fibres segment away from being primarily an acetate tow supplier, senior executives said on Tuesday.

“Textiles is an area in need of material innovation – it’s a value-rich target for harnessing molecular design across the value chain,” said Steve Crawford, chief technology officer of Eastman, at the company’s Innovation Day in New York.

“The industry needs a raw material supplier that knows enough about design to meet their needs,” he added.

The purchasing power in apparel has shifted to millennials, who demand comfort, performance and green credentials, along with fast fashion cycles, he noted.

Eastman is in a unique position to design polymers to provide specific attributes such as moisture wicking, flexibility and feel, through the entire process from spinning to production of the garment, said Crawford.

In textiles, Eastman relies on its copolyesters and cellulose esters technology platforms.

In December 2017, Eastman closed its first commercial sale of its AVRA performance fibres to Spyder, which produces apparel for the US ski team for the 2018 Winter Olympics taking place in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

AVRA is based on ultra-thin polyester fibres held together by a proprietary polymer. Key features include thermal and moisture management.

Cellulose esters are used to produce apparel as well as nonwovens for applications such as medical facial masks and baby wipes.

Eastman has developed an environment friendly textiles platform based on cellulose esters. It launched its Naia brand of textiles which is 60% bio-based and uses “extremely clean chemistry”, said Crawford.

It is based on wood pulp derived from sustainably grown forests, according to Eastman.

In 2017, Eastman saw over 10% growth in its textiles business, which is within its Fibres segment.

Meanwhile, in acetate filter tow, Eastman has put over two-thirds of its business under multi-year contracts, offering stability in 2018, while aggressively managing its cost structure, said Eastman CEO Mark Costa.

For the Fibres segment, driven by textiles momentum, Eastman expects sales growth in the low-single digits and an operating margin of over 25%, leading to 1-3% compounded annual growth in operating earnings from 2018-2020.