Your July 2019 reading list

This month’s reading list focuses on traceability and labels – one of TCBL Foundation’s core values - and production rhythm, from slowest to very fast fashion. We also review important steps in sustainable denim production, new innovations and new jobs.

A label story

Traceability in the fashion system has been addressed by numerous researches and innovation systems due to the evident need for global solutions –TCBL member projects on this topic include Etichetta Parlante (a traceable label), the program Thela by Cleviria to trace the supply chain, and Circular Fashion, a consultancy.


Gaps and points of improvement

One of the critical points, according to this recent publication of University of Borås, is that currently used traceability tools as QR codes and RFID chips are easy to copy. The university’s researchers set up and tested a secure technology to avoid falsification.

The status quo

Another critical point is that there are too many different certifications so it’s a challenge to know and recognize them all. Find here a detailed guide on certifications by sustainable fashion journalist Alden Wicker. These certifications doesn’t use harmonised criteria: some consider only environmental sustainability, others focus on fair trade and worker condition, making it difficult to compare products.

Based on an independent audit, German consumer product testing organisation Stiftung Warentest, declared that the Global Organic Textile Standard ranked best in the test “Traceability of Clothing with Textile Seals”. GOTS is a non-profit organisation developed by leading international standard setters in the USA, Germany and the UK that includes both environmental and social standards.

A colossal solution

Vogue Business reports that H&M, Target and PVH Corp will announce a partnership this month with Microsoft, Waste Management and other fashion organisations to establish a global standard for sharing information about fashion products. The Circular ID, just like food labels, will provide details on recycling and also the information from traditional garment tags like brand, price, dye process. According to the project coordinator, Natashta Franck this system will help also the everyone in the supply chain to reason in the terms of circular economy.

image: PILI.bio

Making Denim Circular

Denim production is a special segment of the fashion industry thanks to the combination of high demand and polluting fabrication processes. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Making Fashion Circular project brought together more than 40 denim experts from academia, brands, retailers, manufacturers, collectors, sorters and NGOs to develop circular denim production principles. The Jeans Redesign Guidelines, published this month, set out minimum requirements on garment durability, material health, recyclability and traceability. The Jeans Redesign will drive brands to join the project and produce jeans in line with the guidelines. These jeans should be produced using cellulose fibres from regenerative, organic or transitional farming methods, be free of hazardous chemicals and conventional electroplating.

The guidelines are truly current: this report by the NGO Clean Clothes Campaign reveals Turkish denim workers who used potassium permanganate used to create the bleached look in denim products were suffering from respiratory problems and skin irritation. The organisation is calling for legislation to control occupational exposure to the chemical, including on the use of protective equipment and maximum duration of exposure.

Denim industry uses petroleum-based indigo powder to dye denim among other toxic chemicals and reducing agents, but there are new options on the horizon. According to this publication, synthetic biology makes possible major control over processes that generate and apply indigo colour, significantly reducing ecological damage. A better, natural solution has been developed by French company PILI using fermentation and green-chemistry to create strong, brilliant colours as a scalable alternative. Dye-producer company Archroma presented last month at ITMA a dye that mimics indigo, completing their product line devoted to change denim dyeing substances.

A downside to less smelly gym clothes?

Polyester and other petroleum-based fibers repel water and dry quickly, so are a top choice in sportswear, but the downside is that they attract the oily compounds that cause body odor. Natural fibers including cotton, merino wool, and bamboo-based rayon get wet from sweat, but as the water evaporates, the odor (mostly) goes away. Combining these natural fibers with silver combines the best properties of fibers in a high quality anti-odor fabric – here’s a nice summary of this trend on Vox - but not-so-recent scientific research from the 2000s already indicated that silver nanoparticles can wash into the environment and they can be toxic to aquatic life. The Vox article suggests we shoud just “chill out” about body odour.

image credit: Purdue press release

Nuke your laundry

A graduate duo from the Purdue Polytechnic Institute present Presso, an alternative to washing machine. “Similar to how the microwave can be used as an alternative to the oven in order to quickly heat up food, Presso can be used as an alternative to the washing machine to quickly clean a piece of garment,” is how Jain, one of the founders, describes it. The steam-cleaning kiosk hopes to be available in hotels for fast garment cleaning. It uses 100 times less water and three times less electricity per garment than traditional laundry, taking only three to seven minutes to clean clothes through a combination of steam, a cleaning liquid and air drying.

Runway speed limit

In Summertime, fast fashion is even faster according to this poll by the Sourcing Journal. It found that britons are expected to spend 2.7 billion pounds on clothing they’ll wear only once this summer. According to this Vogue interview after haute couture fashion week, couture collections could be the other side of fashion’s speed limit as they create exclusively on demand and with high quality, selected material, not to mention their strong creative focus that highlights the artistic side of this industry.

Menawhile, the recent Yves Saint Laurent runway scandal in Malibu – an illegally staged fashion show that risked affecting a hidden beach’s delicate ecocystem – was reported in the media and runs contrary to the green efforts this season’s fashion shows. At Helsinki Fashion Week only sustainable designers can show their creations, with focus on innovative eco-materials and transparency of the supply chain. From this year only the use of non-animal-derived leather is permitted, as this article reports. Berlin Fashion Week also dedicated part of the programme to sustainable brands. This post suggests that Australia took the most extreme step: the slogan of Melbourne Fashion Week will be set around the concept of buying less.

New jobs

“Every year, $460 billion is lost to the economy just from the underutilisation of clothes. That’s value that the circular economy can help the fashion industry to unlock,” says Francois Souchet, lead at the Ellen MacArthur’s foundation Make Fashion Circular initiative. New figures are needed in the fashion system to support circular structure, and, eventually, to find hidden treasures. According to this Vogue Business article, circular fashion has created new job titles: bioengineers to help to scale up innovation, textile chemists that discover fibers, authenticators to safeguard luxury products, sustainability managers that help brands to keep up with the circular economy, circular design assistants that ensures design can work in a circular system, and textile recycling operations managers that handle recycling processes.

Posted By
Aniko Gal