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Interview with Michelle Lea

Michelle Lea
Michelle Lea
VP – Global Marketing

Nylon 6.6 is incredible at moisture management
NILIT is a leading global producer of premium, sustainable nylon 6.6 fashion and performance fibres. The company, founded in Israel in 1974, has four vertically integrated manufacturing facilities and global offices serving its customer base in EMEA, Asia, LATAM and North America. SENSIL, the company’s sustainable premium nylon 6.6 brand for apparel, is the new standard of quality for intimate apparel, legwear, activewear, denim, outdoor wear, and other products. In an interview with Fibre2Fashion, NILIT’s VP-Global Marketing Michelle Lea discusses nylon 6.6 and the next plans.

How big is the global market for nylon 6.6? Which countries/regions are the main markets?

The global market for nylon 6.6 is 3.25 million tons per year. This is inclusive of all segments--engineered plastics, textile, industrial and staple fibres. Broken down by region, Asia is 1 million, EMEA 800,000, North America 1.34 million and the balance is Latin America.

What is the percentage share of nylon 6.6 in man-made fibre industry? At what rate is it growing?

The growth in demand is currently around 2.5 per cent, but is expected to be much higher in the next few years as more capacity becomes available.

Where do you source your raw materials from?

NILIT operates a nimble, responsive global manufacturing system that spans the world. With production facilities in Israel, China, Brazil, and the US, our supplier network flexes with us to ensure that we always provide our customers with top-notch quality and service wherever they are located.

Nylon 6.6 is used to make all kinds of clothing from innerwear to outerwear. What makes it so versatile?

Nylon 6.6 offers a wide and unique range of characteristics that make it the preferred fabric in so many applications. Nylon 6.6 is perfect for performance wear and outdoor apparel because of its durability, moisture management capabilities, and colourfastness. The high temperature resilience and dyeability along with its incredible softness also make it perfect for intimates and bodywear, especially moulded items. The lovely drape and hand of nylon 6.6. fabrics make them ideal for ready to wear fashions as well.

People in the tropical countries prefer to wear sweat-absorbing clothes. How do you rate nylon 6.6 in this respect compared to clothing made of cotton and other natural fibres?

Nylon 6.6 is incredible at moisture management. It is structured to be quick-drying, drawing moisture away from the skin to evaporate into the atmosphere. Along with that benefit, nylon 6.6 has built in odour-reducing properties. NILIT produces nylon 6.6 with enhanced benefits in these key areas. SENSIL Aquarius is specifically designed with accelerated wicking properties as is SENSIL Breeze, which offers a pleasant cooling sensation as well. SENSIL BodyFresh has been proven effective against odour-causing bacteria as well as viruses, always a consideration in tropical climates.

It is predicted that all petrochemicals would get exhausted in a few decades from now. In this context, what is the future of nylon 6.6 as it uses petrochemicals as raw material?

Reducing our consumption of petrochemicals has been on NILIT’s radar for quite some time. We recently launched SENSIL ByNature, the first nylon 6.6 for textiles and apparel that incorporates a biogas made from organic waste in place of some of the petrochemicals from fossil sources. We developed this ground-breaking technology through our partnership with BASF, the pioneers in converting landfill waste to sustainable, more circular chemicals. In addition to this initiative, we are determined to increase our use of recycled inputs as with our SENSIL EcoCare and SENSIL Heat products.

What is the USP of SENSIL? How does SENSIL nylon 6.6 differ from other nylon fibres in the market?

SENSIL offers the broadest range of premium nylon 6.6 products in the market. Our portfolio is designed to provide the market with the innovative solutions necessary to address the textile and apparel industry’s particular sustainability concerns, such as natural resource consumption, recycled content, ecosystem impact, waste reduction, and respect for people.
Our SENSIL premium nylon 6.6 products are manufactured according to our strict Total Product Sustainability criteria focused on carbon footprint reduction, energy savings, zero waste management, water conservation, clean energy, and safe working environments.
NILIT’s nylon 6.6 is chemically superior to nylon 6 in terms of performance and quality. Nylon 6.6 delivers higher heat resistance, greater colour affinity, stronger mechanical properties, lower shrinkage, better abrasion resistance, enhanced pilling resistance, and increased longevity over the generic nylon 6 that is currently available in the market.

How eco-friendly is SENSIL? What is it made from?

SENSIL offers the largest selection of eco-friendly premium nylon 6.6 options for the textile and apparel market. All SENSIL products are manufactured according to NILIT’s Total Product Sustainability criteria and are evaluated by and designed to optimise a product’s Life Cycle Analysis. We target the main sustainability challenges the industry faces.
SENSIL EcoCare is made from recycled pre-consumer nylon 6.6 waste
Biodegradable SENSIL BioCare reduces the persistence of textile waste in land/marine environments
SENSIL ByNature uses a renewable biogas product produced from landfill waste through BASF’s Biomass Balance Approach in place of some fossil feedstocks for fabrics with a lower carbon footprint
SENSIL WaterCare dope dyed fibres save 100 per cent of the water consumed in the traditional wet dyeing process, saving 24,000-60,000 litres of water per ton of fabric.

What is SENSIL Heat?

SENSIL Heat is a premium nylon 6.6 that has been proven to preserve and maintain body heat while also neutralising odours, keeping the wearer warmer, drier, and more comfortable. SENSIL Heat’s intrinsic performance benefits are enhanced by recycled coffee bean charcoal made from recycled coffee bean shells for an extra sustainability boost.

Which countries/regions are the major buyers of SENSIL? And what is their end-use?

SENSIL is a global brand designed specifically for the textile and apparel market. SENSIL has customers in every major textile and apparel market in the world. We work with brands and retailers directly as well as with our outstanding team of mills.

The demand for sports and activewear has increased post-COVID. How much has the demand for SENSIL increased?

Another consumer trend that was heightened during and post-COVID is the desire for “fewer but better.” People have re-evaluated their apparel shopping habits, and their value equation has shifted to prioritise quality, versatility, and longevity along with comfort and performance. Sustainability is the other important trend influencing that value equation. SENSIL is the perfect choice to deliver desirable products that meet all those new demands. Brands and retailers are recognising that and responding with smarter, better, higher value-added apparel made with sustainable performance fabrics like SENSIL.

Have you recently participated in any fairs? How was the response?

Yes, we have restarted participating in industry events and are very pleased with the response. It’s nice to reconnect with people and collaborate face-to-face. Our customers are excited to be back as well and their enthusiasm for innovation and sustainability is higher than ever. We’ve launched quite a few new products in the last few years, even during COVID, and it’s good to see designers really embracing the significant possibilities we offer with our SENSIL portfolio.

What are the next plans at NILIT?

Innovation, sustainability, and premium product development will continue at full throttle at NILIT. We are currently working on production technologies that further reduce our manufacturing footprint and increase our quality and responsiveness. Our product development work is focused on sustainable options to help brands and retailers and the textile and apparel industry in total more rapidly and effectively address the specific environmental concerns that face us. And, last but not the least, we are committed to continuing our communication efforts to educate and persuade consumers to support a more responsible textile and apparel industry through the products they choose and the purchases they make.
Published on: 01/11/2022

DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of Fibre2Fashion.com.