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Specify Hot List: Xorel

Here’s how Carnegie’s plant-based textile became the first of its kind to earn Living Product Challenge Certification.

To fully appreciate the significance of Biobased Xorel’s Living Product Certification (a distinction that measures seven performance areas with 20 detailed imperatives), it is important to understand the series of engineering developments and research stages that made the textile possible.

“It took almost seven years,” says Carnegie’s chief creative officer Heather Bush. “We replaced virtually all fossil fuel content with a biobased yarn sourced from the sugarcane plant.” 

This product proved a high-performance textile can also be highly sustainable.

In contrast to that benign chemistry, Xorel was initially launched in 1981 as a natural gas–derived vinyl alternative for wallcoverings. Even then, Xorel outperformed other synthetic textiles in terms of environmental impact; the earlier formula helped garner Carnegie other laurels, including Cradle to Cradle Silver (2007) and B Corp certification (2014). 

“We matched all the performance attributes of the original line to bring [the biobased version] to market in 2013 at the same price,” Bush says. 

panels of colorful fabric on red backdrop
First launched in the 1980s as a synthetic performance fabric, Xorel has been reengineered using a biobased yarn derived from sugarcane. COURTESY CARNEGIE
woman operating large weaving machine
Biobased Xorel’s Living Product Challenge certification is the latest in a series of green accolades, including Cradle to Cradle Gold in 2013 and Carnegie’s B Corp certification in 2014. COURTESY CARNEGIE

The Carnegie design studio’s success in engineering Xorel’s unique procurement of raw materials and innovative production techniques has even helped dispel the broader industry perception that a sustainable high-performance fabric is an oxymoron. Now used in durable wallcoverings, upholstery, acoustic panels, and window treatments, Biobased Xorel counts toward a project’s LEED credits. 

Additional advances in Carnegie’s yarn technology—such as specialized knitting machines that produce fabrics with the strength to wrap complex curves—greatly expanded the material’s upholstery applications, including on ceiling panels and baffles for sound management. 

“This is a design system with an expansive toolbox enabling us to create bespoke solutions beyond basic aesthetics, to realize client goals without negatively impacting people or the planet,” Bush says. “Our clients recognize genuine efforts around innovation and sustainability,” she says, “as opposed to ‘greenwashing.’ ” 

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