Austrian cellulosic fibre producer Lenzing has teamed up with German instrument manufacturer Emtec Electronic to come up with a new method to measure softness in textiles.

With comfort now a priority to consumers, Lenzing says the softness of a fabric triggers the decision to purchase a garment. However, softness is perceived differently from person to person, and is determined by how the textile and the skin interact. 

"We notice that softness is becoming increasingly important as a comfort factor in brands and with retailers," explains Claudia Mommer, product manager for Lenzing Modal. "Lenzing Modal fibres are the softest fibres in our fibre portfolio. This is something you can feel. However, an increasing number of customers are asking for measurements to explain the softness of our fibres in physical terms."

To explain the complex process of softness in textiles and at the same time exclude personal preferences, physical measurement methods were evaluated to make softness "visible".

A special group formed at Lenzing Research discovered an instrument to measure the softness of paper towels that could be adapted to textiles. Following an intensive test phase, during which more than 100 fabrics were tested, Lenzing approached Emtec Electronic to develop its tissue softness analyser into a fabric softness analyser.

Using the softness measuring device, Lenzing says it is possible to show that the higher the amount of Lenzing Modal used in the fabric, the softer it becomes. It also hopes to communicate softness at point of sale.