To receive the Luxiders Newsletter, sign up here.
It is becoming increasingly difficult to classify sustainable fashion, and worse, to differentiate it from non-sustainable. The very generalised and inaccurate definition of the word "sustainability" and its indiscriminate use as a marketing and greenwashing tool is unmanageable. Lack of information or masked information is slowing down and even stopping the process of change that the world's second most polluting industry, the fashion industry, mandatorily needs.
With thousands of questions we arrived at Première Vision, the world's leading trade fair for fabrics and textile materials. The organisation counts with the world's leading experts in textile materials and fabrics and we met them during our visit. They shed light on the doubts that textile and, especially fashion designers, as well as fashion journalists, have at the moment.
Ariane Bigot, Associate Fashion Director of Première Vision, understands well our anguish when it comes to assessing fabrics, which are never defined by her as sustainable, but as recycled, regenerative, organic... Instead of using such a general and ambiguous term, the term is always clear and not general. We like it.
Our half-hour meeting turns into an intense hour-and-a-half talk in which Bigot explains how to act in case of doubt, which fabrics or materials are really revolutionising the transition to responsible fashion and what other elements we have to take into account when using the word sustainability.
"It is the beginning of the progression" - she start saying - "The evolution is coming slowly. There is nothing really surprising, something completely new. The fashion industry is looking for something completely new and revolutionary, but the processes need time to change. Now in recycled polyester we have fancy alternatives, like jacquards, guipure, laces...,and in embroideries of recycled sequins. This is new, but recycled polyester is not new, it is in evolution. Other example, in the begining recycled polyester was really rude, hard to treat. Now it is very difficult to see even the difference between recycled and new polyester".
The eco-responsible transformation of the industry can be felt at every stage of the value chain. The use of waste for the creation of new materials and also for dyeing, and traceability continue to gain momentum, from sourcing to measuring social and environmental impact. Also the dyes, printing and finishing stages are aligned with environmental management criteria to reduce the impact of water, energy, gas emissions, chemical substance usage and waste volume.
The Smart Creation space at the Première Vision Paris show, exhibited the industry’s most committed, inspiring and even visionary companies. There we found eco-designed, organic or recycled materials; sustainable finishings and treatments (dyes, treatments, prints); innovative and responsible design and production processes; products and technological solutions facilitating eco-design and traceability; global circular approaches; and more. On the other hand, the Eco-Innovation forum launched a cutting-edge selection of the show’s creative and responsible offer to promote the sustainable products, developments and approaches of companies exhibiting there.
Viscose with FSC Certification
Among the new materials we discovered, FSC-certified viscose stands out, which now allows the creation of satins and lace using cellulose fibres from FSC-certified wood.
From Waste to Cellulosic Textiles
Pla. Bio-Sourced polylactides
We also found a diversification of developments using bio-sourced polylactides made from corn, beet or sugar cane residues, for use in silks or ready-to-wear knits. The eco-hybrid Solotex, a highly elastic fibre designed with a blend of bio-based PTT containing 40% plant-based raw materials and recycled PET, stands out in this section.
This is another major breakthrough. "It can put an end to the problem of microplastics," says Bigot. Virtuous compositions of membrane fabrics, with a base of recycled polyester or biodegradable polyester and a bio-sourced polyurethane membrane, with waterproof, breathable or wind resistant properties.
They reduce the chemical impact through the use of water-repellents with olive oil or bio-based coating.
Recycled Noble Materials
Also important is the trend towards the use of recycled noble materials derived from animals: 90% al 100% de silk, camel wool or cashmere content in blends, used for knitted and woven fabrics. Recycled schappe silk is made from the waste accumulated during spinning or weaving.
Regenerative farming techniques are an amazing solution. They include no tillage and no application of synthetic chemical inputs, implementation of crop rotations and cover crops that improve soil nutrient status, and sustainably managed grazing. These practices restore soil fertility, improve water retention and preserve biodiversity. Organic farming imposes rules for cultivation, whereas regenerative agriculture has a results-based focus, and its practices may differ.
With the goal of cleaning the oceans, the challenge of recycled synthetics is transforming the fashion industry. After meeting Seaqual, a polyester made from recycled marine litter and PET bottles; Econyl, a regenerated polyamide made from recycled fishing nets; and Repreve, made from bottles collected in the ocean, within 50 km of the coast; we say hello to other sources:
For a long time, linen, hemp, nettles and kapok have had a discreet market presence. Their inveronmental performances have enabled them to make a comeback. They now blend in with all kind of composition to create varied end products, enlivened by bright colours. All of them assure economic use of water, minimum imputs, crop rotation, carbon sink and zero waste.
The Spring-Summer 2024 color range encourages us to discover a variety of options and solutions, balanced between dream and reality.There is an evolution in natural dyes, made out of plants (indigo, genet) or fruits (Japanese plum), or Nano Earth dye technology with minerals. They provoque color ranges from pale to saturated tones, processes without tonic mordant, used on natural plant and animal fibers (cotton and silk) and cellulosic fibers (viscose and lyocell)
The novelties come from food dyes made from food waste: matcha tea, rooibos tee, and coffee. Also from the use of the natural colours of animal hair and plant fibres, in their range of white, greys and browns. In this case, it is very important the strict control of substances used and pigments coming from recycling, machines and technologies enabling greater colour absorption, reduced water and energy use and the generation of fewer effluents. As new technologies, we love:
Recycrom® develops pigments using textile residues, worn-out clothing and production offcuts, processed into an extra-fine coloured power that can be used on cotton and plant fibres, wool, and polyamide. Easier to filter, this pigment colouring requires minimal wastewater treatment.
New plant-based dying processes, using fruits, flowers, plants or agri-food vegetable residues to dye, without the use of toxic mordants, in a wide range of colours and stand the test of time and use.
The Colorifix® technology is based on microbiology and on replicating DNA as it is found in nature in order to produce pigments. The fermentation of agricultural by-products can be used to create colorants thanks to the action of micro- organisms whose DNA contains enzymatic colour catalysts.