Trend Report: Future of Sustainable Fashion

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The Global Change Award is one of the world’s largest innovation challenges founded by the H&M Foundation, in collaboration with Accenture and the KTH Royal Institute of Technology, aiming to catalyze early innovations that can accelerate the shift from a linear to a circular fashion industry.

In 2016, the Global Change Award received 2885 applications from 130 countries. By leveraging Accenture’s capabilities in analytics and data visualization on this large data set, the H&M Foundation was able to identify insights on future trends within sustainable fashion. The intent of this trend report is to provide valuable guidance on the transformative journey towards a circular fashion industry.

New Method to Revolutionize Manufacturing of Synthetic Fibers

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Swedish company We are SpinDye has developed a new method that could revolutionize the manufacturing of synthetic fibers and thereby of pants, jackets and backpacks. The new method involves no high use of water and heavy use of chemicals which was part of the dyeing process. It is resource-efficient, sustainable, colorfast, and no bleaching out.

We are SpinDye dyes synthetic fibers is completely different from other textile company, as they are focused on sustainability and environmental protection. Above all, the immense use of water is significantly reduced by innovative procedure. The idea of We are SpinDye is quite simple: recycled plastic is melted down, the desired dye pigment is added to the undyed material. After that, yarn is produced from it in the desired strength. The clients and manufacturers can further process this yarn as usual.

CEO Martin Berling of We are SpinDye says their company is built on the principle of the least possible damage to the environment. They require hardly any water, produce practically any garbage, and the use of chemicals is reduced to a minimum. We are SpinDye is offering its technology for all synthetic materials, such as polyester or nylon, but also for rayon. A combination of synthetic fibers and unbleached wool can be used. There are no limits for manufacturers in further processing: The fabrics can, for example, be coated or equipped with a membrane.

The company isn’t the only one that’s developed a water-free dyeing technology. There are others, for example Nike and Adidas that have procedures with ColorDry or DryDye that don’t require water for the dyeing process – for years now.

*This story first appeared on Fashionating World

New Research Looking to Turn Fabric into Fuel, Keep Microfibers Out of Water

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Image Credit: Japan Airlines

We’ve seen a rash of textile-recycling schemes emerge of late — in which the textiles in question may become new garments, but for the most part they remain, well, fabrics. But in what may be the first fabric-to-fuel program we’ve heard of, Japan Airlines — which is already working to roll out sustainable aviation biofuel for flights during the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo — is now working to turn used clothing into jet fuel, in partnership with Japan Environmental Planning (Jeplan) and Tokyo’s Green Earth Institute. The organizations have teamed up to create a collaborative council that could pilot the alternative energy source by as early as 2020.

In October 2015, Jeplan founder Michihiko Iwamota introduced a technology to create bioethanol from cast-off T-shirts and denim jeans, using fermentation to break down the sugars contained in cotton into alcohols. If all goes well with test flights planned to start in 2020, the company aims to establish the first commercial fuel plant by 2030.

“I totally believed that in the future, there would be a car that runs on garbage,” said Iwamoto, referring to the trash-powered time machine from Back to the Future II. “But years went by, and that didn’t happen. So I thought I’d develop it.”

Although addressing a large energy source, 100 tons of cotton yields only around 10 kiloliters of fuel, or roughly 2,641 gallons (a commercial airliner uses about 1 gallon of fuel every second). As Nikkei Asian Review points out, even if all the cotton consumed in Japan were used in fuel production, this would give only 70,000 kl or so annually — less than 1 percent of Japan’s jet fuel usage. But since the technology can also be applied to other types of waste, including paper, clothing may only be the beginning.

Meanwhile, Mistra Future Fashion, a Swedish research program for sustainable fashion, has launched an investigation into the relationship between fabric properties and the shedding of microplastics from polyester fabrics. The company aims to deliver a framework for the construction and care of polyester fabrics in order to minimize microplastic shedding to improve environmental performance and strengthen global competitiveness.

Eunomia Research & Consulting has estimated that 190 thousand tons of microplastics from textiles enter the world’s marine ecosystem each year. According to the Plastic Soup Foundation (PSF) – which earlier this year teamed up with G-Star to call on the textile and washing machine industries to design solutions to eliminate ocean microfiber pollution – the machine-washing of clothes is a big source of plastic pollution in oceans, with small plastic fibers shed by synthetic garments being washed through water treatment plants into waterways, which can also enter the food chain, as fish and other marine organisms can mistake these fibers for food.

Research carried out by the campaign ‘Mermaids Ocean Clean Wash’ for G-Star suggests that polyester, acrylic and nylon items are the biggest culprits, with an acrylic scarf shedding 300,000 fibers per wash and a polyester fleece jacket losing almost a million fibers every time it is washed.

The investigation will be conducted in spring 2017 in partnership with Boob Design,Filippa K and H&M, and the findings could be used for designing a subsequent, larger research project surrounding the microplastics problem.

“Only a strong alliance of dedicated stakeholders around the world can turn the tide,” said Frouke Bruinsma, Corporate Responsibility Director at G-Star. “Everyone is welcome to join us.”

*This story first appeared on Sustainable Brands

The Naked Truth Behind Denim: How One Swedish Brand Is Cleaning Up Its Supply Chain

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By Esha Chhabra

This Swedish brand is challenging the norms of the fashion industry with its free repair, lifetime warranty on organic denim and shirts. Photo courtesy of subject.

This Swedish company is showing that ethical supply chains and commercial viability can go hand in hand even in the fast-paced fashion world. Nudie Jeans, the Gothenburg-based brand, is basically the Patagonia of jeans.

Though the company now sells t-shirts, jackets, and other apparel, they started with jeans. That is organic cotton types of denim, which come in dry, salvaged, and washed varieties in unisex designs. However, the brand has evolved in the last 10 years from just manufacturing jeans to one that rallies for fair labor practices, organic farming, and toxic-free dyes.

While in the last three years a new crop of fashion brands have been talking about restructuring supply chains in textiles, Nudie Jeans began venturing down this path in 2006 — a decade ago, when the company shifted to using only organic materials. At that point, Nudie was only 20 percent organic. The founder Maria Erixon invited their suppliers to a meeting in Gothenburg where they broke the news: they were going in a different direction. Even though they lost some of their suppliers who didn’t want to adopt the organic cotton practices, Nudie continued. Four years ago, the company announced that they had become 100 percent organic.

When asked if fashion brands can be mindful and profitable, CEO Palle Stenberg says confidently, “Yes, of course, everybody can.”

Members of the Nudie team congregate outside their London location, which serves as a repair stop for mending old jeans. Photo Courtesy of Subject.

Today, the company has an annual turnover of 50 million euros. It employs 230 people around the world, 65 of which are based in Sweden’s second largest city, Gothenburg. Stenberg says they could grow faster, even double their size in a year.  But that would not be a wise long-term strategy.  “We want to build up slowly and sustainably.”

It’s taken the company 15 years to build a strong foundation, he says. That foundation consists of organic raw materials, like-minded production partners, repair shops, and a company culture that is as much about balance as it is about growth and success.

Most notably, that journey has included an evolution in their supply chain. The company sources organic cotton from two countries: Turkey and India.  For their jeans, it’s primarily from Turkey. For the rest of their line, it’s from India and through one of the country’s emerging co-ops, Chetna Organic.

Cotton is grown on less than 3 percent of the Earth’s surface.  But it’s a crop that’s easily infected by bugs and pests. Hence cotton farmers have to use significant amounts of pesticides; by some estimates, the cotton crop is responsible for almost 20 percent of the world’s pesticide consumption. New varieties of cotton claim to be more tolerant to these pests but are genetically modified and seeds cost more (plus they cannot be reused after harvest).

India, which is one of the world’s largest producers of cotton, has seen the effects of cotton production: farmers are prone to illness from pesticide exposure and have incurred debt due to the high cost of seeds.

Cotton farmer who is a member of the Chetna co-op in India. Photo Courtesy of Chetna Organic.

Hyderabad-based Chetna Organic started an alternative model: organic cotton, a seed bank, a co-op that rewards farmers with a stake in the organization. Funds are transferred directly to farmers for their crop, bypassing middlemen. A small administrative team leads workshops to educate farmers on better practices and oversees new initiatives such as a new seed bank to restore India’s collection of cotton seeds. Over 35,000 farmers are now part of their network.

Nudie Jeans is one of the brands that buys from Chetna. In the spirit of transparency, the entire supply chain is available on their website to track. We don’t mind if people want to contact our suppliers and buy from them, says Stenberg.  “For change to happen, more companies have to participate. We are too small.”

More than 20 companies, mostly European and American brands, purchase organic cotton from Chetna. This open-source approach to manufacturing is similar to Patagonia, the California-based outdoor brand known for its environmental activism to create industry-wide change.

Nudie Jeans offers free repairs on all their jeans. Photo Courtesy of Subject.

Not only does Nudie share its resources, but they encourage customers to bring in (or send in) their jeans for repair for free. If a customer lives too far from one of their brick-and-mortar stores, the company will send you a mending kit:, a nimble, a needle, thread, and some denim patches. For those jeans that are out of style or no longer wanted, the company sells them as used, vintage varieties or repurposes them into new material. More 40,000 pairs were repaired by the end of 2015.

Why?  “Cotton is one of the most poisoning plants to grow,” Stenberg says. Known for extracting more out of the soil than replenishing it, cotton production is tough on soil health.  That’s why even for cotton-based brand, the need for giving it new life, or the longest life possible, is not only trendy but a necessity.

This repair, reuse, and reduce philosophy fits into Nudie’s long-term vision: to change the world, Stenberg says. “This is not something we are doing to pursue an exit.”

In 2001, when the company started, the team (of three then) began with 3000 pairs, manufactured thanks to a 50,000 Swedish kronor loan from the bank. The jeans sold out on their first day at a fashion fair, giving birth to a company and a movement, he recalls.

“If we started the same company today, it would have been a different game. It would have needed more capital to build a brand.” 

At the time there were only 5 to 6 major denim brands, Stenberg recalls.  Now the market is saturated.

But what makes Nudie stick out?  Aside from their Scandinavian minimalism and evergreen approach, a no-compromise attitude. Be it for people, planet, or the integrity of the product, says Stenberg. They’re so steadfast to these ideals that their mission is even written on a patch of fabric and sewn into the jeans itself.

**This post first appeared on The Forbes.

‘Modelling Sustainability’ STWI Global Report launched

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Welcome to the first edition of Modelling Sustainability: the first biannual global report from the Sweden Textile Water Initiative (STWI) Projects – the largest global public-private partnership in the field of sustainable textiles today.

Textile manufacturing is amongst the largest industrial users of water and is poised for transformation. In order to inspire this transformation towards a water wise future, the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) and Sustainability Outlook have teamed up to share fact-based trends on how the textile industry is evolving in some key production centres.

This first edition is based on information from two key sources gathered, analysed and collated from the Sweden Textile Water Initiative’s Global Projects:

  • Data obtained from the STWI Programme where we are closely working with 80+ factories in China, India, Bangladesh, Ethiopia and Turkey
  • Inputs from field practitioners and experts who are actively engaged in the STWI

This reports provides a glimpse of STWI’s global benchmark database, putting such high-level data in the public domain for the first time.

Collaboration is a core value that governed this report’s development. For this issue, we interviewed participants of STWI’s award-winning pilot SWAR, who provide insights into the practicalities of collaboration among competing brands and manufacturers on establishing a common learning platform.

Download report

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions regarding this report, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Aparna Khadelwal, Sustainability Outlook: akhandelwal@sustainabilityoutlook.in

Rami Abdelrahman, Programme Manager, STWI Projects: rami.abdelrahman@siwi.org

*This story first appeared here.

Collaborative Swedish water project wins Nordic fashion industry sustainability award

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A successful collaboration for efficiency in water consumption, energy and chemical use in the textile industry won the prestigious 2015 Habit Fashion Award for Sustainability this evening. Sustainable Water Resources (SWAR) is a joint initiative between Stockholm International Water Institute, Sida, Swedish fashion brands Indiska, KappAhl and Lindex, their Indian suppliers and sub-suppliers. SWAR was honoured by the Habit jury for its impact in increasing efficient water, energy and chemical use at factory level.

“SWAR piloted in 2013 in densely-populated north-western India where the groundwater situation is dire. Basin levels continue to drop at an alarming rate, and pollution continues to stagnate human development in the region. We are proud that SWAR was recognized by Habit for directly increasing the efficiency of water, energy and chemical use in textile production in a systematic, cost-­efficient, and sustainable way.’’ Said Torgny Holmgren, Executive Director, SIWI.

SWAR factories saved 7 per cent of their total annual water use, 360 million litres. This amount equals the daily need of more than 3.5 million people. Through its parent network, Sweden Textile Water Initiative, the successful pilot programme has now scaled up across India and in China, Bangladesh, Turkey, and Ethiopia, expanding its impact to 120 factories supplying 20 major Swedish brands.

‘Water and Energy are the most important resources for our business. Therefore our biggest driver to join SWAR was water and energy conservation. Apart from this, the cultural change in the factory, resulting from SWAR also helped us to continue our water and energy conservation activities.’ Said Mr. Anuj Batra of Bee K Bee Prints, one of the factories participating in the programme.

“SWAR has enabled us to over-perform on almost all social, environmental and business metrics that we identified at the project start. In addition, it provided clear evidence and data through exact measurements of water consumption meters, project implementation sheets for each implemented projects, and testimonials provided by the factories. This kind of accurate intelligence is often very hard to secure when working across industry borders,” said Indiska, Lindex and KappAhl jointly.

The SWAR initiative puts the value of water at the heart of resource efficiency and sustainable development solutions. The approach combines achieving measurable results with building capacities and empowering people at brand headquarters, factory, and institutional levels. It is a market-­driven approach that creates demand for sustainable water use in production, based on real risk mitigation, and supplies management solutions to meet that demand.

‘We are honoured to be awarded this significant prize and hope that sharing our success story can inspire others to enter into similar collaborations. The cooperation between Sida, SIWI and KappAhl, Lindex and Indiska achieved substantial results in both water and chemical savings and was a winning formula within itself’ says Charlotte Petri Gornitzka, Director General of Sida.

About Sustainable Water Resources (SWAR)

SWAR is a capacity building and technical support programme for 42 suppliers and sub-suppliers to Swedish brands Indiska, KappAhl and Lindex in India (Delhi NCR and Rajasthan). The programme was co-funded by the brands and the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida) and was implemented by Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI).

About Sweden Textile Water Initiative

The Sweden Textile Water Initiative (STWI) brings together Swedish leather and textile companies in collaboration with the specific aim of reducing water, energy and chemical use in their supply chains. The STWI secretariat is hosted by the Stockholm International Water Institute. STWI Projects is funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) and our brands.

About SIWI

Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) is a Stockholm-based policy institute that provides and promotes water wise solutions for sustainable development. SIWI performs research, builds institutional capacity and provides advisory services. SIWI organizes the annual World Water Week and hosts the Stockholm Water Prize, the Junior Stockholm Water Prize and the Stockholm Industry Water Award.

About Habit Fashion Awards

The Habit Fashion Awards are organized by the leading Scandinavian fashion trade journal Habit Sko & Mode. The Awards are in their ninth year and in 2015 the Sustainability Award was introduced for the first time. The Habit jury is comprised of leaders from Nordic fashion industry Per Engsheden, Michael Schragger from The Sustainable Fashion Academy, ASFB Secretary General Emma Ohlson, Business Sweden’s chief economist Mauro Gozzo and the CEO of the Swedish Fashion Council, Elin Frendberg.

*This story first appeared here.

Successful Swedish water project ensures cleaner textile production in India

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Wed, Mar 25, 2015 08:20 CET

(Stockholm, 25 March 2015) – By participating in a unique project for cleaner production, Sustainable Water Resources (SWAR), suppliers to the Swedish retail brands Indiska, KappAhl and Lindex have reduced their environmental impact and improved capacity through training on resource efficiency.

For a garment production factory in Noida, India, the idea of coupling sustainable practices with significant financial savings was initially far-fetched. However, through SWAR they have succeeded.  Now, the factory has reinvested these savings in new technology which ensures efficient use of natural resources.

“We are now all aware of how important it is to save water, energy and chemicals, which is helpful in cutting factory costs. Building capacity and educating at every level in the garment industry needs to be an ongoing process”, says Mr Ravinder Hand from garment manufacturer Radnik.

The SWAR project is a cooperation between the Swedish brands and their Indian suppliers, the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), Sida, and India-based consultancy cKinetics. SWAR was co-financed by the brands and Sida, in a public-private partnership that linked business and international development goals.

More than 40 factories participated in the project. The project has contributed to saving 284 million litres of water and 402 tonnes of chemicals annually. The factories were also able to save an average of three per cent of their energy cost and three per cent of their operational costs.

“Being able to save costs through resources use efficiency is important, but it is not sustainable without a mind-shift. This is best achieved through continuous training and capacity development”, says Rami Abdelrahman, Programme Manager at SIWI.

The project trained more than 13,000 factory workers and managers in the past two years.

The Indian textile industry contributes with three per cent to India’s GDP and employs more than 45 million people. The industry is one of the largest industrial water polluters in India, and is facing serious growth limitations due to increasing freshwater shortage.

The project expands
More than half of the participating factories will continue to work on their own, continuously communicating their development to their clients in Sweden. Others have joined a network created by SIWI and the three fashion brands for continuing the learning journey.

SWAR has inspired SIWI, Sida, the piloting brands and an additional 16 Swedish fashion brands to catalyse a shift toward sustainable production and continuous learning in major production hubs in Asia and Africa.

Starting in 2015, the project scales up to include several Indian states and four other countries in the world. It involves more than 120 suppliers globally and is a part of the project Sweden Textile Water Initiative, STWI.