Innovation in business models and supply chain systems is imperative in moving towards a more sustainable fashion future. There are a number of suppliers, many of whom are members of the SOURCE network, that are challenging and re-inventing the way that fibres, fabrics and garments are produced and sold. As part of the 2012 SOURCE Expo, we highlight the latest trends in Innovations from the supply sector and we highlight the producers and suppliers that are paving the way.
We take a special look at the following trends:
- Slow Textiles
- Future Fabrics
- Re-inventing the supply chain
- Herbal dyeing and digital printing
- Vertically integrating production
- Creative use of non-fashion materials
Image: Aimee Kent, textile designer
Herbal Dyeing & Digital Printing:
The textile industry is a large consumer of volatile chemicals and generator of pollutants. The processes that output the most pollutants within the textile industry include the coating, finishing, dyeing and printing processes.
This is an area that many suppliers are tackling through use of natural dyes, water-based inks using natural rather than chemical solvents, and digital printing that minimizes both chemicals and waste in the process.
Using a mixture of traditional screen-printing, hand-painting, resist techniques and digital printing, Aimee Kent, a Glasgow-based textile designer, has created bespoke textiles for designer Henrietta Ludgate and award-winning singer, Emeli Sande.
AO Textiles creates luxurious, ecological textiles for the fashion and interior industries. Specialising in hand marbling, natural dyeing, mixed media, weave and embroidery, AO textile designers, Emma d’Arcey, Karen Spurgin and Penny Walsh, all have a long history of working with the intricate complications of sustainable design. The result is bespoke, unique and lustrous fabrics made with expert craftsmanship and intricate attention to detail.
Aura Herbal is proving that natural dyes can do not mean compromising on design, quantity or quality. Through their innovative herbal dyeing process, they are able to offer a diverse range of high quality fabrics in myriad colours and prints – all of which are GOTS certified. Aura Herbal is able to dye fabrics up to 120” width and lengths of up to 1000 meters in different fabrics like voiles, poplins, twills, flannels, corduroys, denims, knits, silks, “khadi,” hemp, banana fibre, ramie and more.
Not only this but all Aura Herbal textiles are created using certified organic fabrics, textiles and yarns, and the dyeing, weaving, printing all is done under keen supervision to maintain quality standards.
Another pioneer of scalable herbal dyed textiles is Aurganik, a fabric brand owned by Indian-based company, Yuti Textile Processors Pvt. Ltd that has the capacity to produce 250,000 metres of woven textiles per day, 180 tonnes of knitted fabrics per month, and a capacity to dye batch sizes of 50 kgs, 100 kgs, 180 kgs, 300 kgs, 500 kgs and 1000 kgs.
Aurganik is going a long way to further reducing its impacts on the environment by powering its facilities using solar energy, rain water harvesting and recycled waste water and institutes a zero-waste management policy. Aurganik fabrics are also 100% GOTS certified.
And there’s also Earth-Tones International, a network of producers of organic dyed, batik, printed woven and knit cottons in Bali. Specialising in indigo stamp batik silk scarves, stamp batik cotton, high-end traditional woven textiles, cotton ikats and silk songkets, sourced from the indigenous textile communities of Indonesia, Earth Tones has become known for their beautiful and unique stamp batiking techniques.
Slow Fashion is a term coined in 2007 by academic and author Kate Fletcher, borrowing heavily from the Slow Food movement. Slow fashion is a shift to “quality over quantity” and is not based on seasonal trends.
It encourages education about the garment industry’s connection and impact on the environment and depleting resources, slowing of the supply chain to reduce the number of trends and seasons, to encourage quality production, and return greater value to garments removing the image of disposability of fashion.
More and more suppliers are beginning to embrace this approach to their products and services. One such innovative example is SLOWCOLOR, which offers premium, fairly-traded, environmentally responsible woven single and double ikat textiles made the slow way – handmade and naturally dyed.
As a social enterprise SLOWCOLOR focuses on the integrated bottom line: by paying artisans in India a life-changing living wage, using natural plant and mineral-based dyes and mordants and choosing fibres such as linen that grow naturally pesticide free and are not water intensive, SLOWCOLOR rejuvenates centuries-old fabric dyeing techniques and handlooming traditions, protects the environment and creates fabrics that are healthy for life.
Over the last ten years Textiles Environment Design (TED) at Chelsea College of Arts has been developing a set of practice-based sustainable design strategies that assist designers in creating textiles that have a reduced impact on the environment. This centre has been instrumental in shaping the sustainable future of textiles.
The TED strategies include both the ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ aspects of eco textile design – the established principles of materials and processes such as low toxicity/organics, new technologies and biomimicry along with the more conceptual ideas including short life/long life textiles, design for low launder and services design.
Many of these new innovative textiles using strategies such as those pioneered by TED have taken several years to reach commercial markets, but now we’re starting to see some exciting developments in textile innovation reaching the market.
The Sustainable Angle is one such organisation working to support forward-thinking projects that aim to minimise the environmental impact of the fashion industry.
Their main project is The Future Fabrics Expo, which focuses on innovation in the textile industry, and novel ideas to transform the fashion system and design practice to one which is less detrimental to environment.
Their studio currently displays a comprehensive range of over 500 womenswear, menswear, tailoring, casual, performance and eveningwear fabrics sourced from more than 50 international mills, which are suitable for a range of markets, minimum and lead-time specifications, and price points.
Tosheka Textiles is another supplier that is bringing new, interesting materials to the market. Tokesha is social entrepreneurial enterprise in Kenya with extensive experience in commercial and community based textile production using natural and recycled fibres. Using traditional weaving, knitting, and crochet techniques of Kenya artisans, they’ve recently premiered a new fabric made primarily from clean recycled plastic, thus far this material has been used to make colourful, woven handbags.
Tosheka also does organically grown, natural dyed, “ Kamba” cotton, a superior quality cotton grown and handspun by the Akamba people in Wote, Makueni, Kenya. Available large quantities, various gauges and in wide variety of naturally-dyed colours.
Re-inventing the supply chain:
The apparel value chain is often thought of in the usual linear way : fibre producer > textile manufacturer > apparel manufacturer > retailer/brand > consumer. The textile and clothing value chain buyer-driven, dominated by large retailers, branded manufacturers and marketers, which control global production networks and stipulate supply specifications. It’s a fairly rigid supply chain with profit margin pressures that tend to squeeze those at the bottom, those that typically have the least amount of economic or political power to change the system.
Over the last couple of years, several suppliers and platforms have been working to re-invent and redefine how apparel supply chains work, in ways that are more environmentally and socially responsible, circular, transparent and built on long-term relationship building.
The Supply Change curates, connects and creates relationships between the fashion industry and global artisan communities in an effort to redefine fashion supply chains.
The Supply Change has facilitated relationships between big name brands such as American Eagle Outfitters, Chico’s and Save Khaki with artisan producer groups from Africa, Ecuador and India.
They are about to launch immersive Sourcing Safari’s for fashion design and production professionals to explore opportunities of producing profitable products with positive impact. Sourcing Safari’s will facilitate closer relationships between the design community and artisan social enterprises around the world. 2013 will bring attendees to Kenya, Ecuador or Guatemala.
Glocal Connection is another inspiring supplier platform that works with women in indigenous, developing communities to create profitable businesses based on high quality, luxury textile creations. By designing innovative supply chain solutions, Glocal Connection is able to offer competitive prices without sacrificing sustainability.
Vertically integrating production:
The fashion industry is seeing an increasing number of factories becoming vertically integrated, meaning that a company controls several or all of the production and/or distribution steps involved in the creation of its product or services.
The most familiar example is American Apparel, where knitting, cutting, sewing, detailing, designing, distribution, marketing, accounting and retail all operate from the same facility.
By centralising manufacturing operations, it tends to increase efficiency due and holds companies more accountable for its business and production practices because of the closer oversight.
Several of the suppliers on the SOURCE database are operating vertically integrated production models. Continental Clothing is one outstanding example. Continental owns its entire processing facility, the “Green Factory”, in the Tamil Nadu region of India, and sources 100% organic cotton from a single set of local producers. Most products are manufactured in this vertically-integrated supply chain in which certified organic cotton farming, spinning, dying and clothing production all take place in its wholly-owned sites.
For over a decade, Continental Clothing has offered “Made to Order” custom casualwear garment manufacture, mainly t-shirts, hoodies, jackets, tote bags for men, women and children. Continental offers:
• 36 superior fabrics
• 134 stock colours
• 10 days manufacture
• 11 days delivery
• Pantone- matching in four days
• Label manufacture & insertion
• 150 pcs per size minimum order
• 250,000 capacity per week
• Screen-printing, embroidery and applique
Hermes Otto International also operates a totally vertically integrated system from fibre to finished garments. As well as being Oekotex 100 certified, the group’s Wild Earth Cotton collection is part of the Cotton Made in Africa (CMiA) scheme, of which the Otto Group was one of the founding members. Since 2005 CMiA has directly benefited thousands of African Cotton farmers and their families. At the same time the CMiA program has succeeded in improving yields and encouraging best practice regarding use of pesticides and sustainable production methods.
Creative use of non-fashion materials:
Norman Hangers has created the ultimate green clothing hanger – biodegradable and 100% recycled and recyclable, they also help to reduce packaging, storage, transport and waste. Not only this but they are stylish and can be customised to suit your company’s branding, making these hangers a catchy way to further engage with and communicate to consumers.