Reaching New Heights

Reaching New Heights

Apparel Innovation

The apparel industry is changing for the better. With sustainability at the forefront, apparel manufacturers and suppliers are focusing on meeting customer demands for high performance materials with new textiles made from recycled, biodegradable and bio-based materials.

One breakthrough for the industry has been a unique range of thermal insulation developed by Freudenberg Performance Materials (Freudenberg). We talked to Benoit Cugnet, Head of Strategic Marketing – Global Apparel Division and Sarah Ziem, R&D Specialist Global Apparel Division, about how Freudenberg Performance Materials (Freudenberg) is leading the charge for more sustainable materials and working with clothing manufacturers to develop eco-friendly, high performance thermo insulation materials that meet the broad demands of streetwear, outdoor wear and sportswear. 

More and more consumers are demanding sustainable options and materials. How does comfortemp® fill a gap in the market for sustainable materials?

Benoit Cugnet

Benoit Cugnet about comfortemp® Global Range

The comfortemp® Global Range offers different sustainable options to fit the needs of different customer requirements. 

We have maximized the use of recycled polyester in all our waddings. Most of our waddings contain between 60% to 100% of recycled content. We have also developed biodegradable waddings as well as those made from bio-based materials like silk and wool. By combining its wide-ranging technology know-how, Freudenberg has developed a new generation of paddings made entirely of polyamide 6. Polyamide 6 is the only synthetic fiber that retains its high quality and performance even after several recycling operations. Post-recycling, polyamide 6 granules can be used to produce new materials. Over and over again. That is genuine circular design.

When did the development of comfortemp® begin?

Freudenberg is the world market leader for interlinings and has been supplying highly functional thermal insulation materials for over 40 years. We first began developing the comfortemp® brand in 2008 with the introduction of mPCM thermo adaptive insulationsWith the launch of our the Fiberball padding in 2017, we extended the brand comfortemp to cover all our thermal insulations range offerings and  with the option for co-branding to the sports market.
We have development centers and factories that produce thermal insulation materials in Europe, Japan, South Korea and China. All four development centers design their own product ranges. That is the core of the original strategy and results in a very innovative and varied product range, with very different approaches and characteristics from the different centers. So comfortemp® Thermal Insulation has been developed out of the best and most innovative products from the four different development centers.


Comfortemp fiberball padding

There are many variations of comfortemp®, the latest development being comfortemp® flexx. What is it?

Sara Ziem

Sara Ziem about comfortemp® flexx

comfortemp® flexx is an adaptive insulation made of a warming and breathable padding with elastic  characteristics. Made with 95% recycled polyester, the result is an adaptive, flexible, sustainable insulation that changes its performance properties depending on how the wearer moves. When stretched, comfortemp® FLEXX is thin, air-permeable and extremely breathable. When movement stops, however, it still fulfills all the requirements of high-performance thermal insulation for sports and outdoor clothing, keeping the wearer warm even when wet.

How did you develop comfortemp® flexx?

Two years ago, I found a material on our shelves of collectibles that made my heart beat faster. I had in mind an elastic padding with extraordinarily good physiological properties that could be used for high activity sport level.

The goal was to bring together our expertise in nonwovens and stitch reinforced technologies in order to build up a technology platform for different apparel applications in the future. This will help us fulfill different customer needs. This material was made with a combination of technologies that can create something unique. 

Together with the team, we reactivated the possibility to produce like this, as it was not a standard. The first result was overwhelming. With the post-treatment, I had the material in hand, as I had imagined.  

In order to test the clothing physiological and adaptive properties for proving uniqueness, the wadding was tested at the Hohenstein Institutes. The adaptive, lightweight, elastic padding was tested for insulation capacity and breathability. With the results we were able to prove that during movement the breathability is higher. The athlete will feel more comfortable with FLEXX at high activity levels.

Creative Studio

How was Freudenberg able to develop the first 100% biodegradable material in partnership with Lenzing? How long did it take to develop? 

The idea for a biodegradable wadding was born in 2019. The demand for sustainable products, especially in the wadding sector, was high. Until then there was no solution for a biodegradable wadding that would decompose within a few weeks. Our team had the idea to develop a wadding made of biodegradable fibers. Lenzing could meet our requirements to develop a voluminous nonwoven with a soft hand feel.

After several meetings with Lenzing, we were able to choose the right fibers – Tencel - for our requirements from their complete portfolio in order to achieve the best possible performance. 
In addition, various rotting tests were carried out during the development phase. Colleagues buried samples in the garden themselves and monitored the degree of rotting at defined intervals, while rotting tests were also being carried out at the Hohenstein Institute in parallel. It was an exciting time for all our colleagues, because we had very little experience in this area of biodegradability up to that point. The development not only produced a unique product, but also taught us a great deal about sustainability, which we will subsequently use for all further developments.

It is our first 100% biodegradable wadding (made of 100% Lyocell fibers) with high insulation performance in combination with superior wearing physiological properties.  


Are there other developments in the pipeline for comfortemp®?  

We will continue to focus strongly on customer requirements and always have an eye on the sustainability. Our goal is to make the 3 R's - reuse, recycle and repair - possible for the customer and end-consumer. But more important are our developments in the field of bio-based and biodegradable materials. A combination of such fibers, binders, adhesives and the appropriate technology fill our pipeline.


What challenges are we facing to be a supplier of sustainable materials for the apparel industry? 

For a more sustainable future, the apparel industry must change the product development process. The product development process shall allow more transparency along the supply chain with greater cohesion between brands and suppliers.  We must avoid shipping materials around the globe and focus on material delivery close to the manufacturing. 

In our product development process, we consider recycled, biobased or biodegradable raw materials, think about using sustainable textile processes or technologies. 
Another challenge is focusing on more circular business models. We have a product which is Cradle to Cradle certified. Our customer can use the wadding in their jackets without separating single layers from each other after use in their recycling process.


How do you find inspiration in your work? 

I am a passionate athlete and constantly motivate my family, friends and even colleagues to get up and move. I want to create ideal conditions with new interlinings and make our lives more comfortable in garments.

In addition, I find sustainability something we need to push even more. Especially the conservation of resources. Sustainable production of very good quality materials that serve the purposes of use, recycle and repair is what drives me. The exchange with customers on these topics makes work a lot of fun and motivates me.


The Sites of Freudenberg Performance Materials