University of Fashion Blog

Category "Sustainability"

SUSTAINABLE MATERIALS PART 3: FUR – WOOL – DOWN ALTERNATIVES

 

Stella McCartney champions ethical fashion with fur-free collection. (Photo Credit: Stella McCartney)

Design is not just about product. Design is about responsibility.”

If you haven’t already seen this quote by Dr. Carmen Hijosa of Piñatex, you will, it is ubiquitous on the web. Every eco-friendly brand uses it as its mantra. And, every fashion student in every school on the planet is making sure that they incorporate it into every single one of their classes. After all, if the design process starts at desk of the designer, well then, it’s up to us to be on top of alternative textile and material choices when designing a collection.

In 2021, Google launched a fashion supply chain platform called called Global Fibre Impact Explorer (GFIE) in partnership with Stella McCartney, The Textile Exchange and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), to help fashion brands understand the environmental risk of their raw material sourcing. The tool, which is built on Google Earth Engine and uses Google Cloud computing, assesses the environmental risk of different fibers across regions in terms of environmental factors such as air pollution, biodiversity, climate and greenhouse gases, forestry and water use. In 2022, Google and WWF transitioned GFIE to Textile Exchange, a global non-profit focused on positively impacting climate through accelerating the use of preferred fibers across the global textile industry. Their Friend Level Membership is reserved for small to medium-sized enterprises that generate under $5million in annual revenue, as well as universities, non-profits and NGOs.

Last week we educated our viewers on earth-friendly leather and silk alternatives, that are being created using a variety of materials made from pineapples to coffee grounds, sea shells, cactus, bamboo, mushrooms and spiders, just to name a few. This week we’d like to focus on fur and wool alternatives.

Cruelty-free Fur Alternatives

Last Chance for Animals – Global Ban on Fur (Image credit: lcanimals.com) 

The wearing of fur, just like leather and silk, has long been associated with luxury and wealth. However, beginning in the 1980s and after decades of massive pressure from PETA & activists, many designers and retailers announced that they would stop selling fur due to the cruel methods used in killing the animals. In 2019, California became the first state to make it illegal to sell, donate or manufacture new fur products and in 2021, Israel became the first country to ban the sale of fur clothing, although their are several carve-outs, including one for educational reasons and another that permits residents to buy skins and pelts for religious purposes.

Enter…Tencel® and Koba® faux fur

Faux fur was first introduced in 1929 but didn’t become popular until the 1950s. Due to fur’s growing unpopularity since the 1980s and the fact that many countries are now banning fur farms, the use of faux fur increased. Two reports issued by eco experts at Ce Delft, an independent research and consultancy company, found that five faux fur coats have significantly less impact on climate change than that of one mink fur coat.

Since most faux fur is manufactured with non-renewable petroleum-based products and synthetic fabrics it can be toxic to the environment unless it is recycled properly. Today, technologies and innovations offer new ways to design amazing and ethical alternatives to fur and fake fur as well. Popular kinds of faux fur include faux rabbit, faux fox, shearling, sheepskin, and sherpa and luxury faux fur fabrics include chinchilla, sable, beaver, ermine, marten, lynx, and leopard.

KOBA®  the first vegan faux fur (Image credit: Ecopel.com)

Ecopel, a leader in the development of high end faux fur, supplies more than 300 top fashion brands that have stopped using real fur. In partnership with Dupont, they launched KOBA® faux fur, integrating DuPont™ Sorona® fibers, creating the first faux fur made with vegetal ingredients.

UGG’s new faux fur shoe brand using Tencel®  fiber (Image credit: Tencel.com)  

Lenzing, a leader in the field of botanic cellulose fibers and famous for its flagship brand Tencel®, is providing solutions to faux fur production. Their fibers are derived from certified renewable wood sources using an eco-responsible production process that generates up to 50% lower emissions and water impact compared to generic viscose. In 2021, the company partnered with UGG and debuted Plant Power, a collection of shoes made with carbon-neutral, plant-based materials.

Wool Alternatives

Spinnova partners with the outdoor brand The North Face. (Photo Credit: The North Face)

As we have previously reported, controversies surrounding leather and fur are well-known, however there is a common misconception that wool is a ‘gentle’ fabric that simply implies a ‘haircut’ for sheep. Wrong. According to Plant Based News, “One little-known fact about wool production is its environmental impact: sheep, just like cows, emit large quantities of methane gas, which has several times the global warming potential of CO2. The 2017 Pulse of Fashion Industry Report put wool in the fourth place on its list of the fashion materials that had the highest cradle-to-gate environmental impact per kg of material.” And that doesn’t even touch on the undercover reports of the systemic cruelty involved and the abuse the animals suffer.

Enter…hemp, organic cotton, Tencel®, Spinnova®,  soybean fiber, linen, bamboo, woocoa and nullarbor

Wool had its peak in the 1990s and then continued to be replaced by synthetics and cotton blends. Today’s eco-conscious consumers are shunning animal-derived or petroleum-based fabrics and are searching for alternatives. Luckily, there are options. From cotton to wood to coconuts and soybeans, technology is helping drive the movement. As we have already discussed, Tencel is a great replacement and we covered the benefits of organic hemp, cotton, linen and bamboo in a previous blog. 

But did you know about Woocoa? This is a material created by a group of university students in Colombia made from a coconut and hemp fiber ‘wool’, treated with enzymes from the oyster mushroom. Keep you eye on this space. Another bio-tech creation is Nullarbor, developed by Australian material innovation company Nanolloose. This fabric is created by using bacteria to ferment liquid coconut waste from the food industry into cellulose. Spinnova

Spinnova® is a fiber made by Spinnova, a Finnish sustainable materials company. They are the only company in the world able to create textile fiber out of cellulose without involving any harmful chemicals, minimal water use and emissions, and zero waste.  The company has worked with a number of recognized brands, such as Bestseller, The North Face and Marimekko, in fact, Adidas is one of their investors.

A Pangaia fitted short puffer. (Photo Credit: Pangaia)

Down Alternatives

A little known fact about the use of down feathers in the production of down jackets, handbags, pillows and comforters is the level of cruelty involved in the extraction of the feathers. According to Gentle World, “while most down and other feathers are removed from ducks and geese during slaughter, birds in breeding flocks and those raised for meat may be plucked repeatedly while they are still alive. This process is repeated every 6-7 weeks before the bird’s eventual slaughter (or death from the trauma of the plucking process itself). For birds that have been killed for their flesh and/or internal organs (foie gras) the process usually involves scalding the birds’ bodies in hot water for one to three minutes so the feathers are easier to pull out. The body feathers can then be plucked (often by hand), after which the down is removed by hand or machine.”

Where using polyester microfiber was once considered a cruelty-free alternative to down comforters and clothing they use a mass-produced petroleum-based polyester, a nonrenewable resource. They are also known to contain chlorinated phenols, formaldehyde and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs), carcinogenic dyes, allergens and irritants. The production of these materials require a lot of energy, are impossible to break down and eventually end up in landfills.

Enter…next-gen down

Rather than using a polyester microfiber, try a next-gen down, which uses plants, recycled PET, or other sustainable materials to create the pillowy feeling many brands and customers crave. While many, like H&M and Jack Wolfskin, have incorporated next-gen down into some of their products, Pangaia, a materials science company and Save the Duck are two companies that have set up a ‘business-to-business’ line selling their eco-friendly down alternatives to other brands.

Pangaia’s FLWRDWN™ is a bio-based down-fill material made using a combination of wildflowers, a biopolymer (made from maize (corn) and is fully compostable) and a patented biodegradable aerogel. This warm, breathable and animal-friendly innovation is the first of its kind and is used in their outerwear jackets, vests and accessories.

Save the Duck’s RECYCLED PLUMTECH® is a padding made by polyester fiber entirely coming from recycled materials, including plastic bottles. All the jackets from the RECYCLED collection are distinguished by the green and white logo.

A large part of unsustainable fashion is the result of poor fabric choice. Many materials that make it into our clothes harm humans, animals, and the environment. Not to mention, they release harmful chemicals and microplastics into our environment for hundreds of years. So, all of you designers out there, get onboard the eco-textile train. It starts with YOU!

Are you as excited as we are about material innovation and the exciting developments that are still to come?

 

A NEW ERA IN SUSTAINABLE FASHION PART 2: NEXT-GEN LEATHER & SILK ALTERNATIVES

- - Sustainability

H&M Conscious collection using Orange Fiber. (Photo Credit: H&M)

At UOF we are committed to the promotion and education of all things related to designing fashion sustainability. Our Zero Waste series, our lessons by Noor Bchara of Upcycle Design School and our upcoming interview series where working sustainable designers talk about how they started their brand, are all part of our commitment to designing with purpose.

As consumers continue to look for more sustainable alternatives to synthetics and animal-based materials, new ‘breeds’ of fabrics continue to make a mark on the industry. This blog post is part of our series on sustainable practices and how textile innovations are providing great alternatives for designers to make a difference in helping save the planet, one thread at a time.

In a report entitled Brand Engagement with Next-Gen Materials: 2022 Landscape released by the Material Innovation Initiative (MII), they covered the most significant and progressive materials that are making a mark on the fashion industry today.

Branded as ‘Next Generation’ or  Next-Gen, the products highlighted in the report offer replacements for animal-based materials such as leather, silk, wool, down (bird), and fur. Technical innovations in next-gen materials are not only present in the fashion industry, but also in automotive and home goods. In this blogpost we will cover leather and silk alternatives. Stay tuned for our coverage of other Next-Gen materials.

Frequently, producing Next-Gen materials utilize various biomimicry techniques to replicate animal-based textiles, which are then implemented into the supply chain of various industries. Next-Gen methods have risen in popularity due to consumer demand and the need for sustainably-sourced materials, with investors reportedly jumping on the trend in order to secure their place in this fast-growing industry.

In the State of the Industry report, published by the MII, interest in next generation materials is steadily growing. Fifty-five new next generation firms were formed since 2014, increasing the number of operating companies in the sector to 95. By 2015, investments in this sector rose to over $2.3 billion and the number of Next-Gen material producers rose to a total of 187 unique investors. All very encouraging news, right?

Genuine Non-Leather 

Genuine leather has long epitomized luxury in the fashion world, however a major shift has taken place with growing awareness about the cruelty of mass livestock-rearing, the number of resources consumed, carbon emitted and the slew of chemicals used in it’s production, such as formaldehyde, cyanide and chromium during the tanning and dyeing processes, which can be hazardous to both people and the environment. According to a poll by market research company Morning Consult, “more than a third of people in the UK and 23 per cent of people in the US think that leather is an inappropriate material to use in clothing.

Enter…genuine non-leather.

There are now over 67 companies working on alternative versions of the material. Some of the pioneers of genuine non-leather are Piñatex by Ananas Anam (made from pineapples), Tômtex by Uyen Tran (made from waste coffee grounds and discarded seafood shells), Palm leather by Tjeerd Veenhoven (from the leaves of the areca palm), Desserto’s Cactus Leather, the latest innovation in sustainable fashion, is a vegan leather made from the leaves of nopal cactus – a plant that grows abundantly in Mexico, without even needing any water (seems like a great option for those of us constantly killing our plants).

Bio-leather by Shahar Livne (from discarded animal fat and bones), Beyond Leather (Leap™ from upcycled apple waste) and Mylo by Bolt Threads, (created from mycelium, the branching filament structure that mushrooms and other fungi use to grow. The material reportedly consumes substantially less water than is needed to produce animal leather while emitting fewer greenhouse gases). In fact, Adidas, Stella McCartney Lululemon and Gucci’s parent company have all teamed up and invested in Mylo.

 

Cruelty-Free Silk Altermatives

For thousands of years silk, like leather, has been associated with luxury. Although silk is biodegradable, the process of creating silk involves boiling the silkworm alive to save the integrity of the silk. Finding this to be cruel, various designers to find alternative ways of making silk.

Enter…Spider Alternatives.

Did you know that those spider webs in your home are five times stronger than steel and more elastic than rubber bands? Bolt Threads makes a fabric molecularly equal to natural spider silk (since spider silk is not yet widely available) made from yeast, water, and sugar. The resulting raw, purely vegan silk is produced through fermentation, much like brewing beer, except instead of the yeast turning the sugar into alcohol, they turn it into the raw stuff of spider silk. Bolt Threads recently reported partnerships with the eco friendly outdoor brands Patagonia and The North Face.

Lotus silk is another silk alternative and made from the stems of lotus flowers. Although it eliminates the torture of silk worms, creating Lotus Silk is a highly laborious process, with some 6,500 lotus stems required to make a single length of hand woven fabric. Art silk is another silk-alternative, made from bamboo fibers that are crushed then combed and spun into yarn with a lecture more like raw silk. Ramie is another silk alternative that comes from a flowering plant in the nettle family. Orange silk, made from discarded husks of oranges squeezed from the juicing industry. Called  Orange Fiber Fabric, the material made its high fashion debut with Salvatore Ferragamo. And also in the Orange Fibre x H&M Conscious Collection, which launched worldwide in 2019.

Meanwhile, Next-Gen silk now has a total of 12 producers, wool and fur have seven, down materials have six, and exotic skins have one. In 2021, MII reported that 980 million dollars was raised in total, double the amount that was invested in 2020. The organization said in its report that we can expect to see larger deals within the industry as companies continue to develop and provide proof of concept.

Today, a growing number of brands are starting to incorporate Next-Gen materials. A very good sign. The MII report reports that 38 out of 40 leading fashion companies are actively seeking textile alternatives, with a wide variety of fashion labels already counted among the organization’s “First Mover” list. Labels such as Ganni, Pangaia, Karl Lagerfeld, and Adidas are among the 150 highlighted by the MII for their already prominent work in the industry. These selected companies are projected to increase revenue “by exemplifying their positive effect on the environment and animals” according to MII.

Consumer demand is one of the most important considerations to implement these innovative materials into collections, with most consumers willing to pay more for products made from materials that align with their values. In addition, each individual Next-Gen material holds a 50 percent potential market share when compared to conventional materials, according to MII.

Regardless of revenue being an obvious factor, the environmental positives cannot go unnoticed when it comes to Next-Gen materials. As documented in the MII report, much of a brand’s environmental impact comes down to raw materials, leading many to turn to plant-based products instead. It also states that independently certified materials from trusted companies can guarantee both environmental and ethical qualities of the product at hand. In fact, animal welfare has seen an increase in importance among consumers, making it MII’s third most prominent reason to utilize Next-Gen materials.

Investigations into supply chains have repeatedly uncovered troubling cases of animal cruelty within brands and many fashion companies have banned animal products altogether. As more guidelines and industry standards are put into place, fashion is starting to move towards a more animal-friendly future, in which consumers are increasingly demanding.

THE MATERIALS

LEATHER

Karl Lagerfeld’s vegan cactus leather bag. (Photo Credit: Karl Lagerfeld)

 

Hugo Boss’ Pineapple trainers for men. (Photo Credit: Hugo Boss)

 

SILK

Salvatore Ferragamo’s capsule collection for Orange Fiber. (Photo Credit: Salvatore Ferragamo)

As the fashion industry becomes more sustainable-minded, there is also the risk of greenwashing (the practice of making misleading statements or claims about the sustainability of a product or a service).  A recent exposé on fast-fashion retailer H&M in Forbes reported that “the company’s environmental promise is undermined by greenwashing. H&M was using a scorecard system to inform customers about the environmental soundness of each product, but a report by Quartz claims that more than half of the scorecards portrayed products as being better for the environment than they actually were. The report also found some instances in which H&M’s scorecards allegedly gave information about the sustainability of a product that was completely opposite from the truth.” Hopefully this will be a lesson to other brands who might try to fool customers with slick advertising and false claims.

Do you know of any other vegan leathers and silks we didn’t mention?

 

A NEW ERA IN SUSTAINABLE FASHION: THE RISE OF NATURAL & VEGAN MATERIALS

Stella McCartney Summer 2022 Substainability Campaign. (Photo Credit: Fashionography)

As temperatures soar, breaking records in one of the hottest summers to date, it’s only natural to think about climate change and what more can be done to reduce our collective carbon footprint. This week saw the U.S. Senate poised to approve the most significant climate bill, at a whopping $369 billion (yes ‘B’ as in billion), that will sharply reduce carbon pollution. If it passes, this landmark legislation promises to slash greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent – below 2005 levels – by 2030. It’s at least a start. Our fingers are crossed.

The fashion industry is also committed to doing their part, with prominent leaders such as Stella McCartney being one of the strongest voices in sustainable fashion. But what really is sustainable fashion?  The answer is broad. Within the fashion industry it’s a combination different facets that include: ethical business practices, fair trade, supply chain transparency, minimal impact policies, give-back programs, upcycling, recycling, downcycling, circularity, and, arguably most important of all, sustainable materials that make up an ethical collection. The subject of this blogpost will focus on what’s new in sustainable materials which has become the newest and most high-tech approach to the future of fashion.

Sustainability in Fashion. (Photo Credit: Bibalex)

Designers know that one of the most effective ways to create an eco-friendly collection is by choosing sustainable fabrics. Thankfully today, sustainable fabrics have come a long way and technology is at the forefront of this change. Just think of the innovation that went into creating fabric made from a mushroom, an apple and a pineapple.

The type of fabric used to create a collection determines how much environmental degradation it ends up causing — or the practices that reverse it. Just keep in mind that the fabric choice directly affects the raw material sourcing (farming and petroleum drilling impact), water consumption and waste, material processing (chemicals needed to turn it into fiber), and end-of-life prospects (ways a garment can be disposed of) like can it be recycled or composted?

Luckily, environmentally friendly fabrics are pretty easy to find — if you know where to look. And the brands that use them are staking their claim for a better fashion future. And that, in turn, is good for people and the planet.

We are planning to cover advances in fashion sustainability for the next few months and will be featuring designers who are making a splash with their sustainable collections and what’s new in the world of natural, organic and vegan textiles.

ORGANIC COTTON

Organic Cotton Field. (Photo Credit: The New Fashion Norm)

Organic cotton is one of THE most natural fabrics you can find. It is grown without the use of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers and is processed without chemicals. Organic cotton farming uses 62% less energy and 88% less water than conventional cotton (which is surprisingly one of the single dirtiest crops around).

There are several certifications used with sustainable and ethical cotton to authenticate that a particular cotton was grown without pesticides or machine harvesting and processed without chemicals, leaving the final garment chemical-free. Other certifications ensure fair pay and safe conditions for farmers. Certifications include: USDA-Certified Organic, Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), Organic Content Standard (OCS), Better Cotton Standard, Fair Trade, Bluesign, and Oeko-Tex 100.

RECYCLED COTTON

Recycled Cotton Denim. (Photo Credit: Cottonworks)

Recycled cotton is manufactured using either post-industrial or post-consumer waste. Plenty of slow fashion brands use recycled cotton and for good reason. This means that the fabric used is made from industry fabric scraps or other recycled cotton garments. Recycled cotton helps to prevent fashion waste from ending up in landfills. Be sure to watch our 3-part series on sustainable design by Noor Bchara, designer, CEO, founder of Upcycle Design School.

UoF’s 3-part series on sustainable design by Noor Bchara, designer, CEO and founder of Upcycle Design School

Recycled cotton certifications and regulation are difficult to determine, due to the inability of knowing the source of the materials used in the recycling process. However there are certain certifications and standards that exist and they include Global Recycle Standard (GRS), Recycled Content Standard (RCS) and Oeko-Tex 100.

It is also difficult to know whether recycled cotton is pure cotton (and therefore able to be composted) because a fabric can be recycled into recycled cotton even if it holds some synthetic blend (as long as the blend is less than 4%).

ORGANIC HEMP

The Complete Cycle of Hemp Clothing Manufacturing. (Photo Credit: Hemp Foundation)

Hemp is one of the most eco-friendly natural fabrics around. It’s high yielding and growing hemp is healthy for the soil, due to the process of phytoremediation. Another feature of hemp is that it requires much less water than growing cotton.

Organic hemp is considered a carbon negative raw material. What this means is that the material actually absorbs CO2 from the atmosphere. Its certifications and standards include USDA-Certified Organic, Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), Organic Content Standard (OCS), Oeko-Tex 100, and Bluesign.

While organic hemp has many benefits as mentioned above and is naturally sun protective and antimicrobial, the downside is that it more difficult to grow and therefore tends to be somewhat more expensive than other sustainable organic fabrics,. Despite this, we can expect to see more of it in the future.

ORGANIC LINEN

Organic linen dresses. (Photo Credit: The Filtery)

Linen is almost identical to hemp in terms of sustainability and it is extremely light and breathable. Derived from the flax plant, linen’s growth requires very little fertilizer, pesticide, and irrigation, but unlike hemp, linen isn’t as high yielding. Linen is a popular and reliable fiber and can be used to create everything from clothing to bedsheets.

Certifications and standards for Organic Linen include USDA-Certified Organic, Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), Organic Content Standard (OCS), Oeko-Tex 100, and Bluesign.

ORGANIC BAMBOO (AKA BAMBOO LINEN)

Sustainable, Organic, And Antibacterial – The Benefits Of Using Bamboo in Fashion. (Photo Credit: Bamboodu)

Like hemp, bamboo consumes more CO2 than some trees. When bamboo is harvested, it can be done without destroying the plant itself. Translation, bamboo can renew itself at incredible speed (it’s one of the fastest growing plants on the planet) and can survive on rainfall alone. Bamboo’s certifications and standards include the Forest Stewardship Council, USDA-Certified Organic, Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), Organic Content Standard (OCS), Fair Trade,  Oeko-Tex 100, and Bluesign.

Organic bamboo is one of the most sustainable fabrics, but depending on how it is processed, it could involve chemically intensive processes — and all the harmful impacts that come with it.

Mechanically processed bamboo is a better-for-Earth way to utilize bamboo, but sadly it makes up just a tiny amount of what is found in the market. Make sure to look for organic bamboo fabrics in its raw form, as opposed to that which is plasticized into bamboo rayon/viscose blends.

CORK

Cork handbag by Eve Cork. (Photo Credit: Eve Cork)

Cork has left the bottle and is now used to create fashion! Made from Quercus suber, commonly called the cork oak, a medium-sized, evergreen oak tree, cork is made by shaving the bark from the tree. In fact, the bark  can be harvested—and should be harvested—to extend then tree’s life. While the tree regrows its bark, it consumes more carbon dioxide than most types of trees (and therefore another carbon negative material). As a result, cork plantations can actually act as a carbon sink.

Once cork has been harvested (which can sustainably happen to a tree every 9 to 12 years), the cork can be laid out in the sun to dry, and only requires a bit of water to transform the cork into a fabric suitable for fashion. The material has become a fashionable choice for vegan bags and shoes… and for good reason.

A LIST OF SUSTAINABLE FABRICS

Fashion created by nature. (Photo Credit: Grailed)

Here is a list of highly recommended eco-fabrics for all you sustainable-minded designers out there:

Sustainable Semi-Synthetic Fabrics (mostly vegan)

Lyocell

Modal

Bamboo Lyocell

EcoVero

Pinatex

Scoby Leather

S.Cafe

Qmonos

Brewed Protein

Apple leather

Woocoa

Cupro

QMilk

Vegan, Synthetic Fabrics

ECONYL

Recycled polyester

Animal Derived Natural Fabrics (sustainable depending on source)

Sheep Wool

Merino Wool

Alpaca Wool

Cashmere

Camel

Yak Wool

Vegetable Tanned Leather

Down

Silk

Stay tuned to our blog to learn more about sustainable fabric choices that you should be considering for your projects! Also follow us on Instagram uoffashion, and on Facebook University of Fashion.

JEANOLOGY: SUSTAINABLE DENIM WE CAN ALL FEEL GOOD ABOUT

Prada’s sustainable denim. (Photo Credit: Prada)

Can denim ever truly be sustainable? It is a question that we all ponder, whether you are a fashion lover or an environmentalist. Denim truly is the fabric of our lives, but through the years, denim has earned an ugly reputation when it comes to the environment. Jeans are known as one of the most environmentally damaging items we buy, and the reason is simple: Denim is primarily made from cotton, and most cotton is grown using harmful fertilizers and pesticides. Denim also requires huge amounts of water to produce. One pair of jeans can use approximately 1,800 gallons of water to create. The global demand for cotton (which is used in nearly half of all textiles, according to the World Wildlife Fund) has also led to over-farmed, barren land and soil erosion, which impacts the health of the entire planet. But today, there are many jean companies that are trying to evolve into sustainable denim brands.

DENIM MADE THE OLD FASHIONED WAY

Traditionally, when a pair of blue jeans is created, the cotton denim fabric will be dipped up to eight times in a giant vat of indigo. For the most part, the indigo is in a powder form, subjecting factory workers to dangerous amounts of aniline as they breath-it in. In older factories with dated technology, jeans are placed in belly washers, which can waste up to 1,800 liters of water per pair of jeans. Not only are tons of water wasted, but if the wastewater is not treated properly before getting dumped in local waterway, it can lead to hazardous levels of lead, copper, cadmium, and water with such a high pH, it’s equivalent to ammonia. This has happened in Xintang, China where they manufacture denim.

Also note, that if denim is bleached or distressed, the process can be dangerous and toxic for factory workers. The practice of sandblasting may lead to silicosis and lung cancer. Bleaching and fading jeans using hypochlorite and potassium permanganate generates toxic fumes.  Even hand-distressing jeans using power tools will produce dust containing all the dyes and chemicals applied to the garment.

DENIM MADE THE NEW WAY

For those of us who live in denim, there is good news. The denim industry is one of the most innovative sectors of the fashion industry, and they are working hard to create sustainable denim that will not harm its workers or the environment.

For starters, many brands are now using ‘real denim’. Real denim is close-to 100% cotton fabric that is blue on the front (where the indigo-dyed warp yarns show) and white on the back (where the undyed weft yarns show). Real denim is dyed by means of non-toxic synthetic indigo (which is chemically identical to natural indigo) or sulfur black, which is considered a dye of minimum concern to human health. Faux-denim pants that are meant to look like jeans but are made of synthetic fabrics are usually dyed with toxic or reactive dyes. Faux denim does not last as long as real denim, the items usually fall apart rather than breaking in.

Sustainable denim brands generally source their garments from technologically advanced denim mills. A few popular mills that create sustainable jeans are:  Candiani in Italy, Saitex in Vietnam, or Denim Expert in Bangladesh. These factories use front-loading washers from Tonello or Jeanologia, which reduces water use by 70 to 80%. When other efficient technologies are added such as water recycling, a pair of jeans can be made with just 11 liters of water (as opposed to 1,800 liters). A highly regarded mill will carefully treat this water to make it completely clean before releasing it.

These technological advanced mills also use lasers, robots, and enzymatic processes that can safely and quickly distress and fade jeans. These highly advanced factories use foam dyeing technology, and dying technology, which both utilize electricity to saturate the yarns—both of these technologies avoid using powder indigo and they only use a fraction of the water that traditional dye boxes need. Many eco-friendly labels today are using natural ingredients instead of toxic chemicals to dye their garments, such as natural indigo dyes derived from plants, shrimp shells, orange peels, and nutshells.

Denim companies can also use sustainable cotton to become greener. Fashion companies should know where their cotton is coming from (what’s called ‘traceable’ cotton) whether it’s from the U.S., from smallholder farmers in India, or from big farms in Australia. Brands should use non-GMO cotton that is sprayed with little to no pesticides, and farms that use natural rather than synthetic fertilizers.

Here are a few sustainable and ethical jeans that have quickly become favorites among the fashion set. Keep in mind that jeans were literally invented as workwear back in 1873; they’re meant to last a few years, if not a few decades. So, invest in the pairs you really love, wear them frequently, and think of every rip and frayed edge as a badge of honor. The more years you own your favorite pair of jeans, the more eco-friendly you’ve become.

LEVI’S

Levi’s Waterless Campaign. (Photo Credit: Levi’s)

Levi’s created the first pair of denim pants. In 1873, two visionary immigrants — Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis — turned denim, thread and a little metal into what has become the most popular apparel in the world.

Today, Levi’s is still a pioneer in the denim industry. Thanks to its trademarked Water<Less innovations, Levi’s has saved more than 1.8 billion liters and recycled more than 129 million liters of water. So far, approximately 40% of Levi’s products use this innovation. Water<Less implements a Screened Chemistry standard which eliminates toxic chemicals from its supply chain. To help avoid ending up in a landfill, Levi’s has partnered with Give Back Box, where you pack up your old jeans and print a free shipping label, then drop it in the mail where it is sent to charity.

AG

AG Conscious Hemp Denim Jacket. (Photo Credit: AG)

AG has a denim capsule collection called “The Jean of Tomorrow.” This denim capsule collection has a blend of organic cotton, lyocell, and hemp, the jeans and unisex jacket have no metal rivets—instead, Tencel threads hold the fabric together —and rather than metal buttons, they used corozo nuts. The size and care tags were also replaced by screen-printed, soy-based ink. These jeans are 100% natural and biodegradable, so they can eventually be composted and return to the earth.

AG hopes the project can be a model for the entire denim industry in the future: “There is a responsibility for big companies with large manufacturing programs to step up and adopt more eco-friendly processes,” Samuel Ku, AG’s president and creative director, said in a release. “It takes wide-scale investment and adoption to really move the needle in terms of impact, as well as drive down the costs of sustainability so that we can see it become the new norm for all brands.”

DL1961

DL1961 and Candice Swanepoel, sustainable denim. (Photo Credit: DL 1961)

DL1961 jeans are created with lower-impact cellulose (i.e., wood pulp) fibers as well as certified-organic cotton and clean indigo dyes that reduce water use and create no harmful byproducts. There factories are a vertical integration, which means there’s less shipping and packaging involved in manufacturing each denim item, reducing both DL1961’s carbon emissions.

RE/DONE

Re/Done sustainable jeans. (Photo Credit: Instagram @ haileybieber)

One of the hottest denim labels Re/Done launched in 2014 with a brilliant concept: vintage men’s denim reworked for women’s bodies. Since then, Re/Done has grown to include new jeans, vintage-inspired T-shirts, dresses, suiting, and a full men’s line. The company also introduced a peer-to-peer secondhand marketplace where customers can buy and sell their Re/Done jeans, T-shirts, blazers, and more.

SEZANE

Sustainable denim from Sézane. (Photo Credit: Sézane)

French label Sézane is loved for its affordable, vintage-inspired jeans, but founder Morgane Sezalory is now focused on sustainability as well. She has reorganized her denim production to include 100% GOTS-certified organic cotton, eco-friendly washing, recycled water, and laser detailing instead of chemical treatments. The founder has taken sustainability for her brand one step further, now all of Sézane’s shipping boxes are made from recycled cardboard or are derived from sustainably managed forests.

FRAME

Frame favorite Le Palazzo jean is made with eco-conscious materials. (Photo Credit: Frame)

L.A. denim brand Frame has introduced a ten-piece denim collection called Pure Denim. These garments are created with 100% biodegradable organic cotton that uses 98% less water in its production process compared to traditional denim processes. Frame’s sustainable jeans come in all shapes, from skinny to wide-leg denim.

SLVRLAKE

SLVRLAKE’s sustainable denim pants. (Photo Credit: Net-A-Porter)

Louise Edgley, the founder of Slvrlake, is addressing the challenges of cotton by trying something else: hemp. As one of the fastest-growing plants on earth, it can be easily grown without pesticides or fertilizer, requires a fraction of the water needed to grow cotton, and is 100% biodegradable. Edgley’s signature London and Beatnik jeans now come in a soft and durable cotton and hemp blend with a distinctive baby-blue wash.

Citizens of Humanity

Citizens of Humanity’s sustainable denim. (Photo Credit: Citizens of Humanity)

Citizens of Humanity is known for their fashion-forward silhouettes and soft, high-quality denim. Some of the labels most popular fits, like the Annina trouser, now comes in 100% organic cotton and use water-saving, energy-reducing technology. Citizens of Humanity also owns two other denim labels, Goldsign and AGOLDE, which are making similar strides in organic fabrications, laser treatments, and ozone washes, which reduce energy and water use.

EDWIN

Edwin’s sustainable denim. (Photo Credit: Edwin)

Edwin is a Los Angeles label known for creating some of the best vintage-inspired jeans. Each denim garment is created at Saitex, one of the world’s largest and cleanest denim manufacturers. Saitex now has a factory in Los Angeles, where Edwin is now exclusively producing its collections. Described as “a factory of the future,” the facility comes with everything a fashion label needs to create a lower-impact jean: laser technology, semi-automatic sewing, a water recycling system, and more. The company will also take back your old Edwin jeans and recycle them.

TRIARCHY

Triarchy’s sustainable denim. (Photo Credit: Neiman Marcus)

Most customers like a little stretch in their denim for comfort, but stretch jeans are make with plastic, which is not eco conscious at all. But Triarchy’s Adam Taubenfligel developed a natural alternative for stretch denim with the Italian mill Candiani, the result, rubber fibers. Triarchy’s innovative “plastic-free skinny jean” feels as stretchy and supportive as any you’ve tried, but the denim is woven with ultra-fine strands of rubber, instead of plastic. The label also offers 100% cotton styles which are also made to the highest sustainable standards with organic materials, natural dyes, less water, and less energy.

ON A SIDE NOTE…..

Fashionary’s Denim Manual. (Photo Credit: The Denim Manual)

Want to learn more about denim, well fashion sketchbook producer Fashionary recently released a book titled “The Denim Manual, a Complete Visual Guide for the Denim Industry.” The tome offers a comprehensive look inside the business of denim featuring a cover made of raw denim, and includes over 700 illustrations and photos, as well as a complete collection of denim fabrics, washes and terms that give readers’ an insider’s take on the world of denim.

The book expands from the origin of denim to today’s innovative technology in jeans. There is an illustrated timeline of key events in denim’s history as well as different types of denim fabric. From there, it provides a Denim Design and Details Library of 200 design elements that serves as an encyclopedia of each part of a denim garment.

The book’s Wash Library defines each step for creating various effects such as acid wash and whiskering. It also includes a dyeing guide that covers techniques for achieving a variety of shades and patterns. The final section of the book focuses on maintenance and provides tips for preventing shrinking, fading, and extending the lifecycle of your favorite pair of jeans for as long as possible.

The book is available now for $39.90 on the Fashionary website.

An image from the book The Denim Manual. (Photo Credit: Courtesy of The Denim Manual)

So tell us, will you be more eco conscious when creating your own collections?

EARTH DAY & HOW SUSTAINABLE, BIODEGRADABLE & COMPOSTABLE TEXTILES ARE CHANGING THE FACE OF FASHION

- - Sustainability

Chloé’s eco-chic spring 2022 show on the bank of the Seine in Paris. (Photo Credit: Shutterstock)

Earth Day is right around the corner (Friday, April 22nd) and while many think that the fashion industry is not doing enough to reduce its carbon footprint, we’re here to say, we’re making progress. Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day! If you are a faithful reader of UoF’s weekly blog then you know how dedicated we are, not only in keeping our readers up to date on the latest in sustainable fashion and textiles, but in teaching our students how to become ‘sustainable’ designers.

In fact, UoF has a whole series of lessons covering the topic: Introduction to Sustainable Design, Sustainable Materials for Fashion Design, Designing, Producing & Marketing a Sustainable Collection, Eco-Textiles, Creative Draping-Zero Waste Dress, Creative Draping-2D Draping, Creative Draping-Zero Puzzle Dress, Creative Draping-Silk Taffeta Dress, Creative Draping-Organza Blouse, Creative Draping-Cocoon Jacket, Eco Fashion Global Initiative, Sustainable Fashion Designer-Monisha Raja and Sustainable Fashion Designer-Kristen Luong. And we continue to add more!

It’s hard to believe that it’s been 60 years since Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring (published September 27, 1962), warned us of the adverse environmental effects caused by the indiscriminate use of pesticides. James Hansen (considered the ‘father of global warming’), forty-three years ago created one of the world’s first climate models, nicknamed Model Zero that predicted what was to come. Earth Day, which began fifty-two years ago (April 22, 1970), is now an annual event in support of  environmental protection that today includes a wide range of events coordinated globally by EarthDay.org and reaches one billion people in more than 193 countries. The official Earth Day theme for 2022 is Invest In Our Planet.  As a scientist once told Rachel Carson, “We are walking in nature like an elephant in a china cabinet“.

 

Some Fashion Industry Facts & Solutions 

Here are some frightening numbers: Since the 2000s, fashion production has doubled and it will likely triple by 2050, according to the American Chemical Society. The production of polyester, which is a popular fabric used in fast fashion, as well as athleisurewear, has increased nine times the amount in the last 50 years. Fast fashion has made clothing so inexpensive that items are easily discarded after being worn only a few times. According to State Of The Planet, a journal published by Columbia Climate School, a survey found that 20 percent of clothing in the U.S. is never worn; in the UK, it is 50 percent. Online shopping, available day and night, has also made impulse buying and returning items easier.

According to McKinsey, the average consumer buys 60 percent more than they did in 2000 and keep it half as long. And in 2017, it was estimated that 41 percent of young women felt the need to wear something different whenever they left the house. In response, there are companies that send consumers a box of new clothes every month.

So, as we look to the future generation of fashion designers, keep in mind that being a sustainable brand may be the key to your success.

One of the most effective ways a designer can go green is to work with sustainable textiles. Did you know that the world produces over 50 million tons of textile waste per year? So, we’d like to share some of the most innovative textiles that will help you create beautiful clothes while reducing your carbon footprint, water, and chemical use.

As you read about these new textiles, you should know the difference between biodegradable and compostable. All compostable items are biodegradable, but not all biodegradable products are compostable. A notable difference between the two is that biodegradable products break down into a few natural elements, while compostable products leave behind a single organic material called humus.

So, is biodegradable more eco-friendly than compostable, you ask? No, a biodegradable product is not necessarily better for the environment than a compostable product. That’s because biodegradable products can still be made of chemical plastics whereas compostable products are typically made from plants.

Here’s a list of some of the latest materials that are prioritizing sustainability.

AIRCARBON

Nike is trying to incorporate more sustainable materials like Aircarbon into its collection. (Photo Credit: Nike)

AirCarbon is made by Huntington Beach-based, Newlight Technologies. They collaborated with Nike on a material that sucks carbon from the air. The secret to AirCarbon, a material that took 10 years into develop, is found in nature: methane-loving micro-organisms. AirCarbon is certified carbon-negative by SCS Global Services, resulting in a net reduction in carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere through production.

AIRMYCELIUM

AirMycelium is a mushroom root (mycelium) material from a New York-based innovation firm, Ecovative. The material has a production capacity of 100,000 pounds a year and over time is biodegradable — with its raw mycelium materials being at-home compostable in soil.

BIOFIBER

BioFiber is created solely from food crop residues and was developed by Agraloop Bio-Refinery. It is meant to replace high-quality knits and woven fabrics. Agraloop processes waste from various food and medicine crops including oilseed hemp/flax, CBD hemp, banana, and pineapple, while incentivizing the waste among communities in need. BioFiber is mixed with other natural staple fibers to produce a variety of ring-spun and open-end yarns.

BIOSTEEL

BioSteel is a biotechnologically produced high-performance version of spider silk, which made its debut in 2015. It is produced by German biotech company AMSilk and has been used especially in shoe upper material for Adidas’ Futurecraft Biofabric sneakers. Properties include being 15 percent lighter than conventional synthetics, as well as being completely biodegradable. BioSteel has been certified by the Hohenstein Institute and the SGS Institut Fresenius.

CIRCULOSE

H&M became the first brand to use Circulose – made from textile waste.  (Photo Credit: H&M)

Circulose is a patented fiber created by chemically processing 100 percent cotton fabric waste or other cellulosic textiles (like viscose). It is produced by Renewcell, a technology company founded in January 2012 by a group of cellulose researchers from KTH Royal Institute of Technology. Circulose significantly reduces the use of water and carbon footprint and is closed loop. H&M was the first to debut the Circulose material to consumers. As one of the biggest ‘fast fashion’ retailers, they are trying to do their part in reducing their carbon footprint.

In 2013, H&M launched a global garment collecting program and has a goal of having all products in stores made from recycled or sustainably sourced materials by 2030. H&M has tripled the amount of recycled materials used in its products from 5.8 percent to 17.9 percent with a goal of 30 percent by 2025.

H&M is launching a new line of sustainable tops, bottoms with adjustable waistbands and cuff, jackets, hats and blankets that can be composted once they are old and worn out. The 12-piece collection for newborns is made from organic cotton and launches in May 2022.

 

H&M launches a compostable 12-piece collection for newborns made from organic cotton in May 2022. (Photo credit: H&M)

DESSERTO

Karl Lagerfeld Collabs with Amber Valletta on a sustainable accessory collection using the material Desserto. (Photo Credit: Karl Lagerfeld)

Desserto is made of 40 percent organic cactus fiber, protein, pigments and 60 percent polyurethane. Backings are made with different fiber blends. Desserto, created by Adriano di Marti , is a leather replacement in handbags, footwear and apparel. Brands like Karl Lagerfeld, Fossil and H&M have used the material.

EVRNU

NuCycl™ a  regenerated fiber composed of  100% post-consumer waste using technology by Evernu® (Photo credit: Evernu.com)

Seattle-based Evrnu® is the firm behind NuCycl™, a regenerated fiber made from post-consumer clothing waste via its proprietary NuCycl technology. Garment waste is collected, sorted, and separated. The waste is then purified, shredded, and turned into a pulp. Extruded cellulose is made into a fiber that is finer than silk and stronger than cotton. The fiber is then spun into yarn, dyed and woven into fabric to be used to create recyclable textiles. Their mission is to create a circular economy for fashion. The fiber has been used by brands like Levi’s, Adidas and Stella McCartney.

FLOCUS

Flocus kapok fibers used for Frank and Oak’s outerwear. (Photo Credit: Frank and Oak)

Flocus is 100 percent biodegradable and 100 percent recyclable. The material is made from a yarn blend of fibers from the kapok tree. It is used for a wide range of fabrics and insulation materials being that it is lightweight, hypoallergenic and soft to the touch. Moisture management, temperature regulation and insect repellence are other qualities. The brand Frank and Oak uses Flocus for their outerwear.

PLNT  & FRUT

PLNT and FRUT – bio-based fibers made from agricultural waste using Pangaia technology (Photo credit: Pangaia.com)

Another alternative to cotton is a bio-based technology developed from agricultural waste by Pangaia Material Science Ltd. Their Plnt fiber, is a blend of 60% bamboo lyocell, 20% Himalaya nettle and 20% SeaCell lyocell. Their Frut fiber is a cocktail of 60% bamboo lyocell, 20% pineapple leaf fiber, and 20% banana leaf fiber. Pangaia also has their own direct-to-consumer line of clothing.

HEIQ

HeiQ innovative textile technologies include fabric offerings such as Eco Dry, Real Silk and Clean Tech, aiding the performance and sustainability of fabric manufacturing by substituting less eco-friendly chemicals. The Eco Dry process, for example, eliminates the need for fluorine and makes a water-repellant layer for footwear and clothing applications. It complies with EU REACH and ZDHC chemical protocols, as well as Oeko-Tex.

INNER METTLE MILK

Inner Mettle Milk is a 100-percent natural fabric produced by apparel company Inner Mettle. The IM Milk fabric is a biodegradable fabric made from a blend of surplus milk from the Italian agricultural-sector and 60 percent Lenzing-produced Tencel Micromodal. The fabric is manufactured in Italy and employed in Inner Mettle’s innerwear collection.

KOBA

Koba is a partially bio-based faux fur developed by DuPont and Ecopel of which Stella McCartney and Maison Atia are devoted fans. Because it is also recycled polyester, it is not biodegradable, but the companies tout recycling options at the material’s end of life.

MALAI

Malai is a bio-based material grown atop coconut water through fermentation, a leftover from the coconut industry in South India. The jelly is harvested and enhanced with natural fibers, gums and resins to create a more durable and flexible material. Although Malai is in its early stages, the leather alternative is biodegradable and compostable.

MIRUM

Patches made with Natural Fiber Welding’s Mirum leather substitute are included on Ralph Lauren’s Team USA parade apparel at the Tokyo Olympics. (Photo Credit: Ralph Lauren)

Mirum is a welded 100 percent natural, biodegradable plant-based leather alternative made by Natural Fiber Welding. The material comes from raw materials like cork, coconut, vegetable oil and natural rubber. With certification from the U.S. Department of Agriculture BioPreferred program, the company also counts investments from brands like Allbirds and Ralph Lauren Corp. The material is never coated in polyurethane or PVC, and is fully biodegradable with 40 percent lower carbon impact, per the company’s assessments. In addition to having a low carbon footprint, Mirum requires no water during manufacturing and dyeing.

NATIVA

Nativa wool is a 100 percent traceable wool fiber launched by Chargeurs Luxury Materials, a leader in luxury combed wool. The firm’s blockchain technology records transactions in a digital tamper-proof and decentralized database. Finnish outdoor brand UphillSport switched to all Nativa wool in 2020.

ORANGE FIBER

A look from the Orange Fiber capsule collection by Salvatore Ferragamo. (Photo Credit: Salvatore Ferragamo)

Orange Fiber is a luxurious fabric made out of waste citrus juice byproducts. It makes use of the otherwise more than 700,000 tons of citrus juice byproducts that would normally end up as waste. The Italian company (which collaborated with Lenzing) was the winner of the H&M Global Change Award in 2015. Also, Salvatore Ferragamo launched a capsule collection with the Orange Fiber in 2017.

REISHI

Sylvania is a mycelium material developed by MycoWorks and Hermès. (Photo Credit: Hermès)

Reishi is a non-plastic, non-animal leather alternative from biotech startup MycoWorks. The material is grown rapidly from mycelium and agricultural byproducts in a carbon-negative process. Luxury house Hermès has partnered with the Reishi to work on its own material dubbed “Sylvania.”

REPREVE

Repreve is a yarn made from recycled plastic bottles by maker Unifi. Repreve, was confirmed to reduce global warming potential related to greenhouse gases by 21 percent compared to generic, mechanically recycled polyester and 42 percent compared to virgin polyester, according to technology firm Higg (a partner to the Sustainable Apparel Coalition).

SORONA

Sorona, created by DuPont, was created to be a corn-based alternative to spandex (with about 37 percent of the polymeric fibers being made of renewable plant-based ingredients). The material is known for comfort, stretch and recovery properties, but is entirely free of spandex. The North Face, Club Monaco, and Stella McCartney have released products with Sorona.

SPINNOVA

Apparel made form Spinnova’s new wood-based fiber. (Photo Credit: Spinnova)

Spinnova is a 100 percent natural, biodegradable and recyclable alternative to cotton made of wood and waste without the use of harmful chemicals. It is free of microplastics and harmful chemicals and uses 99 percent less water than cotton. The North Face and H&M are already partners, as is the world’s largest wood pulp producer Suzano.

TEXLOOP

Texloop RCOT is made with up of 50 percent Global Recycle Standard-certified recycled cotton, blended with other natural fibers, including Global Organic Textile Standard-certified organic cotton and Tencel Lyocell. Brands ranging from H&M to Lee have used the material to create more sustainable denim.

ZOA

Modern Meadow uses biotechnology in its Zoa Biofabricated Material. (Photo Credit: Modern Meadow)

Zoa is a bioengineered leather-like innovation from biotech firm Modern Meadow. Zoa is made from protein collagen produced through fermentation from yeast in a lab and can be easily combined with other materials to accommodate any shape or texture. Zoa is already partnering with luxury and consumer goods brands.

As every student and teacher of fashion design knows, it’s up to us to chose the materials that we will use for our designs and therefore, unless we all make a concerted effort to source these eco-friendly materials we are only contributing to the earth’s pollution. Sustainable and ethical fashion starts with the fabric!

Here’s a few links where you can find sustainable fabrics and yarns – Happy Eco-Designing

30 Sustainable Fabrics For The Most Eco Friendly Fashion

Birds of a Thread

My Green Closet

So tell us, what will you do to reduce your carbon footprint?

 

 

 

RINGING IN 2022 WITH A NEW FOCUS ON SUSTAINABILITY

- - Sustainability

Stella McCartney Winter 19 CampaignCourtesy of Stella McCartney. (Photo Credit: Stella McCartney)

At the University of Fashion we want to start by wishing everyone a Happy New Year!

As we leave behind the uncertainty of 2021 (with the rise of Covid-19’s latest strand: Omicron), we want to focus on the positive. Moving forward, the fashion industry is taking new strides in sustainability and focusing on greener methods to produce fashion. While our industry may get a bad rap from environmentalists, there were plenty of sustainable wins this year that fashion companies should focus on, including bolstering garment worker rights, as well as strides in the circular fashion space — steered by bio-based material innovators, luxury companies, pre-owned vendors and systems thinkers alike.

Labor Rights Became Something to Shout About

Garment Center workers. (Photo Credit: Garmentworkeract)

2021 marked a hard-earned triumph for garment workers and ethical business allies in California with the signing of the Garment Worker Protection Act (known as SB 62) into law this past September.

The bill takes a jab at the industry’s high rates of wage theft and sub-minimum pay, by first eliminating the piece-rate system of compensation, while closing a prior loophole in the original legislation that let fashion labels avoid responsibility for their supply chains. Under this groundbreaking new law, joint liability will exist, so fashion companies, subcontractors, and workers are all included in the negotiating process.

According to WWD, the law’s passage is far-reaching, and by some experts, it ushers in a new sustainable era for fashion and a chance to shift the power balance.

“Over the past 20 years, fashion has changed.…Labor laws become obsolete because the economic structure of that industry has changed,” according to Victor Narro, project director and professor of Labor Studies at the University of California Los Angeles Labor Center. Narro was on the team that drafted California’s landmark worker protection law in 1999.

Fashion is constantly changing and so far more than 140 fashion brands (among them Reformation, Boyish, Mara Hoffman, Eileen Fisher) have been threads of change (no pun intended).

California is home to the biggest garment manufacturing hub in the U.S. and counts for over 45,000 garment industry workers. According to WWD, the majority of the garment industry workforce are highly skilled women of color (averaging 20 years of experience), fueling brands like Fashion Nova, Forever 21, Windsor, Charlotte Russe, Urban Outfitters and Lulus. All of which were named as “top violators” in wage theft cases according to SB 62 bill co-sponsor the Garment Worker Center.

“I would say that I think that the bill is bordering on revolutionary, not just for garment workers, but also other low-wage workers in farming and agriculture,” said Ngozi Okaro, executive director of Custom Collaborative, a New York City-based workforce development nonprofit and social enterprise. “What’s important is it drills down to holding everyone along the value chain responsible.”

Safety for Garment Workers

ACCORD on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh. (Photo Credit: Apparel Insider)

In another extensive and time-sensitive move for garment worker protection, The Bangladesh Accord on Fire Building Safety saw a last-ditch revision in The International Accord for Health and Safety in the Textile and Garment Industry.

As of December 2021, the International Accord totals 155 brand signatories (just shy of the 200 signatories for the original document) with H&M, Inditex, Bestseller and C&A among the first to sign. The purpose of the International Accord is to expand health and safety coverage for factory garment workers in Bangladesh, as well as other high-risk sourcing countries in the South Asian territories.

In 2021, many brands rushed to pen their support for sustainable causes. Many fashion labels including Everlane, ThredUp, Rebecca Minkoff, Allbirds, Reformation and more signed a letter to U.S. President Joe Biden to appoint a “fashion czar”; while in the U.K., similar calls echoed out for a “garment trade adjudicator”.

So, it is clear that 2021 was the year the fashion industry moved forward in their intent for advancing social and environmental progress.

Resale Momentum

The 2018 campaign for Vestiaire Collective. (Photo Credit: Vestiaire Collective)

“Buying a pre-loved handbag from the same brand’s online store that you bought a new pair of boots from is going to be a billion-dollar game changer for the fashion community,” said The RealReal’s former director of business development, Karin Dillie, who went from Sotheby’s, The RealReal, to now, brand-owned resale space at Recurate, in an interview with WWD.

Last year, direct-to-consumer fashion brands like Boyish Jeans, Coclico Shoes and Époque Évolution, partnered with branded business-to-consumer marketplace Treet, ​while Cuyana, Vera Bradley and Fabletics partnered with ThredUp.

Kering announced a $216 million investment in Vestiaire Collective in March of 2021. Richemont rolled out resale partnerships (via Watchfinder) at Net-a-porter and Mr Porter in July. By August, new collaborations were forged in-store and online, one highlight being luxury pre-owned vendor Fashionphile teaming up with Neighborhood Goods.

The athletic brand New Balance launched its “New Balance Renewed” program with The Renewal Workshop. H&M newly launched its own “Rewear” resale marketplace in Canada, and URBN announced its “Nuuly Thrift” platform in fall 2021.

Throughout the pandemic, the luxury resale market gained momentum while used goods piled up as people had time to purge their closets.

Innovation in Sustainability

Stella McCartney’s new bag made with Mylo. (Photo Credit: Vegnews)

Sustainability innovation has definitely ramped up and has become a BIG movement within the fashion industry. Throughout 2021, giant fashion and athletic brands including Adidas, Nike, H&M, Stella McCartney, Ralph Lauren, Patagonia, and Gap, to name a few, have looked to nature and have invested in buzzy next-gen materials.

“There are exciting innovations for clothing production that are designed to have less of an environmental impact after its intended use; for example, fibers and fabrics designed to: be collected and mechanically or chemically recycled back into new textiles; biodegrade (under specific conditions); or compost into non-toxic constituents,” Barbara Martinez, open innovation director at Conservation X Labs, a technology and innovation hub based in Washington, D.C., told WWD.

A September report from nonprofit Material Innovation Initiative and consumer research firm North Mountain Consulting tallied $1.29 billion invested in standout material innovation firms from 2015 to May 2021. MII found that vegan leather alone could command 54 percent of the market, according to Nicole Rawling, cofounder and chief executive officer of the Material Innovation Initiative. “The findings reveal that cost-competitive next-gen materials could command the majority of many markets,” she said in an interview with WWD.

Even luxury designers are looking to vegan leather options. Case-in-point, Hermès, a house immersed in tradition, shocked the luxury world when it announced a partnership with the California-based start-up MycoWorks to develop a leather-type material out of mycelium – this would be the first time the luxury label stepped away from the houses’ signature calfskin leather of its renowned Birkin and Kelly bags.

Stella McCartney, one of the first luxury designers to focus on sustainability, has been experimenting with fungi as well. This past year, the fashion house has partnered with Bolt Threads in developing Mylo, a new trademarked material made from the root system of fungi.

McCartney introduced a mushroom leather bag during her spring 2022 show, which began with a voice stating that “In fashion, mushrooms are the future,” across its Paris venue. The designer’s goal is to offer the innovative material to other brands and help bring the use of sustainable materials into mainstream fashion.

Luxury, Resale Boast B Corp Chops

At Chloé, Gabriela Hearst trimmed dresses with metal “talismans” sourced from deadstock jewelry supplies. (Photo Credit Vogue: Runway)

Fashion brands (both luxury and mass) are often criticized for the fast pace of their production calendars, hosting shows in exotic locations, and having little visibility in their massive supply chains.

But in the past few years, many brands are taking sustainability seriously by reaching for a new title-grab. 2021 was the pathfinding year when luxury fashion houses (including luxury resellers) bought into B Corp status.

The Benefit Corporation (abbreviated as B Corp) is regarded as the “gold standard” in sustainable companies; the certification is provided by nonprofit B Lab, when companies showcase that they can fulfill its strict ESG criteria. B Corps are legally bound to act in the interest of both people and out planet.

This past September, Kering-backed Vestiaire Collective led the way as the first in resale to earn B Corp status. Richemont-owned Chloé was the first luxury fashion house to receive the much-acclaimed certification, setting a new standard of how brands should operate moving forward in the fashion industry.

“Beyond the fact that we are proud of it as a company, we also aim to inspire many others to join,” said Riccardo Bellini, chief executive officer of the Compagnie Financière Richemont-owned brand, to WWD. “We upgraded our operations, governance and policies in a way that allows us to operate in a more environmentally and socially responsible manner.”

Chloé began moving to a purpose-driven business model before the pandemic and with the appointment of Gabriela Hearst (named creative director in December 2020), whose entire design philosophy revolves around environmentally friendly practices. Some of the policies Chloé implemented along the way included its “Women Forward for a Fairer Future” mission statement; the appointment of an advisory board of experts; as well as the inclusion of more social entrepreneurs in its supply chain.

Richemont’s Bellini summed up the B Corp differential best: “It’s all about the mindset of continuously challenging ourselves to improve, and to bring the full equation of financial, social and environmental value to the table in every decision we make.”

Sustainable fashion is more than just a trend. (Photo Credit: Girotti Shoes)

 

Be sure to check out UoF’s lessons on sustainability:  Introduction to Sustainable Fashion Design, Sustainable Materials For Fashion Design

Designing, Producing & Marketing a Sustainable Collection, Sustainable Fashion Designer – Monisha Raja

Eco-Textiles, and Sustainable Fashion Designer – Kristen Luong,

So tell us, how will you create a more sustainable brand moving forward?

FASHION INDUSTRY CHARTER FOR CLIMATE CHANGE: HERE’S WHAT’S NEW

- - Sustainability

Vivienne Westwood has been addresing her concerns over climate change for years. (Photo Credit: Common Objective)

The 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, more commonly referred to as COP26 or ‘Conference of the Parties’, was the 26th United Nations Climate Change conference, and was held at the SEC Centre in Glasgow, Scotland from October 31 to November 13. The president of the conference was UK  cabinet minister, Alok Sharma. The United Nations has been bringing together a majority of countries for almost thirty years now to help battle the effects of climate change and many believe that this year’s event has come up with some strategic solutions. Climate change has gone from

Leading up to COP26, the UK worked with every nation to reach an agreement on how to tackle climate change, taking it from being a fringe issue to a global priority. World leaders arrived in Scotland, alongside tens of thousands of negotiators, government representatives, businesses and citizens, for twelve days of talks. To do its part, the fashion industry is ramping up its climate efforts. This post covers what’s new in the Fashion Industry Charter For Climate Change initiative.

Over the past few years, the conversation on fashion sustainability has become a hot topic as brands race to reveal various eco-minded strategies ranging from committing to reach net zero or the initiative to become carbon positive (meaning that businesses are drawing more carbon from the atmosphere than is emitted). While these strategies are promising, the fashion industry still has a lot of work ahead of them to help in the fight against climate change.

(A video of the Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action at COP24. Video courtesy of the The Fashion Industry Charter on YouTube)

In 2020, a report by the Global Fashion Agenda found the fashion industry’s emissions are in fact set to rise to around 2.7 billion tons a year by 2030 if existing measures stay the same. Based on the current trajectory, fashion’s emissions would in fact double the maximum level required to be in line with the Paris Agreement’s goal to keep global warming to 1.5°C.

Mission of the Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Change. (Source: United Nations Climate Change)

“This is an important milestone for the Fashion Charter, as it increases the ambition level in an effort to align the industry with 1.5 degrees,” said Stefan Seidel of Puma, a co-chair of the Fashion Industry Charter steering committee. “It is a signal that we need to work closely together with our peers, our supply chain, policymakers and consumers to get on the track to net-zero.”

This is why the United Nations Fashion Industry Charter For Climate Action – which launched in 2018 and was signed by 130 brands, including Burberry, Chanel and Gucci-owner Kering—is ramping up its efforts to diminish fashion’s environmental impacts, with brands committing to cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030 (compared to the prior target of 30%) or setting Science Based Targets, an initiative that sets out a roadmap to cut emissions in line with the Paris Agreement.

“We realised [the 2018 Fashion Charter] isn’t enough any longer,” Niclas Svenningsen, manager of Global Climate Action at UN Climate Change, said at the Fashion Charter event in Glasgow. “We need to make it stronger, more concrete, more ambitious.”

LVMH, owner of Louis Vuitton, Dior and Givenchy, has signed up to the Fashion Charter for the first time—an important move considering the power that the firm holds in the fashion industry.

The Fashion Industry Charter For Climate Change initiative is going beyond the commitments to cut emissions more swiftly, the Charter has also set a new goal for 100% of “priority” materials – such as cotton, viscose, polyester, wool and leather – to be low climate impact by 2030. The agreement particularly points to materials that can be recycled in a closed loop, and are deforestation-free, conversion-free (meaning natural ecosystems are not destroyed during the process) and produced using regenerative methods.

Textile Exchange and Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action 2025. Recycled Polyester Challenge. (Photo Credit: Textile Exchange)

 

“It really sets the picture for where the industry needs to be heading when it comes to sourcing materials,” stated Claire Bergkamp, chief operating officer at Textile Exchange, one of the signatories of the Fashion Charter, told Vogue, adding that financial incentives for brands is crucial in order to reach the target set (more than 50 companies, including the likes of Kering, Stella McCartney and Chloé, have now called on governments to implement policy change on this).

As additional change under the new agreement which will have a substantial impact is the emphasis on labels needing to work with their suppliers to decrease emissions – especially considering that the greater part of emissions come from the supply chain. The new version of the Charter pledges to phasing out coal from tier one and tier two suppliers by 2030, as well as no new coal power by 2023, in addition to assisting suppliers to implement science-based targets by the end of 2025.

“The suppliers depend on the brands,” Rubana Huq, former president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, highlighted during a panel discussion. “Unless we’re all in it together, unless we have a collaborative strategy, nothing’s really going to work.”

The commitments are undeniably a huge step forward for the fashion industry, some campaigners still believe that the plans did not go far enough. “[The] Charter misses the mark by not committing the industry to transition to 100% renewable energy in its supply chain by 2030, which would be critical to achieving its goal,” Muhannad Malas, senior climate campaigner at Stand.earth, said in a statement to Vogue M, while noting there are signs of “encouraging progress”.

Scientific experts and politicians also argue that enforcement is required to guarantee that the Fashion Industry Charter goals aren’t simply aspirational. “What’s good is that it sets science-based targets – this is the gold standard for emissions reductions, so that is very meaningful,” Maxine Bedat, founder of the New Standards Institute, commented. “[But] what is the penalty if these targets are not achieved?”

Given the magnitude of the climate crisis the earth is facing, we understand that fashion urgently needs to do its part. Will these new commitments from fashion companies mark a real turning point for the industry? “[The] science is clear: we have to do this,” Svenningsen said. “We don’t have a choice.”

H&M’s Eco-Friendly Holiday 2021 Collection. (Photo Credit: H&M)

In an industry where individuality is prized and conformity is shunned, this list of fashion companies who have gotten onboard for one goal, saving the planet, is quite impressive. Here are the current signatories to the Fashion Industry Charter For Climate Action commitment:

Signatories

ALDO Group, Adidas AG, AGI Denim, Aigle, AKKUS, American & Efird (HK) Ltd., American Eagle Outfitters, A.P. Møller-Maersk A/S, Anko, Anya Hindmarch, Aquitex, Arc’teryx, Artistic Milliners, Asia Pacific Rayon, ASICS, Berbrand Srl, Bottletop, Burberry, Capranea Sports AG, CCC Capital Group, CHANEL, Chenfeng Group Co., Ltd, Circular Systems S.P.C., Clover Global Limited, CODOGIRL, Craghoppers, Crystal International Group, Dai, DBL Group, Decathlon, Denim Expert Limitedqq, Dare2b, Elevate Textiles, El Corte Ingles, Esprit,  Etam Group, Evea Eco Fashion, Farfetch, Fast Retailing, Fenix Outdoor International AG, Fossil Group, GANNI, GANT AB, Gap Inc., G-Star RAW, Good Fabric, Groupe Rossignol, Grupo SOMA, Guess? Inc., HAGLÖFS AB,  Hakro GmbH, Hanbo Enterprises Ltd., Hansoll Textile Ltd., Hermes International, House of Baukjen, H&M Group, Hong Kong Non-Woven Fabric Ind. Co. Ltd., Hop Lun Ltd, Hugo Boss AG, HWASEUNG Enterprise, Inditex, Interloop Limited, John Smedley Ltd, K-Boxing, Kering Group, KiK Textilien und Non-Food GmbH, Kmart Australia Limited, Kmart Group, Lacoste, Lenzing AG, Lever Style Inc., Levi Strauss & Co, LIMY Inc dba Reformation, Liverpool LA, Lojas Renner,  Loomstate, L SAHA, lululemon athletica, LVMH, Mammut Sports Group AG, Mango, Mantis World,             Mulberry Group plc, Nanushka, New Balance Athletics Inc, Nike, Inc., NOABRANDS, Otto Group, Paris Good Fashion, Pattern SpA, Peak Performance Production AB, Pinneco Research Ltd., PVH Corp, PIDIGI S.P.A, Primark, Princess Polly, PUMA S.E., Ralph Lauren, Regatta Group, Reserva, Re:newcell AB, RT Knits Ltd, Salomon, Sateri, Schoeller Texti AG, Shokay, Simple Chic Women, SKFK-Skunkfunk, SLN Tekstil ve Moda San. Tic. A.S, Stella McCartney, SunRise Group, Sympatex Technologies GmbH, Superdry plc, Taiga Apparel (Pvt) Ltd., TAL Apparel Ltd.,Target Corporation,  Target Australia, Tendam Global Fashion Retail, Textil Santanderina, S.A., The Forest Trust, The R Collective, The RealReal, The Schneider Group, Tchibo, Tintex Textiles, S.A.,  TOM TAILOR, Tropic Knits Ltd, VASI Group Companies, VF Corporation, Vivida Lifestyle Ltd., YKK Corporation and Worn Again.

(SOURCE: United Nations for Climate Change)

 

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IS RENTING CLOTHING REALLY BETTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT?

Renting a pair of denim pants. (Photo Credit: wabeno/iStock, cumhurkaplan/iStock)

After decades of scientists and environmentalists warning us of the affects of global warming, we are sadly starting to see the result of our inaction. In North America, the northwestern region is literally on fire as Oregon and parts of California are battling blazing flames that are contributed to record breaking heat waves and extreme drought. This past week devastating floods hit West Germany and over 150 people have died due to the rapid flooding. And in many countries, June hit record high temperatures, which is a great cause of concern as the arctic is slowly melting and sea levels are rising. So, as governments from around the world continue to try and find solutions, such as electric cars and recycling programs, we can all try to do our part.

The fashion industry is a big contributor to global warming A report by the World Economic Forum this year indicated that our industry generates 5 percent of global emissions. It has taken decades to convince its major industry players to look for ways to go greener by using sustainable materials. But the high cost of using these types of fabrics and limitations on how to scale production presented challenges. So, in 2009, Rent The Runway was born, a concept that seemed like the perfect answer for fashionistas who wanted to replenish their wardrobes daily but still wanted to be environmentally responsible. Soon, renting designer looks became the craze and rental platforms were popping up around the world. Brands got in the act too, by launching their own rental services. According to GlobalData, the clothing rental business is predicted to be worth nearly $3.2 billion by 2029, and is being hyped as a possible solution to fashion’s environmental crisis. Not so fast…

An image of Rent The Runway. (Photo Credit: Getty Images for Rent the Runway)

Some in the industry believe that by renting clothes they were doing something positive for the environment; brands were creating less and therefore, less waste was being produced. But today, research has found that renting clothes could actually be worse for the environment. According to a scientific study recently released by Lahti University of Technology (LUT) in Finland, which was published in the scientific journal Environmental Research Letters and reported on in The Guardian, renting clothes produces higher greenhouse gas emissions generated by shipping items back and forth from consumers to warehouses. And let’s not forget about the constant dry cleaning of the clothing.  The study found that in terms of environmental impact, the fashion rental process could actually be worse than buying and throwing away new pieces of clothing.

According to the Finnish study, researchers analyzed the environmental impact of five different scenarios for textile “ownership” and “end-of-life,” including clothing rental, recycling, re-selling, or wearing items for more or less time before throwing them away. This was something that had not previously been considered.

The results were surprising. Renting clothes was found to have the highest climate impact (specifically higher greenhouse gas emissions). Researchers concluded that this could be even worse than throwing out clothes after one wear. These findings are especially shocking as many of these fashion rental services present themselves as an eco-conscious alternative to conventional shopping.

According to research, renting clothes was found to have higher climate impact compared to throwing them away. (Photo Credit: Angela Bailey/Unsplash)

Specifically, the study implies that the numerous round trips between renters and warehouses, and therefore the substantial amount of transportation involved, play a key role in driving up greenhouse gas emissions. Correspondingly, the excessive dry cleaning of these rented articles of clothing also have a significant impact on the environment.

Ultimately, fashion rental companies would have to transform their logistics to make their services eco-friendlier. If they can achieve this, then the environmental impact of renting apparel would be on par with clothing resale, although this does not appear to be the most eco-friendly option either, according to the findings in the Finnish study. However, rather than trying to solve fashion’s environmental crisis, renting should be recategorized. “We should think of renting like second-hand shopping,” said Dana Thomas, author of Fashionopolis: The Price of Fast Fashion and the Future of Clothes. “It’s not something we do all the time, instead of buying our clothes and swapping out outfits nonstop, but on occasion, when the need arises, like proms or weddings.”

This new study also found many fashion rental brands misuse the phrase “circular economy” (the system of sharing, leasing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing and recycling existing materials and products as long as possible), as a form of greenwashing. “No executive wants to overhaul their business, and that’s what ‘going green’ will require, not tweaks but an entire overhaul,” said Thomas. “They are too focused on short-term gains to invest in long-term benefits. Only regulation will solve that problem. No company, in any industry, will volunteer to take a loss for the sake of the planet. They’ll do so when it’s the law. The biggest obstacle is greed.”

The Recycling Logo. (Photo Credit: Elle Magazine)

In the end, the Finnish researchers concluded that the greatest solution is to purchase fewer articles of clothing and to wear them as much as possible before reselling or donating them. And. according to Dana Thomas, “You want to be sustainable? Buy less, buy better.”

So tell us, as an aspiring designer, how are you reducing your carbon footprint to become a more sustainable brand?

INNOVATIVE SUSTAINABILITY IN TEXTILES

Fashion and Substainability. (Photo Credit: Miss Owl)

DO YOU HAVE A CLEAR FASHION CONSCIENCE?

If you’re like us, you probably spent some of your Covid lockdown time cleaning out your closets (and if you didn’t you should). How many of you have a clear fashion conscience? Was every purchase justified? Or, did you discover that some of the clothes and shoes in your closet you never wore, not even once? Or maybe you wore them only twice? Well, it’s time to take stock of your buying habits and your carbon footprint. To get a clear fashion conscience, next time you’re thinking of making purchase, ask yourself, “am I doing all I could to help”?

 

THE POLLUTION INDUSTRY

The fashion industry is one of the biggest culprits in causing pollution and damage ing our earth. By 2030, it is predicted that the industry’s water consumption will increase by 50 percent to 118 billion cubic meters (or 31.17 trillion gallons). Its carbon footprint will increase to 2,791 million tons and the amount of waste it creates will hit 148 million tons, according to The Fashion Law website (TFL).

Today more than ever, designers, brands and retailers are looking for ways to reduce their negative impact on the environment. Brands are embracing sustainable cotton initiatives to: reduce water, energy and chemical use; new dyeing technology to reduce water consumption by up to 50 percent; as well as numerous energy and chemical saving schemes throughout the supply chain. In the UK, the result of this work is percolating through to retailers, with a reduction in the carbon and water footprints per ton of clothing of 8 percent and 7 percent respectively since 2012, according to TFL.

Eco Conscious Meets Fashion Conscious. (Photo Credit: Carrygreen)

The movement towards eco fashion is growing quickly. Followers of the movement believe that the fashion industry has an obligation to place environmental, social, and ethical improvements in their practices at every level of the supply chain. One of the goals of sustainable fashion is to create a thriving ecosystem and enriched communities through its activity. Some examples of this include: prolonging the lifecycle of materials; increasing the value of timeless garments; reducing the amount of waste; and reducing the harm to the environment created as a result of producing clothing.

Why Sustainable in Fashion Matters. (Photo Credit: Sustainable Fashion Academy)

Textile designers around the world are looking for innovative techniques to produce fabrics in a sustainable manner. There are a few pioneering companies that are creating innovative textiles, such as biodegradable glitter and fabrics created from seaweed. Here are a few companies that are making a big difference.

ALGIKNIT

The company Algiknit produces textile fibres extracted from kelp, a variety of seaweed. The extrusion process turns the biopolymer mixture into kelp-based thread that can be knitted or 3D printed to minimize waste. The final knitwear is biodegradable and can be dyed with natural pigments in a closed loop cycle.

BIOGLITZ

BioGlitz produces the world’s first biodegradable glitter. Based on a unique biodegradable formula made from eucalyptus tree extract, the eco-glitter is fully biodegradable, compostable and allows for the sustainable consumption of glitter without the environmental damage associated with micro plastics.

FLOCUS

Flocus produces natural yarns, fillings and fabrics made from kapok fibers. The kapok tree can be naturally grown without the use of pesticides and insecticide in arid soil not suitable for agricultural farming, offering a sustainable alternative to high water consumption natural fiber crops such as cotton.

FRUMAT

Frumat uses apples to create a leather-like material. Apple pectin is an industrial waste product which can be used to create sustainable materials that are completely compostable, while still being durable enough to create luxurious accessories. The leathers can be dyed naturally and tanned without chemically intensive techniques.

DRITAN

DriTan is taking sustainable steps towards water-free leather manufacturing. The technology was developed by ECCO Leather and uses the moisture present in the hides as a key step in their tanning process. This innovative technology will change the leather industry and save 25 million liters of water a year. This technique also minimizes the discharge of waste water and the use of chemicals.

MYLO

Mylo is a sustainable leather grown from mycelium, which has its root structure in mushrooms. In nature, mycelium grows underground in soil, forming networks of threads that help recycle organic matter on the forest floor, while providing nutrients to plants and trees. The threads interweave and self-assemble themselves into a 3D matrix that can spread for miles. Bolt Threads Mylo material looks like hand-crafted leather and shares leather’s warm touch and suppleness. Mylo can be produced in days, without the need for animal hides or the toxic chemicals used in the production of synthetic leathers.

RECYCROM

Recycrom is turning waste into colors by building on its “Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle” mission. Recycrom is a patented, sustainable range of synthetic colored dyestuff powders made from 100% recycled textile cotton waste and textile scraps from used clothing and manufacturing waste. The dyes utilize eco-sustainable inputs without using chemical dyes and harming the environment. When dyed using Recycrom colors, the fabrics have a washed-out and natural look that complements today’s current fashion trends. Brands can collaborate with the inventors at Officina+39 to make Recycrom custom dyes using a manufacturers’ own scraps/textile waste.

THE ECO MOVEMENT IS GROWING

While creating sustainable textiles is only one step to creating an eco-friendly brand, it’s refreshing to see so many fashion companies looking for ways to make a global impact on the environment. Stella McCartney has been ahead of the movement and has always produced her collections in an ethical manner. Today fashion brands have plenty of choices to reduce their carbon footprint.

Stella McCartney’s Spring 2020 Ad Campaign. (Photo Credit: Stella McCartney)

So tell us, what are you doing to reduce your carbon footprint?

RETHINKING FASHION AND REDUCING THE INDUSTRY’S CARBON FOOTPRINT

The most memorable eco-friendly Red Carpet looks. (Photo Credit Vogue)

In only a few short months Coronavirus turned the world upside down. Hard to believe this could ever happen, right? Not only were we forced to stay-at-home and students were expected to complete their studies online, but schools and businesses are now having to re-evaluate the way they conducted business in the past and are re-imagining new ways to move forward into the future.

One of the hardest hit industries affected by the pandemic is fashion. To help get through the crisis and to offer some advice, numerous publications including Vogue, are hosting Zoom seminars where editors and designers discuss the future of our industry.

For years the fashion industry has been debating the future of the business; is the old business model still relevant today? Are fashion shows necessary? Well, thanks to COVID-19, the industry to being forced to get off the dime. Among the issues? What is the industry really doing when it comes to the environment in terms of reducing fashion’s carbon footprint, sustainable fabrics and the overstock of garments.

In the mid 2000s, when I was an editor covering fashion designers for Woman’s Wear Daily, I remember Donna Karan complaining about the fashion cycle. Donna was against the concept of ‘pre-collections’ which added additional seasons to an already crowded fashion calendar. And, she would argue that store deliveries made no sense, as in, why are Spring clothes shipped in February, just to be marked down in May when consumers are actually buying spring clothes?

Well, today, finally, this is issue has reemerged as a major point of discussion. Gucci’s Alessandro Michele just announced that he is reducing Gucci’s shows from 5 to 2 a year. Hey Donna Karan, you were years ahead of your time!

Alessando Michele of Gucci is giving fashion a new model. (Photo Credit: Gucci)

COVID-19 is not only causing fashion designers and industry leaders to re-evaluate the fashion calendar cycle and how many collections are needed a year, but the pandemic is also forcing brands to look at their practices and think about how they can do more to protect the environment. In an interview with Forbes magazine, Francois Souchet, who leads the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Make Fashion Circular initiative, is bringing together leaders from across the industry to create a circular economy for fashion through business innovation and better design. When asked if sustainability initiatives and investment at fashion brands were under threat, he believes that for brands who have adopted waste management and sustainability initiatives at the core of their business, their sustainable transformation plans are secure, post COVID. In contrast, he believes that the brands who have used sustainability as a marketing tool, rather than integral to their processes, that they are likely to suffer. Souchet says, “The closer (sustainability and investment) are to the core and the more integrated, the harder they are to cut off. For some businesses, it will be a question of survival, so it is quite difficult to predict what will happen.”

Echoing Souchet, Dr. Hakan Karaosman, a fashion supply chain and sustainability expert at the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe declared, “Sustainability as a marketing tool will go—inherent sustainability will stay.” Also, he claimed the biggest problem in the fashion industry is the “fragmented supply chain,” calling for a “restructuring” across all tiers. Lean, simple and transparent supply chains are proving the most resilient during this crisis, he said, and this is what brands are likely to favor as they emerge from the crisis.

In an interview with Forbes magazine, Karl-Hendrik Magnus, Senior Partner at McKinsey and Company in Frankfurt and leader of the Apparel, Fashion & Luxury Group said that: “consumers have seen how vulnerable the entire world is, and the whole crisis has raised awareness for social and environmental sustainability, even among those that were not previously onto the topic.” Due to the global shutdown, major cities are seeing a reduction in air pollution, and the industries carbon footprint has been reduced, so moving forward, consumers will demand sustainable clothing.

According to McKinsey research, a return to pre-crisis consumer behavior is unlikely. McKinsey collected data from 6,000 consumers across the UK, Germany, France, and Spain. The results showed that an additional 16% would now seek products with sustainable credentials once shops reopen, 20% intend to reduce their overall spending for the rest of the year and 45% would look favorably upon companies that communicate with concern and purpose rather than prices and products.

So, what should the fashion industry change post COVID to protect the environment? Well, according to Céline Semaan, founder of Slow Factory, a sustainability literacy non-profit that hosts global sustainability education summits and works in partnership with global brands, including Adidas, says “Everything. From the fast-paced fashion calendar to the overproduction of goods that encourage (and depend on) overconsumption to sustain its broken economic model; to the exploitation of land, labor, and exotic animals, to the way it capitalizes on movements such as Earth Day and all efforts around that day/month focusing on profit-driven initiatives. Everything.

The fact remains that global brands such as H&M and Zara, to name a few, still create so many garments a year that end up in landfills.  Do consumers really need all these clothes? The answer is NO. Brands need to focus on quality vs quantity, as well as selling garments in the actual season. For example, fall/winter should arrive in stores in September and not get marked down until February.  This will help designers make a profit off their garments at full price and therefore they can create fewer seasons to stay afloat.

According to H&M Group’s CEO Helena Helmersson, “the company recently signed with the European alliance for a Green Recovery alongside Ikea, Unilever and others, who are committed to contributing to the post-crisis investment decisions needed to ‘reboot’ and ‘reboost’ our economy, taking into account climate change and circular economy as key pillars.”

H&M Conscious Collection. (Photo Credit: H&M)

For years, H&M store had a policy that offered anyone who brought in their old clothes for recycling to receive a discount for future purchases. Today, H&M is moving away from its fast fashion roots with their “Conscious” collection, which is completely made of materials like organic cotton and recycled polyester. and by 2030, H&M has set a goal to only use sustainably sourced materials.

And there are plenty of other brands who are trying to do their part to protect the environment and create ethical fashion brands. Let’s take a look:

People Tree was one of the fist sustainable fashion brands. Founded in 1991, this brand was the first to be awarded with the World Fair Trade Organization product label. People Tree invests heavily in sustainable and environmentally friendly practices, such as organic farming. The company also advocates and promotes fair wages, good working conditions, and only works with sustainable materials like organic cotton, natural fibers and chemical free dyes.

Actress Emma Watson and People Tree launched a clothing line together in 2010. (Photo Credit People Tree)

Another pioneer of sustainable fashion and circularity is Eileen Fisher. Every facet of Eileen Fisher’s design and manufacturing process is built to be as sustainable and eco-friendly as possible, from the eco-friendly materials used, to the ethical treatment of all her workers. Eileen Fisher uses creative processes and innovative techniques in order to limit textile waste. The company also initiated a program to buy back used items and to recycle them into new garments or their Waste No More team transforms used garments into one-of-a-kind art, pillows and wall hangings. To further reduce the brand’s carbon footprint, Eileen Fisher avoids air shipping.

Eileen Fisher’s Waste No More team transforms used garments into one-of-a-kind artworks, pillows and wall hangings. (Photo Credit: Eileen Fisher)

Tentree’s clothing is made entirely from ethically sourced and sustainable materials including cork, coconut and recycled polyester, all  produced in ethical factories.  The company is also committed to planting ten trees for each item purchased. To engage their clients, after each purchase, the customer receives a code so they can monitor the growth of their trees. Tentree is on track to plant one billion trees by 2030.

Tentree’s marketing initiative. (Photo Credit: Tentree)

Sustainability is key at Everlane as the brand recently launched a clothing line made from recycled plastic bottles and other reused materials. The brand also focuses on transparency to their customers, as they offer an exact breakdown of the cost of each item, as well as showing the factories where those garments are made. Everlane has built strong relationships with factory owners to guarantee that the employees and production meet Everlane’s high ethical standards.

Saitex jean production for Everlane. (Photo Credit: Saitex)

Denim is one of the harshest fashion items on the environment, but many denim brands are looking for ways to make sustainable denim. Huge amounts of water are needed to create only one pair of jeans, but now Levi’s has introduced a new collection called Water<Less; which uses up to 96% less water to create a garment. Across the board, Levi’s is committed to sustainability through the entire design and manufacturing process, including working towards 100% sustainably sourced cotton. Levi’s has also initiated recycling old jeans into creating home insulation.

Levi’s Waterless Campaign. (Photo Credit: Levi’s)

Reformation has become a cult favorite among the fashion “It-Girl” set. Not only are the clothes trendy and fun, but the brand is also environmentally conscious. Each look is created using upcycled and sustainable materials in fair wage markets; also, every item comes with a description and score of its environmental footprint to help customers understand the impact of their clothing. Since 2015, Reformation has been carbon neutral and the brand helps to protect deforested regions to offset its manufacturing. The company has also implemented a recycling program that their customers can sell their old clothing to Reformation to earn credit for future purchases.

Reformation’s recycling program campaign. (Photo Credit: Reformation)

Patagonia is known for its durable outerwear, but did you know that it also helps customers repair their clothing instead of buying new items? Their products are so indestructible that customers are encouraged to recycle their old Patagonia pieces and purchase only items second hand. In addition to using sustainable materials in each new garment, the company also follows fair-trade practices and strictly monitors its supply chain to make sure they are safe for the environment, workers and consumers. One of Patagonia’s main goals is to find solutions to environmental issues without causing unnecessary harm to the world.

Patagonia’s Campaign. (Photo Credit: Patagonia)

Contemporary fashion label GANNI has quickly become the go-to brand for street-style stars world-wide. Nicolaj Reffstrup, co-owner of GANNI, is implementing strategies to become an environmentally-friendly brand. One strategy is that the brand’s Denmark stores are combining fashion rental, an outlet to test resale of older styles, samples, and prototypes called Postmodern (which they intend to take online), and a re-structured merchandising strategy, which will downsize their collections by offering less styles, so the store will hold less volume, but there will be more drops.  In addition, Reffstrup said that every fourth drop of products will be “made of recycled or deadstock fabric,” and this is being built into their range planning and material ordering processes.

GANNI Repeat, A new sustainable rental service. (Photo Credit: GANNI)

Footwear & Carbon Footprint

According to Adidas, the footwear industry emits 700 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, every year. That’s equivalent to 80,775,444 homes’ energy use for one year. For a single pair of running shoes made of synthetic materials that translates to having a carbon footprint of somewhere between 11.3 and 16.7 kilograms of CO2. To change this, Adidas and shoe brand Allbirds have teamed up to make the first net zero carbon shoe. Adidas with their End Plastic Waste initiative and Allbirds’ Tread Lighter Together initiative marks the first time in history that Adidas has collaborated with another footwear brand not under its own umbrella. To quote Tim Brown, co-founder and co-CEO of Allbirds, “Our hope is that the future is more about collaboration than it is about competition.”

As consumers are focusing on more environmentally friendly fashion product, every brand should look at ways to reduce their carbon footprint. Even small improvements can help protect the Earth. Every little bit helps!

Resources to Help Designers Become More Sustainable-Minded

As part of the CFDA Sustainability Initiatives’ ongoing commitment to sustainability through education and professional development, they have created a  sustainability-centered resource hub designed to provide open access resources and information specific to fashion design and business sustainable strategies. These resources are intended for everyone- for CFDA Members, educators, students, professionals, designers, and anyone in our community interested in learning more about sustainability and sourcing relevant contacts. An annex to that initiative is a Guide to Sustainable Strategies Toolkit which helps map and frame sustainable priorities. Also part of the initiative is the CFDA A-Z Materials Index  and, in partnership with NYU Stern Center for Sustainable Business, their KPI Design Kit, a Sustainable Strategies Playbook for Measurable Change.  A Key Performance Indicator (KPI) is a measurable value that demonstrates how effectively a company is achieving key business objectives.

 

Re/make, is a community of millennial and Gen Z women whose mission is to put an end to fast fashion by training women leaders around the globe to: host workshops, panels, and webinars to educate, inspire, engage, and uplift the voices of their community. In turn, the community hosts film screenings, clothing swap parties, and educational panels to mobilize others in the fight against fast fashion. The organization offers documentary films, fact-filled stories, campaign assets, and workshop materials to empower the community and recruit more women to the movement. Re/make drives transparency and accountability with their Seal of Approval process. They call out greenwashers and they push brands to disclose better information publicly. How are they making a difference? “Our mission is to make fashion a force for good.”

Ethical Fabric Suppliers

If you are a designer who is interested in moving into more sustainable, ethical fabrics and notions, then check out the directory on the website Change the World by How You Shop. 

Queen of Raw is a marketplace to buy and sell sustainable and deadstock fabrics and textiles, for students, clothing manufacturers, and designers. Using a technology engine to build a supply-chain management service, owner Stephanie Benedetto, started MateriaMX (short for Material Exchange) so monthly subscribers can map, identify, measure and trace waste throughout their supply chains in real-time, ultimately allowing them to minimize their excess fabric, water and other waste streams. The online platform uses blockchain and machine learning to find and track excess fabric— post-consumer waste, fabric on rolls, you name it—and then match it to factories, retailers, designers and other buyers looking for that material.

Fabscrap is another deadstock fabric resource.  According to info on their website, “each pound of waste from apparel production is associated with 2.06 pounds of CO2-E. In New York City, if 10% or more of your commercial waste is textile material, you are required to recycle itExtended Producer Responsibility polices for textiles are on the horizon. Fabscrap provides reports enumerating tonnage diverted from landfill and CO2 emissions saved. When disposed in landfill, the dyes and chemicals in fabrics can leach into the soil, contaminating local water systems.” Fabscrap claims that, “In the U.S., 48% of customers check tags for sustainability information. Brands that market their eco-conscious efforts and corporate social responsibility practices show increased sales.

Swatchon.com is an eco-friendly, recycled, organic wholesale fabric marketplace based in Korea with 3 yard minimums and free shipping.

Nature’s Fabrics is another great resource located in Pennsylvania with a very nice selection of organic fabrics to choose from.

Retail Consignment Resources

As a result of store closures due to the coronavirus pandemic, shoppers have rediscovered the online consignment clothing market that had its start in 2012. Companies like the The RealReal, Tradesy, Poshmark and ThredUp (who recently partnered with Walmart) and the resale handbag company, Rebag are making secondhand clothing not only affordable but ‘cool.’ As climate change concerns grow, especially among millennial and Gen Zers, according to the 2019 ThredUp Resale Report, “secondhand items are expected to occupy one-third of people’s closets by 2033.”

Macy’s, Madewell and Nordstrom, have all added secondhand clothing to their merchandise line-up. According to a January 31, 2020 article in The Washington Post,  “As resale goes mainstream – the resale market is expected to triple in three years – department stores have become an unexpected next step to woo young shoppers.”

So tell us, what steps are you taking to reduce your carbon footprint?