Drink it and wear it!

singtex

Photography by: Jason Chen, SINGTEX INDUSTRIAL CO. LTD.

TAIPEI, Taiwan — When you smell the aroma of roasted coffee, where do you imagine you are? Maybe at a trendy coffee shop in Italy? Or perhaps in one of the historical Viennese coffee houses? Or maybe just passing by a Starbucks? For some of us coffee means more than just a booster to get us through our busy routines, as it can also be associated with socialisation, modern styles and even fashion trends. But would you associate coffee grounds with avant-guard textiles? This unlikely combination came to life thanks to Jason Chen, the founder of S.Café® and President of SINGTEX®, a textile company in Taiwan which has revolutionised the textile industry by using coffee grounds: giving a boost to green technology and the eco-friendly fashion community.

Ingeniously, Jason Chen decided to give a new life to coffee grounds by recycling them to develop many coffee related products resulting in the acquisition of numerous patents and awards, a successful path that has not stopped his research and studies taking the world one bean at a time.

Not a Joke

Many great inventions get inspiration from the little things in life and Jason’s invention is no exception. Jason recalls the joke his wife made which lead to the creation of SINGTEX®.

“There is a little story…On a hot sunny day, I was enjoying a cup of coffee with my wife at Starbucks… and all of a sudden we saw someone asking for coffee grounds, which caught my wife’s attention. She suddenly said: ‘It would be great if you could incorporate coffee grounds into clothes, you would smell better!’ I know coffee grounds have a deodorising function, therefore I thought that this idea would probably boost my textile business as well as promote environmental benefits, and so I gave it a try!”

More Setbacks, More Gains

Ten years ago, the textile industry was not as mature as it is today and the SINGTEX® team was the first of its kind to put coffee grounds into textiles. As expected, his team had to overcome many challenges and setbacks during the development and production phase of coffee yarns. As Jason recalls:

“In 2005 I began to lead four doctoral research developments, incurring high costs for more practical procedures, to create coffee yarns. However, we kept encountering challenges in the process and realised that the main problem was on the technique, the pure capability to handle recycled coffee grains, grounds and slag… from everywhere, while it still contained oil and water. It had to be super dry to make raw fibres. Another problem we had was the colour as it was difficult to decolour. Finally we found the solution by using an expensive high-tech extraction machine originally used for Chinese medicine, to extract and absorb coffee colour. We tested it so many times until the eighth sample was a success.”

However, not all the problems were over yet. As Jason continues: “The smell surprised us! The combination of coffee grounds and the smell of human body gave another strange smell. It was really not a very good smell… and very far from a deodorant, can you imagine? Anyway after a lot of work, all the problems were solved in the development process and now our S.Café® product is going to the be upgraded to the next level.”

Coffee Fashion Textile

Since formally launched in 2009, SINGTEX® has developed and produced a great variety of coffee-related products. S.Café® currently includes coffee yarns, coffee fabrics, clothing, underwear, bedding and shoes. These products can be found all over Europe, America, Japan and South Korea in collaboration with more than 110 international brands.

singtex

Photography by: Jason Chen, SINGTEX INDUSTRIAL CO. LTD.

The basic procedure to obtain the green fibre S.Cafe’® yarn includes mixing the coffee residue into a recycled plastic bottle material and re-polymerising to master batch and spinning to a coffee yarn, this is the basic procedure. The raw material is a combination of coffee and recycled polyester; the finished textile quality and appearance are as good as those achieved by using new materials.”

One further invention is the P4DRY™ that uses repurposed coffee grounds to make a 3D printed layer that has four principle functions: a quick-drying touch, an odour control, reduction of the condensation rate and is a tremendously sustainable product. P4DRY™ obtained the iF Innovative Design Award at the Outdoor Show in Germany in 2013.

Mylithe™ is another new invention and the latest development of S.Café®. This new textile is for functional clothes such as yoga, jogging and comfortable wear in general. The technique utilises an “air texture” method to create a cotton-like hand feel for S.Café mylithe™ while maintaining the odour control, UV protection and fast drying functions.

Coffee Beauty Products

In addition to textiles the SINGTEX® team has found other coffee benefits such as the production of coffee oil – a pure oil extracted from coffee grounds, which is great on skin care products. As Jason explains:

“In order to get the pure coffee oil we have spent more than 10 million Taiwan dollars to purchase machinery based on supercritical extraction technology. The intention is to explore more than just coffee grounds as pure oil makes a great contribution to the cross-border operation of business in beauty and health. The latest patent related to coffee oil includes a coffee shampoo series and cosmetic commodities, which are made using a unique supercritical extraction system.”

Coffee Sporty Lifestyle

To respond to the current wave of global environmental awareness, SINGTEX® developed the new material brand, S.Café AIRNEST™, an organic foam made of both coffee grounds and coffee oil to replace the general PU foam produced by petroleum; the replacement achieves at least 25% of petrochemical raw materials. It had been approved and recognised by an international raw material test report. S.Café AIRNEST™ obtained the Top 5 award at the European ISPO show sparking the attention of many customers while at the same time gaining business partnerships.

singtex

Photography by: Jason Chen, SINGTEX INDUSTRIAL CO. LTD.

This is enough to show the current trend of environmental protection and an ever growing global desire for environmentally-friendly clothing materials.

Another invention is a special waterproofing membrane made of coffee oil, which is flexible, light and extremely thin, but the performance is much better than other PU or PVC materials.

“The technique introduces the hydrophile into coffee oil material achieving not only high waterproofing but also excellent moisture permeability,” highlights Jason.

This is an innovative functional textile, a new introduction to textile lamination process techniques, enhancing the added value of textiles. It is now widely used in ski suits, sporty coats, jackets, gloves, hats, bedspreads and other sports and comfortable wear.

The Advances of Eco-friendly Technology

We are curious to know which is Jason’s favourite invention and of which he is the most proud from the products of S.Café®:

“I am proud of each one of the products we developed. They represent the efforts, energy and time of our team. We will continue to develop to achieve a full range of eco-friendly coffee products. In addition to textiles, we would like to improve a large extension of S.Café® and apply it to different fields of business.”

“In order to achieve full use of waste: grains, grounds or slags, we will continue to explore further options. In the past eight years, we have successfully developed some private brands including S.Cafe®, ICE CAFÉ®, eco²sy®, P4DRY™, sefia™, mylithe™, AIRNEST™, AEx Technology™ and Coffee cotton allowing us to create a whirlwind in new textiles leading the growth of output value and scale in the eco-friendly field.”

Coffee ground applications will extend into daily life, step by step, this coffee power has continued to spread, not only as a commodity but also as a fantastic eco-friendly technology.

Optimism Brings Opportunity To Success

Jason Chen is an optimistic person by nature, not afraid of hardship and a fantastic leader of the development team of SINGTEX®. Take S.Café® as an example, the team knew nothing about coffee at the beginning and have spent a great deal of time and effort in research and experimentation, after several attempts and adjustments to transfer strange material into an opportunity to create today’s success. Jason concludes on a positive note:

For solving problems, my motto is to ‘overcome difficulties that are not difficult to overcome.’ I like to learn problem-solving skills. I often encounter the challenges of an operating business, but as long as we maintain our optimism, we are not afraid of difficulties and will be able to solve all our problems!

SINGTEX® is committed to participate in various international exhibitions on textiles and clothing and has recently been busy at the European outdoor show in Germany, followed by the Outdoor Retailer Summer Exhibition in Salt Lake City in the United States where you can find them at booth number 255-101. Then they will be at the Premie’re Vision in September in Paris and the Intertextile Textile Exhibition in October in Shanghai. A busy schedule is ahead of them!

The continued efforts of people like Jason Chen to develop new and eco-friendly textiles is a great thing for the planet as well as to provide a more comfortable future for us all! If you have any questions or suggestions about SINGTEX® research and development or are interested in any of its products, please share your thoughts with us in the commentary section below or get in touch with Jason Chen and his team.

Courtesy of: Jason Chen | Photography by: Jason Chen, SINGTEX INDUSTRIAL CO. LTD. | All rights reserved to: SINGTEX INDUSTRIAL CO. LTD. | Website: www.singtex.com
Chiani Lin About the author

An aspiring and fresh trend forecaster from Asia, with multiple master degrees related to fashion in Italy, UK and Taiwan as well as 12 years of working experience in the fashion industry. Currently working for an international sourcing company, Chiani is passionate about all things creative from different cultures.

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