NEW YORK — The concept and practice of sustainability has crystallized its importance and expanded its purview in the apparel and textile industry.
From environmental and conservation concerns to human and labor rights issues, experts feel companies have become more aware and knowledgeable in a range of areas impacted by manufacturing. They have also learned that smarter practices and procedures can make them more efficient and profitable while reducing their risks in legal, financial and public relations realms.
While speakers and attendees at a Textile Exchange Sustainable Apparel Workshop here this month felt the industry has come a long way from just adopting basic codes of conduct or following Environmental Protection Agency regulations, they agreed there is a long way to go.
Organizers laid the groundwork with some startling statistics:
• It takes 700 gallons of freshwater to make one cotton T-shirt.
• The textile industry accounts for 10 percent of total global carbon impact.
• According to the World Bank, 20 percent of industrial freshwater pollution comes from textile treatment and dyeing.
• For every U.S. citizen, 68 pounds of clothing is thrown away every year.
• Textile waste occupies nearly 5 percent of all landfill space in the U.S.
Nicole Bassett, founder of Sustainability in Review and a Textile Exchange ambassador, said, “It is important to be clear about the stage of a product’s life cycle when referring to an environmentally friendly attribute. A product’s supply chain is complex with many issues that need to be addressed. Understanding the whole gives better context to why you are addressing the issues you are. Break down your priorities based on impact and control.”
Caterina Conti, executive vice president, chief administrative officer and general counsel at Anvil Knitwear discussed why her company chooses to use organic cotton in its products. Conti noted that nearly 50 percent of all textiles are made of cotton. Local or regional impacts of cotton cultivation differ widely according to a number of factors, she said, including climate, natural resources available, pest complexes, chemical and water inputs and outputs, access to capital and farm production efficiency.
She presented information from Cotton Incorporated that shows how cotton production has improved, such as 50 percent more cotton is produced worldwide today on the same amount of land as compared to 40 years ago, and pest management strategies and other enhanced technologies have resulted in reduced insecticide applications in the U.S. and globally.
She emphasized, however, that organic cotton is produced under a production system that relies on ecological processes, biodiversity and health of soil — no pesticides, herbicides or genetically modified seeds allowed. In the U.S., it takes three years for a field to be eligible for organic certification under the USDA National Organic Program Certification Standards, Conti noted. Textile Exchange projected the global organic cotton market would increase to $6.2 billion in 2011, and to $7.4 billion in 2012, after growing 20 percent in 2010 to reach $5.6 billion.
Anthony Lilore, a founder of Restore Clothing, which makes garments out of recycled materials, also advocated for organic cotton.
He said nitrogen synthetic fertilizers are a major contributor to increased N2O emissions, which are 300 times more potent than CO2 as a greenhouse gas. He said it takes about a third of a pound of pesticides and herbicides to grow enough conventional cotton for just one T-shirt.
Lilore noted that traditional cotton fields can be transitioned to organic fields in two to three years.
“Organic farming methods use natural fertilizers, like compost and animal manure, that recycle the nitrogen already in the soil rather than adding more, which reduces both pollution and N2O emissions,” he said. “Organic cotton is grown using methods and materials that have a low impact on the environment. Organic production systems replenish and maintain soil fertility, reduce the use of toxic and persistent pesticides and fertilizers, and build biologically diverse agriculture.”
Brands that use organic cotton can also benefit from point of sale materials that show third-party certification. He did acknowledge that “growing organically takes more time, requires more knowledge and skill, and at least for now costs a bit more, but it is worth it since it doesn’t contain any hidden costs to our environment.”
Recycled cotton is possibly the best choice of all, Lilore said, because it helps reduce the harsh dyes, pesticides and herbicides of conventional cotton and the energy, water and human labor required for both conventionally and organically grown cotton.
“Recycling discarded fibers also helps divert millions of tons of textile waste entering our landfills each year,” he added.
Lilore also pushed for using recycled polyester, such as Unifi’s Repreve line made from used plastic water bottles. He said it saves landfill space, saves energy and water, and reduces chemical emissions.
Tricia Carey, USA merchandising manager for the textile fiber business unit at Lenzing, discussed the renewable and sustainable aspects of its fibers such as Tencel and Modal. Carey noted how Lenzing fibers are derived from the cellulose of beech trees that are grown on marginal land unsuitable for food crops. Lenzing’s closed-loop manufacturing system actually creates energy in the pulp-to-fiber process, she added. Lenzing markets its range of official certifications in the areas of sustainability and environmental standards, as well as its recent inclusion in the USDA Bio-preferred program as important aspects of its products.
Bryan Dill, director Archroma Global Services at Clariant Corp., outlined some new processes in textile dyeing meant to reduce energy and water use, and harmful chemicals.
These include a new dye called Drimaren HF that has a high fixation rate for cellulosics, meaning minimum coloring of effluent and a shorter process time.
There are also new metal-free, wet-fast acid dyes for nylon beginning to be used for swim and athleticwear, and “Pad-Ox” dyeing for denim, a continuous process in which the dye is fixed by a mechanism of oxidation-fixation without any previous washing process.
Dill said for more sustainable dyeing methods, brands should ask their fabric mills if they have wastewater treatment, what they are doing to cut water and energy usage, how they are managing chemical use, and how a brand can incorporate RSL (restricted substance list), Oeko-Tex and Bluesign standards and certification into material sourcing.
Bassett also recommended using certification from recognized organizations to back up claims and maintain standards, and show retailers and consumers a brand’s commitment. In addition to those Dill suggested, these include Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), Fairtrade Certified Cotton, USDA Certified Organic and Biobased, Intertek for recycled PET, Global Recycle Standard, Free2Work and the Workers Rights Consortium.
London’s newly opened @designmuseum will look back on the life and work of Azzedine Alaïa in a show that the designer helped to curate before he died of heart failure last month. The retrospective, which Alaïa had worked on with Mark Wilson, chief curator of the @groningermuseum, will look at the impact of his work worldwide. The show, “Azzedine Alaïa: The Couturier,” will run from May 10 to October 7. Read more about the exhibit on WWD.com #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @zefashioninsider)
@Pharrell and his wife Helen Lasichanh were among the stars that came out to celebrate @rimowa’s first pop-up concept shop. The space, which is located on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, draws inspiration from airport luggage carousels and lounge areas – and features the company’s luggage and accessories. If the pop-up is successful it could pave the way for addition temporary shops throughout the world. #wwdfashion (📷: Owen Kolasinski/BFA)
@carineroitfeld celebrated @crfashionbook’s first calendar last night with a dinner party at Spring Place in Manhattan. Photographed by @stevenkleinstudio, the calendar takes on a fitness theme and features @joansmalls, @gigihadid, @danielle_herrington_ – pictured here – and more. “[Carine Roitfeld] wanted me to feel sexy and she wanted me to be myself and feel it out on my own and do what I felt was right,” said Herrington, aka Miss October. #wwdeye
@saintrecords and @virgilabloh last night at @americanexpress’ “A Night With Success Makers” event. “I always bring it back to community because without that I wouldn’t have the courage,” said Knowles when asked how she has gotten where she is now. Read more highlights from their conversation on WWD.com. #wwdeye (📷: @lizdoupnik)
This Just In: Industry sources have told WWD that Anastasia Soare is rumored to be considering selling her beauty business, @anastasiabeverlyhills. According to those sources, Soare has tapped investment bank Imperial Capital to explore sale options for her eponymous beauty brand –– and with at least $340 million in net sales, this would be a big deal. Put in context of other recent transactions for makeup companies, Soare’s price tag could be in the billions if she were to sell the whole thing. #wwdnews #wwdbeauty (📷: @clint_spaulding)
@assouline’s latest book, “The Spirit of Bentley: Be Extraordinary” captures the adventurous attitudes and opulent lifestyles of @bentleymotors’ most creative owners and enthusiasts throughout the U.K. The 292-page hardcover has a section dedicated to showing its team of skilled artisans and photos of its most colorful owners, from George Bamford to designer @alicetemperley, pictured here by Aline Coquelle. #wwdeye
@google released its report on the most popular search terms this year. For fashion brands, the list was led by @gucci, the luxury brand that stunned the market last October when it pledged to stop using fur. Runner ups were @supremenewyork and @fashionnova, along with more established brands like @louisvuitton, @chanelofficial and @ysl. #wwdfashion (📷: @aitorrosasphoto)
In yet another fashion show shuffle, @elleryland is moving its show in sync with the Paris couture calendar — though the brand is still keeping one foot on the city’s ready-to-wear schedule. Their runway show in January will coincide with the launch of a new strategy: designing two main collections each year instead of four, which will then be released in four drops. “As we all know, the system needs to change. We need to show sooner to give time back to artisans and designers to do what they do best — create,” said founder Kym Ellery. #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @kukukuba)
@maxmara’s classic 101801 coat was the cornerstone of its pre-fall 2018 collection. The design team expanded the traditional double-breasted, kimono-sleeved style into a trapeze coat, lean belted styles and a peacoat and presented them in monochromatic looks – like the camel one pictured here. #wwdfashion #prefall18 (📷: George Chinsee)