about_linen_3As fashion is a material thing, sustainability is mainly driven on alternative materials. Of course we know better as the supply chain has many difficulties. From raw materials to final product it’s a way to go and today the supply chain doesn’t end by only selling your product but it is not as easy as it seems in today’s supply chain!

Instead of the 3 P’s : People Planet Profit which was used last years to build a decent sustainable business plan I would like to introduce to you the 5P’s.

To enable a sustainable business I think we have to use the People, Planet, Partnership, Prosperity and Peace. The effect the fashion supply chain has, has to be better for all in the total supply chain.

 Some facts:

–  Per year we produce 91 milliard pieces of cloth

–  70% of consumers didn’t wear 15% of their cloths, mainly because of the wrong size or the    material

–   Worldwide +/- 157 million dollars on medical costs because of toxics in clothes

–   More then 80 mill people are working in the fashion and textile industry

Time to change, right?

Since 70-80 North Europe and America replaced fashion production to the Far East. The local craftsmanship became too expensive and the Far East could not only deliver cheap workers but also a replacement of the beautiful fabrics which were made in Europe. Production of fabrics in the Netherlands are 99% gone, but also in Belgium, Germany and rest of Europe  decreased. Italy is one of the countries production is going on although of course also less than in the past. But, do you know where your fabrics or yarns comes from? No? You are not the only one. 91% of the buyers doesn’t know where there materials comes from as the supply chain in the textile industry is not transparent.

With more knowledge and their campaigns by NGO’s and the introduction of internet, consumers are more aware and it is also these consumers who are demanding  brands for  making a move forward on sustainability. But where you have to start as a brand? Worldwide over 400 labels say something on GREEN FASHION,  on recycling or on cotton,  workers right etc. But do these says enough about quality, environment or ethical issue?. Especially when you produce oversea.

What are the important issues for consumers? Research find out;

–         Elimination of toxic chemicals

–         Cruel practices on animals

–         CO2 cuttings

–         Environmental issues

–         Worker rights

Let’s face some facts on materials. 70% of all fibres are men-made, 30% are natural fibres. Natural fibres are still decreasing. Wool from Europe is expensive and the animal treatment in Far East or Australia is under attention of animal welfare organisations. In the past men wore a lot of wool and we also know recycling of wool was a common thing. Prato build up a big industry in recycling of wool. But since the 80ties, consumers were convinced only to wear new materials and preferred to wear acryl pullovers then the recycled woollen ones.

Cotton has from the start many issues, slavery, water issues; because for 1 kilogram of cotton it needs 3000 litters of water but also the pesticides which causes enormous environmental pollution. People around can’t use the water as drinking water and because of the pesticides most water is gone. Even child labour, low prices per kilogram  and GMO and dyeing causus a big problem. You can make steps into ECO cotton but worldwide there is only 3% available. Fairtrade, Cotton made in Africa, Better Cotton initiative, Helvetas all NGO’s are working on cotton farmers and their families  to improve the live hood in developing countries. In 2014 governments spent 10.4 billn dollars on subsidy for cotton!

From all natural fibres, flax gives less pollution, it grows also in Europe. Especially for beachwear brands this material has the romantic summer holiday feeling. Ofcourse there is also Leather and fur but  today I only talk about fibres.

downloadSince the industrial revolution and needs because of shortness of materials and fibres, innovations like Nylon6 were and still are a big solution. Not only for parachutes which were used in the World War but also the invention of the panty. To invent the nylon it gave a rush on other men made materials like acrylic, polyester, elastin, acetate. As said, 70% of today’s fibre are men made



Positive is, it has continuous filaments, no stops on machines and it is strong. So, production could speed up. New innovations on less water-use or re-use are todays do’s on this material

Happy, in one way yes. Especially for beach and underwear this is great invention. The only thing is, a 2013 report by Danish Fashion Institute had stated, the apparel industry is only second to oil when it comes to environmental impact as a whole. As some say we are running out of oil, this can be a problem for the future. Others say, there will be always Nylon6

When there is a problem, we are good to solve. Some problems like the plastic soup in the ocean, fish nets ( fisher men lost during their work ) or the pet bottles.. or the enormous landfill of clothes in Africa. Innovations on recycling pet bottles and fishnets into yarns for fleece sweatshirts, beachwear, panties and new materials as a mix between recycled wool with recycled pet bottles are a upcoming industry. Not only to solve a problem on waste but also to solve a problem on CO2 and the use on new raw materials.

Nice alternatives are the natural based polymer, a cellulose from plants. Like Viscose, invented in 1905. It’s made from wood pulp, it dyes easily, it doesn’t shrink and it’s biodegradable! Even lyocell, one of the newst yarns (1992) it has a highly dry comfort and also biodegradable. Or, Modal.. which is soft, feels dry even when it absorbs a lot of water. But Natural fibres such as rayon and viscose contribute also to the destruction of ancient rainforests …

Innovations in fibres with 1) orange pulp from Italy, or 2) bamboo, 3) corn or 4) banana leaves makes that waste becomes a raw material and it is a good selling story. Although I have to remark to Bamboo with a sustainable point of view, this is not that sustainable as it needs very high temperatures to make pulp from it. Plus I know only 1 plantation in Tanzania which produced on a sustainable way

download (4)In 2006 I was asked by Dutch airlines, KLM, what to do with all uniforms, because we get new and we don’t want to burn them. I was working on the project Textile 4 Textile and a sorting machine was invented. Maybe you know the textile collector boxes in your city, not all cloths are for charity, but it is also send and sold to developing countries. Most textile is recycled for the automotive industry or used as isolation material in walls of indoor swimming pools or gyms. To sell these clothes, clothes collectors spending this profit on projects mostly in developing countries.

Since the KLM project, to shredder and making new yarns out of it (in Italy by the way) and also other initiatives out of fashion the EU focus now on so called Circular Economy , Cradle 2 Cradle or recycling of materials you can re-used. The project called in Horizon2020 will offer a great step further to re think how to use raw materials without waste.

The latest innovation was released during a sustainability event end October 2015 in The Netherlands; New Cotton made from old 100% cotton clothes. They make from old clothes a cellulose and turn them into new cotton yarns. If there are enough partners to collect old cotton clothes, this will be a big step forward.  Finland is also working on this! For all kind of clothes recycling, it’s needs to be said, that to collect is one, but to divide in colours and materials are as much important. The recycling industry urgent call on to make clothes again from mono yarns.

To start a sustainable supply chain you have really to ; commit, assess, adapt, collaborate, measure, report and communicate. Only by these steps you can fill in the 5P’s. It’s like your personal life, true relations stay longer!But after all,  new materials and new practice  are challenging the traditional production supply chain!

 Go for it, be Clean&Unique


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