Information on sustainable resources and solutions for the fashion industry are the main core of Future Fabrics Expo, an event that happened on the 24-25 January 2019 in London, UK, organised by The Sustainable Angle, a non-profit organization that supports projects contributing to minimise environmental impact.
The increasing consumer demand for more sustainable practices and novelties in the fashion business made the 8th edition of Future Fabrics Expo an incredible success. Over 2,500 visitors attended the event, which also counted with a seminar programme with 26 discussions, an area dedicated for manufacturers and two displays of fashion brands that already implement sustainable practices, one curated by Arizona Muse x RCM Studio, and the other supported by the Lenzing Group.
[Left]: Visitors checking the curated selection of sustainable materials by The Sustainable Angle. [Right]: G-Star Raw, one of the sponsors of the event, features some of their sustainability achievements.
With over 5,000 innovative textiles and materials with a reduced effect on the environment, Future Fabrics Expo is the largest dedicated showcase of sustainable materials for the fashion and textile industry in Europe. In 2 intense days, full of learning and sharing, we saw something powerful start shaping for the better. Amongst the richness of all topics presented at the Expo, check some of our highlights below:
8 to Create at Future Fabrics Expo
The Sustainable Angle displayed its "8 to Create: principles for people, planet and responsible prosperity". Part educational premise, part consumer demand for more transparency on the sustainable fabric sourcing journey, its simple 8 steps are an objective vision of how that sourcing should be: Properties, Provenance, Processing, Potential Impacts, Positive Impact, Preserve Resources, Post Life, and Promote (the brand's sustainability efforts). A simple and effective reminder to make every fabric sourcing a more sustainable one.
At the Innovation Hub, in collaboration with Fashion For Good, and at the Main Showcase, there was a wide range of innovative materials to expand the fashion designers’ desire to experiment with sustainability in a creative way.
Seminars' Highlight: Demand for Sustainability Across the Value Chain
2 days, 12 discussions, 26 speakers, and a crowded audience - the seminar programme at Future Fabrics Expo is more popular than ever with a high demand for sustainability information that continues to strengthen. The talks were incredibly inspirational, moving the fashion community to act.
How to Make Fashion Circular
Lukas Fuchs, a research analyst at The Ellen MacArthur Foundation, introduced the concept of a circular economy (a main focus of the EMF) which was followed by a discussion on circular fashion in practice from the perspective of the textile supplier with Sergi Masip, from the sustainable development of Hallotex. “We are a vertically integrated supplier, so we decided to do something with the everyday waste. (...) It’s difficult, but an opportunity to extend the lifecycle of the fibres", he explained. Hallotex, for example, has its own brand, OrganicSound, that works with musicians to create exclusive T-shirts from recycled textile waste. “We have to use and think about materials' 100% circularity”, he continued, stating that he strongly believes that this is a system challenge in the industry, and expects a future where non-recyclable materials will be banned. “Engage more suppliers to join on board. If all suppliers change to circularity, it’ll be easier”.
Lukas recalled us that in the past 70 years we’ve optimised the linear model, and it takes time to turn it into a circular one, highlighting the importance of communication and information to display projects and solutions to the consumer -- showing that circular economy "is possible to the end consumer". Sergi Masip agreed: “We need to collaborate to see change."
Lukas Fuchs from Ellen MacArthur Foundation, during his presentation “How to Make Fashion Circular”, shows the 3 principles for a circular economy during Future Fabrics Expo.
Demand for Innovation
In conversation with Claire Bergkamp (Worldwide Sustainability & Innovation Director at Stella McCartney), Orsola de Castro, from Fashion Revolution, declared that people are demanding innovation. “We can’t just buy it because it’s there. We need to bring it back to intelligence and respect”, she said, reminding us that we have to push for a different way of doing things, using our voice and being critical in order to inflict change and move towards a sustainable circular economy. "Old school methods with the involvement of scientists. A marriage of the old and new is where we need to go", she continued, a statement that reinforces our belief in technology too, making the fashion and textile industries more humane, sustainable and transparent.
Orsola de Castro, from Fashion Revolution [right], in conversation with Claire Bergkamp, Worldwide Sustainability & Innovation Director at Stella McCartney. Orsola asks what companies are doing about circularity, and says we need movement, we need action because the industry is not going to stop producing clothes. Credit: Vivienne Austin
Technology to Identify the Demand
In conversation with Emma Scarf (Fashion For Good - Plug and Play Accelerator), Matthew Drinkwater (Fashion Innovation Agency, London College of Fashion) was asked how fashion could be used as a positive force. His response? "Create new ways for consumption, creation and production. Technology can help with that”, he said, exemplifying how the industry could use AI to understand what people really want, and producing on demand what people needed. “The story could be specifically different in each environment, relevant!”
That idea was reinforced by Emma, who noted that "change will occur on the consumer side" -- meaning that the consumer will demand sustainability, transparency, and other changes; a shift in the fashion business model already in movement. "Leadership towards this [transparency] is paramount, pushing innovation in brands. WIthout transparency, brands don't take initiative".
“Technology is definitely in fashion!”, Matthew Drinkwater, from Fashion Innovation Agency at London College of Fashion, in conversation with Emma Scarf, from Fashion For Good - Plug and Play Accelerator, during Future Fabrics Expo.
Sustainability in Practice
In a conversation moderated by model and sustainability campaigner Arizona Muse, Tiziano Guardini (fashion designer) and Adriana Galjasevic (Denim & Sustainability Expert, G-Star RAW) discussed the challenges and opportunities they face integrating sustainability in their work: G-Star with large-scale production, and Tiziano in smaller quantities, sometimes artisanal garments. “Every time is a challenge, you have to research [materials] a lot. But also it´s a possibility to create in a new and good way”, said Tiziano, and Adriana agreed: “Sustainability is a must as a practice. It’s fun to find new materials; it’s hard work but for a big cause. (...) We all have to get together and demand. Everybody local on their own domain should act”.
G-Star RAW focuses on the innovation of denim, investing in sustainable alternatives and eliminating wasteful ones such as sandblasting as finishing and banning plastic water bottles from its offices. They also support local communities with the GSRD Foundation in Bangladesh, China, India, and Vietnam with vocational and life skills training for young people. When asked if she would have done anything differently 10 years back, Adriana summarised: “Education of the customers and teaching the value of the clothing" -- which G-Star is currently doing.
With his own brand, Tiziano focuses on something he calls "ECOuture", which skillfully brings together craftsmanship, nature, and innovation in an incredibly intricate work: a coat made of pine needles, for example, or a garment with liquorice roots. When asked what are the most exciting materials, he replied: “Organic silk, with certifications. I want to know about the cocoons and butterflies because for me it’s important to respect life.”
Arizona Muse, moderating the conversation between designer Tiziano Guardini and Adriana Galjasevic, Denim & Sustainability Expert from G-Star RAW, about the challenges and opportunities they face integrating sustainability. Some of the goals discussed were how to optimise current fabrics and how to create new ones, and the reminder that we need to create for the future now.
The Future Fabrics Expo presented a core exhibitors area, with 13 suppliers showcasing their innovative collections. Exploring these offers is both a never-ending contemplation of the industry's creativity and an incredible display of textile technology. New fabrics and materials are coming from every part of the globe, check some of the highlights:
[Left]: Cocccon, an Indian supplier of cruelty-free silk, has decentralised their production model, and silk farmers, spinners and weavers are empowered by working from their own communities. [Right]: Comistra, an Italian supplier of recycled wool, that uses no dyeing in the fabrics - the colours are sorted out by shade and it impacts in lower prices.
Non-violent silk is the main premise of this Indian supplier, attending a demand for cruelty-free fabrics. The environmental friendly silk is organic, and each cocoon is pierced and trimmed so the moths can still live, and the silk is then hand twisted and traditionally weaved by a community in Jharkhand, eastern India, protecting them from the exploitation of other silk buyers. They are GOTS certified, and also offer organic cotton, silk and hemp blend, and vegan silk (from soy fibres); adding even more value to this luxury fabric by making it completely ethical and sustainable.
[Letf]: Shokay, a Chinese supplier of beautiful and organic yak down presenting their fabric at Future Fabrics Expo. [Right] Thecla Loh, from Shokay, and Tommaso Rulli, from Profits Fund Global, discuss the realities of producing materials in China: there’s a lot of important talks in terms of sustainability before asking the price and lead time.
This supplier is sourcing socially responsible premium yak down in Tibetan and Himalayan herding communities of Western China. After training them for 12 years, the brand supports the livelihood of people in the villages of the Qinghai Province, which is a strategic and sensitive location - the highlands are an important source of rivers, and the region has been marked by years of conflict. Their long-term goal is working together to transform and build the yak industry, and educate younger people to help them see the value and help them resource the yak down without being exploited. They conscientiously select the right partners and create lovely throws, beanies, scarves, socks, and gloves in a sustainable way, saving water and using environmentally friendly dyes. Their innovation extends to yak fibres blended to other materials, such as recycled PET, organic cotton and hemp, wool, and lyocell.
Brazilian supplier Nova Kaeru presents beLEAF™, a revolutionary technology that, adapted to the particularities of each type of plant, can potentially turn any of them into a versatile and sustainable material.
Despite being famous for its production of pirarucu skin (from a fish native to the Amazon River), that is not the only innovation Nova Kaeru has presented the textile industry with. After 20 years of research in the tanning field, its history was the inspiration behind the company's beLEAF™, a vegan fabric created from the elephant ear plant (Alocasia Macrorrhiza) with leather-like characteristics. This tropical plant is native to the Brazilian coast and was found rather than grown. Now, Nova Kaeru planted thousands of seeds in their own Mahogany reforestation site, contributing not only with a new, sustainable material but also to a circular economy since the beLEAF™ fabric is completely compostable.
The 8th edition of Future Fabrics Expo shows us not only how urgent the availability of information around sustainability in fashion is, but who are the people working towards it as well, and how their work contributes to a healthier planet and fairer working conditions throughout the fabric supply chain.
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