Thank goodness we no longer think of eco-friendly, produced apparel as ‘hippy-chic’, made from cheesecloth and up-cycled hessian sacks.
Fortunately for us, Good On You is spreading the word on how consumer’s can make better choices for purchasing ethically produced fashion – and most importantly still look super chic!
So, where does that leave the designers? Are they on board with Good On You and following suit to help better their star ratings on the App? I believe the brands falling short on the app have a terrific opportunity to build a bigger customer market. Around half the Aussie population is actively interested in responsible fashion, plus there’s a plethora of resources available for apparel brands about what they can do to achieve a five star rating.
As an inside voice on what’s taking shape within the production and manufacturing space for some of the our most loved and fashionable brands, it’s going to be a progressive journey towards an ‘all-in’ sustainable fashion industry and it’s not a quick fix. There is a lot of moving parts in transforming a brand to becoming recognised as entirely ethical and responsible. Sustainable fashion was the hero word a few years ago in the Northern Hemisphere, but now it’s a nondescript, cliché, buzz word and we’ve heard it far too much! With the rapid progression by many international organisations and not-for-profits, the term “sustainable fashion” is evolving and as a society we’re looking to progress into the fourth industrial revolution; and Circular Economy is the new framework.
“A butterfly sums it up: It can be a symbol of biodiversity, fragility, the capacity for transformation.” Ecomonitor.
The fourth industrial revolution is said to be built on human creativity and ingenuity rather than linear mechanics. Circular design methods and process has stemmed from creative thinking, and it’s giving fashion companies a greater opportunity to rethink product design methodology and play with exciting manufacturing alternatives. To illustrate what this new system would look like it’s best to see it represented in a fun, colourful diagram.
For example, one cog in the giant wheel of the circular approach to fashion, is assessing current fabric materials. How are they currently manufactured and what can replace them meeting efficiency and be eco-friendly? As a consumer we don’t know too much about this, perhaps many brands don’t either – however they should. We’ll quickly compare the difference between traditional Polyester fabrics, which have been used for the entirety of fashion production, versus the newly developed closed-loop fabrics.
A super brief explanation of the traditional fabric process and qualities for polyester: “Polyester the principal ingredient used in the manufacture of polyester is derived from petroleum. The fibres are formed from a chemical reaction between an acid and alcohol. The polymer taken from the petroleum is the building block for polyester and go through a chemical process to produce the fibre, this is called polymerisation.”
Versus closed-loop fibres.
A brief explanation of closed-loop fabrics made from recycled Polyester: “Utilising apparel waste made from Polyester; it’s firstly collected, shredded, bleached, melted and then re-polymerised so it can be refined back into a new raw material, which is the equivalent to the virgin polyester made from petroleum.”
Voila 100% recycled Polyester, by definition it’s a closed-loop material.
The phrase ‘closed-loop fabric’ means, to keep the integrity and value of the resources used to produce textiles, by capturing the product at it’s end of life phase and taking it back through a recycling system. Fundamentally in the industry we know this to be a circular approach. It also offers businesses an opportunity to shift traditional manufacturing of single use products and address processing of post consumer waste – a vast majority of products on the market today are produced from virgin materials.
Textile or apparel waste holds inherent value for closed-loop manufacturing and it’s set to ignite how we currently perceive the value of the waste, which will vastly increase over the years. Why? Textile waste holds an infinite amount of valuable byproduct to reconstruct yarn and produce sustainable fabrics, eliminating any necessity for using raw or virgin materials sourced from the environment. Amazingly the recycling process can be done up to eight times using the same recovered fibres each time.
This circular production approach consumes less energy, less natural and raw materials and effectively new products are a better version of their predecessors – greater quality, less time to produce and a longer lifespan.
Closed-Loop textile production is made possible by the Japanese who developed the technology to shred and strip Polyester textiles free from previous fabric make-up. The shredded polyester becomes significantly smaller plastic particles, which are the building blocks for reconstructing and re-polymerising a new polyester material. As a new material resource, the fibre still needs to be re-spun into a base yarn. This can be best envisaged as a large robotic loom spinning the fibres into fine yarn onto great big spindles. The second phase is to have the un-dyed yarn sent to a weaving factory, which can turn the resource into any conceivable fabric texture and feel – Chiffon, Silk, Cotton, Linen, Microfibre, fleece…
I’ve just described the initial process for giving textile waste a greater use. The technology to shred polyester has been adopted by a small number of Chinese mills.
What does this mean for apparel brands in Australia?
At the moment because there’s a limited number of Australian businesses adopting closed-loop textiles, Chinese manufacturers aren’t able process large amounts of recovered textile waste. Equal volumes of the finished product need to be purchased. We need to increase Australia’s fabric buying market to include a significant amount of closed-loop fabric.
With new technology to support sustainable diversification and responsible production processes, Australian brands can look to embrace innovative startups. For example Textile Recyclers Australia, operating in Melbourne, is the first closedloop fibre production business in the country – and possibly the Southern Hemisphere! They have the ability to support the modernisation of traditional fashion production starting with selling brands 100% recycled fabrics and collecting their textile waste.
Jumping back to where does that leave the designers? Are they on board with Good On You and looking to better their star ratings? The answer can and should always be YES! Because they’ll be lovingly supported by savvy, educated shoppers.