The weekend of the 24th and 25th of January saw the annual Future Fabrics expo hosted by the Sustainable Angle at Victoria House in London. This year was the eighth edition of the event where suppliers showcased their latest sustainable materials and innovations for the fashion and textile industry. Reinforcing the marriage between the fashion industry and creating a positive impact on the environment, sustainability is the buzz word and it is something that many suppliers are now starting to integrate into their supply chain.
Since the year 2000 clothing production has doubled and less than 1% of new clothing is recycled. This is an alarming number underlining the fact that fashion has a waste problem. When it comes to sustainability in the fashion industry there are four key elements to consider: water, energy, waste and biodiversity. This is translated to reducing water usage, using renewable energy, waste reduction and use of diverse textiles. Many people carry this preconception that recycled fabrics are of less quality, but this couldn’t be further from the truth and the Future Fabrics expo provides concrete proof of that. From organic cotton to recycled polyester, wool and denim, there were a whole range of sustainable fabrics to choose from all in just one room.
But what do we actually mean by sustainable fabrics? Sustainable fabrics are those that are recycled from the same material, including polyester, bamboo and cotton. These fabrics are also considered to be vegan as they have not been produced from or using an animal. Organic fabrics are those that have not been processed in any way shape or form, they are raw materials and haven’t suffered any sort of chemical process of fabrication.
This year there were many interesting concepts as textile goes experimental and turns to science, in the attempt to bring the fashion industry closer to sustainability. Such innovations include;
- Crystallising human sweat. Alice Potts is the genius behind the idea of crystallising human sweat to create crystalline footwear and accessories. Biology has never been more fashionable.
- Dyeing fabrics with bacteria. Living Colour, founded by Laura Luchtman and Ilfa Siebenhaar, is a research project that looks into harbouring bacteria to promote the use of biodyeing textiles. The benefits of using bacteria is that they require much less time, space, water and pesticides to flourish.
- Leafy leathers. BeLEAF is an organisation directed by Nova Kaeru focusing on creating eco-friendly leathers made from leaves. Reducing their carbon footprint and using a renewable material source, who would’ve thought that leather shoes could be in fact made out of leaves and contain the same material characteristics.
Making a change is not only about action but also discussion and the transfer of knowledge which was a key focus at the event. A hot topic was waste and recycling issues and solutions discussed with a panel of fabric suppliers; Besim Ozek, Bossa Denim, Hideaki Nakano, Toyoshima and Fabrizio Tesi, Comistra. There are a lot of sustainable processes and innovations already taking place during the production process, including the use of food textile at Toyoshima. The concept here is simple; Toyoshima team up with Food Textile – a project combining food companies and retailers – using food waste to create natural dyes for fabrics from the likes of beetroot, oranges, coffee, tomatoes and the list goes on. There is no such thing as food waste anymore, only food opportunities. To find out more click here.
Orsola de Castro, from Fashion Revolution, and Claire Bergkamp, from Stella McCartney shared their thoughts on sustainability in the fashion industry; how far we’ve come but also how much further we still need to go. They discussed the meaning of clothing and how fashion is a very visual industry; the clothes you wear say something about you and if you wear sustainable clothing, you are promoting that you are a sustainable being. It is like wearing a slogan, by wearing it you are creating a powerful statement about yourself. However, the danger lies in this becoming a marketing ploy whereby the fast fashion industry takes over and turns it into a trend, losing sight of the original meaning.
I genuinely do not understand how we can have a rise of 400% in veganism and not find organic cotton coolOrsola de Castro
Trends are such a big thing nowadays and we have seen a massive increase in food trends, particularly veganism and ethically sourcing your food. Yet, this surge of interest has not transferred over to the fashion industry. Orsola de Castro cannot believe that there has been a rise of 400% in veganism, but organic cotton is still not seen as cool or fashionable.
The problem we are currently facing in the fashion industry is the high cost of manufacturing sustainable materials. This is not to say that there aren’t any promising signs of progress already taking place. The fact that we are talking about fashions sustainability issue and raising awareness is very promising. At V House of Apparel, we want to make a conscious effort as a fashion design and manufacturing agency to provide our clients with a range of innovative materials and promote the use of sustainable fabrics. Currently, we are working with Repreve, a company who supplies and manufactures materials made from recycled plastic bottles. Now thanks to the Future Fabrics expo we have sourced even more suppliers of sustainable fabrics to work with, in order to make our mark in the goal to refocus fashion towards sustainability.