How Wrinkles are Rated in Apparel Production


Bret Schnitker, Emily Lane


August 8, 2023


Emily Lane  00:06

So much like people, there are things that we do preventatively to prevent wrinkles as we age, are there things that can be done with garments to prevent them aging,


Bret Schnitker  00:17

or wrinkling? Yeah, certainly, you know, there's there's things that you can address from a chemical side. And there's things you can address from a fiber side. From the chemical side, the number one chemical that people are using today it's a formaldehyde base is dye, I gotta get this right, dihydroxy ethylene urea


Bret Schnitker  00:21

say that 10 more times Bret,


Bret Schnitker  00:35

Just do it once.


Emily Lane  00:48

Welcome to Clothing Coulture, a fashion industry podcast at the intersection of technology and innovation. I'm Emily Lane.


Bret Schnitker  00:56

I'm Bret Schnitker. We speak with experts and disruptors who are moving the industry forward and discuss solutions to real industry challenges.


Emily Lane  01:05

Clothing Coulture is produced by Stars Design Group, a global design and production house with more than 30 years of experience.


Emily Lane  01:13

Welcome to Clothing Coulture. Today, we're bringing you a tabletop conversation. This is where we address either a newsworthy moment, or a question that has come in from our audience. Today, we're talking about wrinkles, not just you know, the wrinkles that we get as people with age, but the garment kind, wrinkle ratings. Are you ready for this Bret?


Bret Schnitker  01:37

I'm ready!


Emily Lane  01:38

Okay so I was really surprised when this question came in from our audience. Inquiry of you know how our wrinkle ratings really determined. And when I asked you that question, I was surprised to learn that it is a visual process. Can you tell me a little bit about it?


Bret Schnitker  01:56

Well wrinkles are visual, right? So it has to be a visual process to manage that. So there's an ASTCC 124 test that goes through and what they do is they take parts of fabric, they wash it five times line, dry it, hang it or shirts, and then they will lay out that particular piece of fabric or garment. And they actually have these smooth this appearance replicas, they're like 3D models that represent smooth to pretty wrinkled. Smooth is level five, meaning perfectly smooth, no wrinkles at all, and one is very, very wrinkled. And so under a fluorescent light at a certain angle, you'll usually have three different people independently verify this level of durable press rating, in terms of DP ratings, and so they they go on a lab and they actually lay down and then they put this kind of 3D replica next to it are the multiple 3D replicas. And they figure out which of those 3D replicas most closely match the actual fabric after it's gone through these these processes. And then whatever that one that most closely matches is what the DP rating looks like.


Emily Lane  03:18

Okay, so that is kind of crazy to me, like we're so used to infusing science into so much of the process that I pretty scientific. So is this done at the fabric testing stage? Or is this tested?


Bret Schnitker  03:33

Certainly, I mean, you know, if you're gonna want a fabric that's wrinkle free, there's like levels, wrinkle free, wrinkle resistant, easy care, we've kind of associated these kind of terms in the industry. So if you're going to go through and you're going to spend the money to have a wrinkle free fabric, you're going to ABS absolutely run that into a test to make sure you're getting the DP rating you you you want or you're striving for with a particular finish.


Emily Lane  04:00

Okay, so let's talk about longevity a little bit. When we're looking at this this scale, is it a one through five scale? Okay, so when we're looking at the scale of where this falls on that scale, that's just, you know, as it is in that moment, but we all


Bret Schnitker  04:17

After five washers, after five washers and hanging usually is that test. So it goes through kind of a laundering process, not you don't just wrinkle it up and throw it on the table. It goes through a specific series of processes. And if anyone is really interested in looking at that, you can look up that that ATCC rating, or test level 124 And there's some stuff online or you can go to testing areas and they'll kind of walk that through.


Emily Lane  04:46

So much like people there are things that we do preventatively to prevent wrinkles as we age, are there things that can be done with garments to prevent them aging.


Bret Schnitker  04:57

Or wrinkling. Yeah Yeah, certainly, you know, there's there's things that you can address from a chemical side. And there's things you can address from a fiber side. From the chemical side, the number one chemical that people are using today, it's a formaldehyde base is the dye, I gotta get this, right, dihydroxy ethylene urea


Emily Lane  05:24

Say that 10 more times Bret


Bret Schnitker  05:25

I can do it once, but it's a formaldehyde base that actually enhances crosslinking. And fibers, especially cotton fabrications. And it's really used for mainly cotton fabrications, and provides a very high level of of a wrinkle free result. And it's, it's long lasting. It has a lot of other attributes, it's really the one that's used most of the time 90% of the time and wrinkle free finishes, and you can do a post care fabric or you can do a pre care fabric. And those have different results.


Emily Lane  06:02

I mean, when you say formaldehyde, that doesn't sound very good. That sounds like it's, you know, could be potentially harmful.


Bret Schnitker  06:10

I suppose overall, formaldehyde has a lot of negative impacts on animal life, humans, it can interfere, it can be karst carcinogen, it can interfere with kind of a lot of different things, birth, reproductive cycles, things like that. But that's in concentrations that are relatively high. Okay, in these processes, you don't generally get a lot of high concentration, but the fact that you're using this chemical, the, the use of it, the disposal of it, etc. There are more and more people that are interested in moving to non formaldehyde alternatives.


Emily Lane  06:50

So what are some options that are free of formaldehyde?


Bret Schnitker  06:55

There are a number of options that are coming onto the market with varying degrees of success when it comes to wrinkle free and durability. So you can imagine the more natural alternatives probably have a little bit less of a DP rating, and probably have a little bit less of a lifecycle that's just kind of where our sciences today there's a dimethyl urea glaoxel


Emily Lane  07:26

Another tongue twister,


Bret Schnitker  07:28

yeah. And that process is formaldehyde free, it requires more chemical use. So you're actually using more chemicals to get that crosslinking in place to get your DP rating. It's got a issues too, over time, it can yellow fabrics. And so there's always pluses and minuses to those, one of the newer ones on the market is pure press technology. And that's really interesting. It's formaldehyde free, they're touting it that has a lot less of these negative kind of impacts. The distribution is growing and, and it's exciting to see that people are moving into these non formaldehyde kind of alternatives


Emily Lane  08:10

I can imagine so and, you know, are they still producing a decent DP rating?


Bret Schnitker  08:17

I would say that when you look at DEP ratings, it depends on what the customer is looking for. So basically, 3.5 to 5, I would say is really wrinkle free that anything below that 2 to 2.9 is probably wrinkle resistant. And then anything below that, you might throw into easy care, perhaps if you've got some kind of a blended fabric, but really, that two to 2.5 can be interchangeable between easy care and wrinkle resistant. So you've got to maintain a DP rating of 3.5 and above. And that's where that challenge starts to hit with a lot of these kinds of new alternatives because they might have around a three they might be three. There's a lot of attributes also within the fabrics and the fibers themselves.


Emily Lane  09:07

That's exactly what I was going to ask you next. Let's talk a little bit about fibers that can be a little more wrinkle resistant. And of course we're aware of some of those that we love oh so much better just invite the wrinkles. So let's just talk a little bit about those options.


Bret Schnitker  09:23

The wide range you know, people that love wrinkles will wear linen. There's a famous designer that said don't bother wearing linen if you hate wrinkles. And then on the other side, you've got performance fabrics like Polly's and nylons that naturally in the fiber itself, they resist wrinkling. And as we move to more of an easy care society, not many people love to iron things. I have this weird thing about ironing my mom taught me and iron years ago and so I don't mind. Going breaking out an iron and pressing my own shirts.


Emily Lane  09:52

Kind of your morning meditation, meditation,


Bret Schnitker  09:54

A little cathartic. And so that's okay for me, but a lot of people just don't want to deal with they want to be well, if you're traveling, you want to jump out, you want to throw something on and go. So these alternatives that we're looking at in the fiber world also have other complexities tied in. So you can have the basic fiber like poly or nylon, but also the construction of the fabric itself plays a role in cotton. In natural fibers like cotton, also, the the quality of the yarn itself plays a role. So if you have very short staple, low grade cotton, and it's, let's say, spun in a certain way, where you know, there's all these areas where you can see a lot more wrinkling versus a nice, densely woven, high end long staple, premium grade cotton, that's going to rank less, too. So there's all these things that you can do in addition to these finishes in the fiber stage to help improve the performance also.


Emily Lane  10:58

That's so interesting. You know, one of the things that you are commonly known to say is not every country does everything well. So I imagine with regards to these finishes, and with regards to these fibers, there are going to be countries that are more ready for wrinkle free, wrinkle resistant kinds of manufacturing, can you tell me a little bit about where those specialties lie,


Bret Schnitker  11:25

I would say China controls most of the wrinkle free today, that technology has been in place for a long time to give a shout out to a company called Luthai their Luthai is probably known in the industry is probably one of the best foremost wrinkle free fabric companies in the world. And you pay for it, I mean, they have really mastered the wrinkle free process. And so if you want it, most people will go there. Other countries are trying to weigh in today. There, it just requires installing all the machinery importing all of the particular chemicals and kind of committing to being a wrinkle free facility. So there are other Asian countries that are doing that Vietnam, Indonesia, especially in bottoms and things like that, but not to the level in my opinion of China. China is really really, I mean, they're the largest in terms of overall production, but they're also one of the centers for wrinkle free. We're seeing some of that growth in India. But it's few and far between.


Bret Schnitker  11:25

Sure. I imagine as they evolve to embracing more synthetics in the future, then perhaps we'll see an evolution there.


Bret Schnitker  12:33

Well, and it's driven by the customer, you know, are our customers wanting the natural fibers that are wrinkle free and wanting that performance? And are they willing to pay for that? And to what level and what level of demand that's for every country to sort out for themselves customer by customer?


Emily Lane  12:51

There's really a lot of things that a customer can consider when weighing the options for you know, for wrinkle free or wrinkle resistance or you know, even these considerations with regards to treatments chemical, are we embracing formaldehyde? Are we embracing some of these new technologies, there's really a lot to sort through, I'm sure that pricing can vary based on which direction you want to go.


Bret Schnitker  13:14

Yeah, dramatically. And there's wrinkle free things to be aware of. I mean, there's wrinkle free additives that they'll put on a surface that will temporarily give you a DP rating of maybe two and a half, maybe three. But after five washes, it's gone. So be really, really careful about doing the research to make sure you know if you're paying for some additional performance finish that it's going to be lasts long enough for you.


Emily Lane  13:40

Right, right. Well, thank you for having this conversation about wrinkles with me today. I had a feeling that you might not show up for this one when I said let's talk about wrinkles. Yeah.


Bret Schnitker  13:51

I have plenty.


Emily Lane  13:54

Well, don't forget to subscribe to stay apprised of upcoming episodes of Clothing Coulture, and my goodness, please share any questions that you have so that we can bring them up in a future tabletop conversation

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How Wrinkles are Rated in Apparel Production