Time to Switch to Green Fabrics

It’s time to switch to green fabrics. Loving sustainable clothing. Becoming a responsible consumer.
Green fabric and sustainable clothing
In the year 1800, the world population was 1 billion people. By the year 2000, it was 6 billion and today it's 7.5 billion. In thirty years in 2050, there will be 10 billion of us in this world.

From the apparel manufacturers point of view, population growth was a blessing for the industry. Naturally, demand for clothing increased. Globalization efforts in the 1980s helped to connect the low-cost manufacturing destinations with the countries who had a high demand for new and latest fashion.

According to many of the analysts, it is clear that the global demand for apparel products is steadily increasing, a trend likely to continue due to the fast increase of the population and the economic development in many parts of the world. Rise of modern advertising and other media platforms such as social media helped to drive the demand for clothing, so it’s had steady growth. Meanwhile, the textile industry is facing tremendous environmental and resource challenges.

As we know the fabric we use in the apparel industry is mainly deriving from two fiber sources. Those are natural fibers such as cotton and the human-made fibers such as polyester. In the current market conditions, 65% per cent of textile fibers are derived from human-made fibers using petrochemicals. Essentially, the production of human-made fabrics gives rise to considerable carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. The remaining 35% is dominated by cotton (25%), a thirsty plant associated with water depletion.

Another notable occurrence is toxic pollution, due to the intensive use of pesticides. For most categories of environmental impacts, later stages in the textile production process give rise to even larger impacts. Wet treatment processes (dyeing, finishing, printing, etc.) are major sources of toxic emissions and spinning of yarns and weaving/knitting of fabrics most often rely on fossil energy use, causing emissions such as carbon dioxide. Many experts suggest greenhouse emissions, water use, toxic chemicals, and waste are the main environmental issues facing the textile industry.

The customers in the West are primarily driving the growth of the apparel industry and their increasingly concerned about the impact of pollution and of climate change. Intense media coverage and the social media push making customers think twice about their buying choices. It is well documented that millennials are increasingly worried about the environmental impact of using cars hence opting to taxi services such as UBER to get around. This is also true when it comes to shopping for clothing. Looking for recycled fabric when buying clothing becoming a major trend — part of it genuinely due to the environmental concerns and the rest as a cool factor. However, bottom-line though, there is a significant market segment out there looking for sustainably made products and its projected to increase in double digits in the next five years.

A recent visit to Texworld – New York fabric exhibition was an eye-opener to see how many of the fabric suppliers are focusing on recycled fabrics as they understand the changing market trends. Almost all the mills who participated, 90-100% focused on displaying their green fabrics made using sustainable means. Taking a closer look at the quality, durability as well as the prices and the lead times, it was quite clear that the gap between the new fabrics and the recycled fabrics are increasingly closing. While lead time remained the same, prices were only about 30% higher than the new fabrics. This is not a significant amount as all most all buyers are willing to pay an up-charge for the recycled fabrics.

It is worth noting that all major brands such as Zara, Nike, Adidas, Gap, C&A and many others have seen the trend in the market place and are switching to sustainable sourcing. They're actively looking for manufacturing partners who are believing in similar ideals and have means to get them done. My advice would be to partner with mills who are focused on developing and promoting recycled fabrics.

Creating a collection relevant to the season currently in progress and offering to the current customers is a winning strategy. It is even recommended to make a set of samples and the related costings using recycled fabric and offer to your buyers which are similar to current orders which use regular fabric. This makes it easier to compare the quality as well as the prices at a glance.

Focusing on green manufacturing will give the marketing edge while making everyone in the company feel better knowing they do the right thing by the planet.

Related post: Sustainability in the Apparel Industry

About the Author: Dr Charm Rammandala is currently the Vice President at VOmax GDMC, LLC, which is one of the oldest sportswear companies in the USA. He has over two decades of experience in the apparel industry, where he has served in capacities such as Lean Manager and Model himself. He is an expert in rolling out programs in Lean apparel manufacturing and sustainable labour costing. His former positions included being the first Lean Technologist at George Sourcing Services UK, Ltd.

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