In recent years, the world has begun to recognise that the way we have been living is not sustainable for the long-term future of our planet. Industries all over the world are having to rethink and reinvent the way they develop and source their products. Becoming more conscious of the environment in all aspects of their business including the life cycle of products has become a massive trend that can arguably become our norm and future way of life. Consumers have a huge choice in what they buy with more demanding products that are produced from sustainable, natural fibres that can break down easily and cause less impact to the environment.
The fashion industry has already begun to slowly make changes and be more environmentally conscious. You can see that over the past couple of years, brands have begun to rapidly pick up on the sustainability market pushing through other ways of utilising fabrics and technology, providing more ethical choices for their consumers. The fashion industry immensely impacts the environment globally, whether that is through pollution and water contamination caused by cotton harvesting, the harmful chemical gases released into the atmosphere during polyester and nylon manufacturing, or the millions of tons of textile waste that end up in landfills every year. Almost every aspect of fashion production has had a negative effect on the planet.
Sportswear brands such as Adidas and Nike are now increasingly turning to more sustainable materials along with biomaterials for their collections. Fabric mills have all increased their sustainable collections by offering recycled polyester and nylon which have been produced by taking old, thrown away clothes that get broken down and re-spun as new fibres or collecting ocean waste to create the new materials. Consumers are now actively looking to wear sustainable fabrics that have been created purposely to help reduce the negative impact on the planet and are also looking for quality that lasts and potentially be repaired in the future.
Whilst recycled fabrics are on the rise within the fashion and activewear industry, there has also been a lot of focus on the end life of garments too. More fabric mills are developing materials that are biodegradable and can break down naturally if consumers choose not to recycle the garment and then makes its way to the landfills. Brands are already working on biodegradable polyesters and nylons and are starting to incorporate natural fabrics that have great sweat-wicking properties such as Lyocell and Bamboo. The Sportswear and fashion industry are actively looking for new, conscious, and sustainable fabrics to use with Nettle and Hemp blended fabrics now being introduced into the industry, providing stronger fibres that can yield 3 times more fibre than cotton per acre.
I think we can all agree on how great fruit is. It is healthy for the body, tastes delicious, is naturally grown and can now also be worn. Yes, that’s right, we can make use of every single bit of fruit. Citrus juice can be extracted from orange peels to make silk-like fibre. Pineapple waste such as the leaves and the stalks can be turned into leather to replace the natural animal or PU leathers. You can also find wine leather, utilising the seeds, skins, and stalks of the grapes from the wine-making process along with apple leather, produced from the waste of apple cores and skins from the food industry.
Using exciting sustainable fabrics are great, however, we also need to think about the carbon footprint that is left when producing the garments. Some brands are wanting to produce more locally, sourcing fabrics, components and producing closer to their base. Factories (and Mills) are also thinking about how they can reduce their carbon footprint and go greener. Solar panels, biomass, and ground source pumps to power the plant now feature on some of the more eco focussed factories across Europe.
At Blue Associates Sportswear, we have started to offer 3D design that helps reduce the need to produce as many samples as before bulk production can start. This 3D design solution, therefore, reduces the amount of waste, energy, and carbon footprint along with decreasing the lead time of production.
As the sportswear industry increases with more and more ethical garments, virgin and oil-based fibres will hopefully become a thing of the past. Garments will continue to be made from recycled garments or other recycled waste plastics with natural-based fibres eventually taking over completely due to their biodegradable properties.
Written by Ami Schafer,
Sportswear Designer/ Garment Developer