Amid consumer demands for greater sustainability as well as improved fit, comfort and performance, the textile industry responded with a variety of innovations in 2019, which will start to be seen in spring and fall 2020 collections.
Dovetailing with these efforts are technology providers that are offering various solutions to help companies better manage supply chains and sourcing aimed at creating more circular economies. Companies are also forging partnerships to meet these new demands.
This past fall, for example, Cone Denim and Jeanologia said they teamed to make denim more sustainable. The partnership involves Cone Denim tapping Jeanologia’s eco-responsible denim manufacturing process — which requires less water and energy as well as reducing the chemicals used in production and product finishing.
Cone Denim is showcasing the innovations in its spring 2020 collection. Steve Maggard, president of Cone Denim, said leveraging Jeanologia’s capabilities is “opening new possibilities to bring together eco-friendly manufacturing with creative fabric innovation.” Maggard said the partnership aligns with the company’s 2025 sustainability goals, which include “responsible manufacturing.” The goals were unveiled earlier this year, and are part of the company’s ongoing work to cut water use and greenhouse gas emissions.
Other sustainability partners of Cone Denim include Lenzing (Tencel), Repreve and Stony Creek Colors. This past August, Cone Denim said it partnered with the Crystal International Group to create the “Crystal X Cone” collection, which deploys sustainable and eco-friendly practices across the entire production process.
In November, Cone Denim teamed with Archroma, and is using the color technology and chemical company’s “One Way” sustainability solution. The service helps companies measure their environmental impact during production. Cone Denim is also part of Cotton Incorporated’s “Blue Jeans Go Green” recycling program. Prior efforts to bolster its sustainability efforts have helped Cone Denim cut water consumption by an average of 441 million liters a year while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 26 percent.
Another noteworthy collaboration in the textile market this year was DuPont Biomaterials linking with Lenzing on a sustainable fabric collection centered on materials derived from nature. The collection incorporates a blend of DuPont’s Sorona polymer fibers with Tencel Lyocell and Tencel Modal fibers, which can be used in ready-to-wear and intimate apparel as well as activewear and denim.
Regarding developing more “closed-loop” processes, Lenzing said earlier this month that it would be using Refribra technology in its Tencel Lyocell fibers. Refibra is 100 percent bio-based and is produced in a closed-loop process. The Tencel Lyocell with Refibra features up to 30 percent of recycled raw material, and includes blending post- and pre-consumer cotton waste.
Lenzing said its “five-year vision” is to produce the technology with up to 50 percent recycled content from post-consumer cotton waste. The company’s goal is to make textile waste recycling “as common as paper recycling.”
Recycled material also plays a key role in Isko’s “R-Two” program, which was unveiled earlier this year and centers on using a fabric blend of reused and/or recycled materials in its denim line. Isko said R-Two was developed to help supply chains reduce the oversourcing of raw materials and other materials used throughout the denim-making process. This is done by integrating a blend of reused cotton and recycled polyester to the fabric selection, which the company said is designed to improve “sourcing efficiency throughout the entire field-to-fabric production.”
Many of the innovations launched this past year also sought to create more eco-friendly products, but not at the expense of fit and performance. This past fall, for example, Candiani released biodegradable stretch denim, which is made from the mill’s patented Coreva Stretch Technology (a natural rubber fiber). The “bio-stretch” selvage denim was created in partnership with Dutch denim-maker Denham, and is part of Candiani’s “Life Is Movement” collection.
Biodegradable materials were also showcased during Première Vision Paris this past fall. Swiss textile solution provider Schoeller unveiled its ProEarth collection of sustainable, biodegradable textiles. The collection features Bluesign-approved fabrics that are made of biodegradable polyester. ProEarth is part of its Schoeller FTC line, which is a joint venture with Taiwanese Formosa Taffeta Co.
Brands also tapped the biodegradable trend this year. Just in time for holiday gift giving, Moncler debuted a bio-based and carbon-neutral unisex-style down jacket. The jacket is made from plant-based fabrics (derived from castor beans), which is a raw material that reduced carbon emissions by 30 percent versus similar items made from fossil fuels. The company noted that castor plants are renewable and sustainable, and can be cultivated in drier regions using minimal amounts of water.
Some of the textile innovations that entered the scene this year included groundbreaking science. Evrnu, for example, launched NuCycl, which is the firm’s first commercially available technology that takes old cotton garments and converts them into high-quality materials.
Apparel made with NuCycl technology can be disassembled at the molecular level, and then regenerated over and over again. This technology can help brands eliminate the “disposable” aspects of fast fashion, which is blamed for much of the environmental harm of the fashion industry.
Other notable technologies launched in 2019 that are helping textile companies, brands and retailers upgrade their sustainable practices include software aimed at creating greater clarity in sourcing. Inspectorio, the SaaS network solution provider, rolled out its “Rise Module,” which is a technology that allows companies to audit and generate compliance reports across production and supply chains, thereby creating “responsible sourcing.”
And during New York Fashion Week in September, industry start-up Thr3efold officially launched a beta version of its Ethical Manufacturing Platform, which helps fashion brands source ethical factories while also managing production processes.
It’s important to note that while 2019 marked a number of initiatives and innovations to improve the overall sustainability of the fashion industry, many brands and companies have been engaging in this work for some time.
Lycra, for example, adopted a “sustainability framework” in 2008, and describes the work as “a journey of continuous improvement.” The company’s framework for sustainability has three pillars: corporate responsibility; manufacturing excellence, and product sustainability. Regarding product sustainability, that means “developing products that use fewer resources and improve the environmental performance of fabrics and garments throughout their life cycle.” It also means bringing to market garments made from fibers that last longer. The company estimates that increasing the “active wear life of an item of clothing by just nine months can reduce carbon, waste, and water footprints by 20 to 30 percent.”
For 2020, mills, fiber firms, brands and retailers are expected to deepen their commitment to people and the planet. And partnerships and technological innovations are expected to play a critical role in affecting change. Trade shows will also be key.
Earlier this month, as part of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals, industry executives convened in New York to hash out a road map for this work. The event was hosted by the United Nations Office for Partnerships and included the Texpertise Network of Messe Frankfurt along with the Conscious Fashion Campaign.
Messe Frankfurt said the goal is to integrate the SDGs into more than 50 international textile trade events held across the globe. Detlef Braun, a board member of Messe Frankfurt, described sustainability as a “topic currently exerting a significant influence on the global textile industry.”