PREFERRED FIBER & MATERIALS: INSIDER SERIES
PREFERRED FIBER & MATERIALS: INSIDER SERIES
As we researched the Preferred Fiber & Materials Market Report, we uncovered a rich and diverse set of stories from people who are really making a difference in textile sustainability. We have brought these together in our “Insider Series”.
The “Insider Series” is an uplifting read, celebrating Textile Exchange’s 15th Anniversary. The stories showcased here are an eclectic mix of industry leaders speaking from “inside” their organization.
The series has truly been co-created by the authors, and we at Textile Exchange have simply compiled the stories for our, and your, reading pleasure. We hope you will be inspired and moved by the sheer passion the authors exude for what they do … and we don’t want to stop here. If you have a story to tell, please let us know and join the movement of Textile Exchange Insiders!
INSIDER SERIES #01
Textiles Program, Circle Economy
Q: What is the Fibersort project?
The Fibersort is a technology that automatically sorts large volumes of mixed post-consumer textiles by fiber composition.
The project has two goals:
- Commercialize the machine so it sorts efficiently and accurately.
- Engage industry stakeholders to co-create guidelines and reports that will enable the uptake of this technology into the market and help increase market pull for recycled textiles. These documents will be aimed at textile collectors/sorters, recycling technologies, and brands/retailers.
We are achieving these goals through a multi-stakeholder, collaborative approach.
Q: Why do we need this technology?
20mt (metric tonnes) of post consumer textile waste is generated between Europe and the US every year. This represents huge amounts of natural resources and human labor that are lost through landfill or incineration on an annual basis. In order to “close the loop,” or create a circular textile industry, we must return these items into high quality fibers and yarns, they must first be sorted by fiber composition. This is exactly what Fibersort does.
Q: How will fibersort make a difference?
The short answer is the Fibersort project will deliver the tools and information that solve some of the biggest bottlenecks standing in the way of our industry’s transition to circularity.
The long answer is: Textile collectors/sorters and recycling technologies are the two stakeholder groups who will make closed loop, or circular, textiles technically possible. The Fibersort machine enables collectors and sorters to create the precise input materials (feedstocks), recycling technologies need to create high quality outputs (monomers, polymers, pulp, fibers, etc.).
Brands and retailers are the stakeholders who will make circular textiles economically feasible. The guidelines and reports that are being created through this project will provide critical, standardized baseline knowledge that will enable these important players to increase the percentage of recycled textiles in their product lines. This increased demand will help to decrease the price of recycled textiles and accelerate the transition to circularity.
Policy makers also have tremendous influence on the system. We will be releasing a report including recommendations for these stakeholders to support and drive the transition to circularity using policy instruments.
INSIDER SERIES #02
Chief Sustainability Officer, C&A Global
C&A recently introduced the world’s first Cradle to Cradle (C2C) CertifiedTM GOLD garments, a real circular collection of women’s T-shirts, which was available in C&A stores across 19 European markets in Summer 2017. Additional styles have been launched across Europe as well as in Brazil and Mexico in the fall of 2017.
Q: What inspired C&A to explore a C2C approach?
C&A believes that as an industry, we have an opportunity to move away from the current ‘take, make, waste model’ to a circular model. In practice, this means designing, developing and producing products with their next use in mind; extracting the maximum value from garments while in use, then recovering and regenerating products and materials at the end of use to give them another useful life.
Cradle to Cradle Certified is currently the most comprehensive and recognized program in sustainability certification. Its protocol envisions every resource used to make products as a safe nutrient in an endless cycle. C&A’s Cradle to Cradle Certified collection is an important milestone for C&A – and the industry – as it demonstrates unequivocally that creating circular fashion is already possible.
Q: What needed to be done to achieve this level of certification and what challenges did you face?
To achieve C2C certification, products are evaluated and optimized by an accredited assessor for human and environmental health, recyclability or biodegradability, renewable energy use, carbon management, water stewardship, and social fairness. MBDC, founded by world-renowned architect William McDonough and chemist Prof. Michael Braungart, served as assessor for this project. As a first step, the team visited the two Indian manufacturers, Cotton Blossom and Pratibha Syntex, to develop a baseline assessment of their factories against the C2C Certified criteria. By using renewable energy, offsetting carbon emissions, practicing social fairness, and cleaning the water used in production, both manufacturers were performing well.
More challenging was the chemical side of production. We needed to submit the T-shirts’ Bill of Material (BOM) including process chemicals to the C2C assessor for an initial chemical assessment. Based on this, MBDC worked with us and our suppliers to optimize the materials and chemicals used.
We had to rethink the product construction and use 100 percent organic cotton not only in
the shell fabric but also for the sewing thread and the composition label so only biological nutrients are used in the products.
At the end of the process, C&A’s C2C Certified Gold products demonstrate the ability to be safe enough for home composting at end of use.
Q: As a first mover, why didn’t you use the knowledge you gained to your competitive advantage?
We learned enormously by developing our first C2C Certified Gold garment. But C&A alone cannot change the industry; we actively want others to follow our lead. This breakthrough is too important to keep to ourselves. The industry will need much more collaboration on circular economy approaches like C2C certification, including more brands agreeing to develop products for their next use. And this is why all our learnings have been shared through the Good Fashion Guide at Fashion for Good; explaining how Gold level C2C Certified products can be made so others don t need to go through the same learning curve.
Q: How have your customers responded?
We are pleased with the certified T-shirts’ commercial success and the reaction of our
customers. C2C Certified is a complex topic and difficult to communicate in consumer advertising and in our stores. The circularity of the product and its high level of environmental performance and social fairness were appreciated and understood by our customers. This reaction encourages us to continue on our circular fashion journey.
Q: What are your plans for the future?
By providing our customers with clothing that is safe enough to return to the biological nutrient cycle, C&A is empowering the public to affordably purchase organic, socially responsible products that fully respect nature. These T-shirts are the first step in C&A’s journey to circular fashion. We are committed to making more C2C Certified products and are currently working with our suppliers on the next set of products. Setting concrete targets remains challenging as there are many technical barriers we still need to overcome, for example, we are looking for printing inks, or trims and embellishments or technical accessories which can be C2C Certified.
See: C&A’s first C2C T-shirts
Website: C&A’s first C2C T-shirts
PHOTO: Jeffrey is holding a C2C Certified women’s T-shirt from C&A’s circular collection.
INSIDER SERIES #03
Cecilia Strömblad Brännsten
Acting Environmental Sustainability Manager and Circular Economy Lead, H&M Hennes & Mauritz Gbc Ab.
Q: What will your raw materials/
fiber portfolio look like in 2030?
We have set a goal that we will only use recycled and other sustainably sourced materials by 2030.
We want to prioritize the use of recycled materials and complement that with materials that have been sustainably sourced such as organically grown fibers, BCI cotton, bio based synthetics and plastics, GHG-based materials and responsibly sourced man made cellulosic fibers (MMCs) and animal-derived fibers such as wool grown to the Responsible Wool Standard (RDS) and down to the Responsible Down Standard (RDS).
There are many exiting sustainable fiber innovations both on recycled materials and bio based alternatives made out of residues or other sustainable and renewable resources like, for example, grape leather and orange fiber that we hope can replace many of the materials that we use today.
I believe that the range of materials we are using in 2030 will look quite different than the ones we use today.
To fully move away from materials that are not recycled or sustainably sourced will depend a lot on new innovative materials that can replace the current material portfolio, and we definitely need to heavily increase the use of recycled materials.
Q: Tell us about the progress you are making towards circularity?
In the past year we have set ambitious commitments and goals towards circularity.
We have a vision of being 100 percent circular which means that we will have a circular approach to how products are made and used, taking a holistic approach to circularity covering our whole value chain from design to end of use and recycling. We have also set a goal to only use recycled and other sustainably sourced materials by 2030.
We have now started this journey and we are working on all the different areas of the value chain setting strategies, roadmaps and goals in place to achieve this.
Q: Is the 2030 target a deliberate alignment with the SDGs?
The Sustainable Development Goals are a good and important tool and framework for the industry. We use the SDGs as a tool for the direction in our strategy work. The recycled and other sustainably sourced materials 2030 goal is very much aligned with the SDGs.
Q: Will your collections look very different [in 2030] from what they look like today?
When we say that we will have a circular approach to how products are made and used we mean that we need to take a holistic and systemic perspective of circularity covering the whole value chain. This approach covers how we design for circularity, the raw materials we choose, the production processes we use including energy, water and chemical use and finally we need to expand the lifespan of the products making sure we keep the highest value and use through different forms of re-use models, care and repair, remanufacturing and finally recycling.
We need to make circular sustainable fashion attractive and easily accessible for our customers and we need to continue to engage with customers and other actors throughout the fashion value chain as all these actors are crucial for this development and for going from a linear and unsustainable fashion industry to a sustainable circular system.
PHOTO: Cecilia is wearing an H&M dress made with 70% organic linen and 30% mulberry silk.
INSIDER SERIES #04
Amy Hall, Director of Social Consciousness
& Carmen Gama, Remade Director, EILEEN FISHER
Q: Tell us how Remade In The USA won the EILEEN FISHER Social Innovators Awards?
Remade in the USA was the name of the final Capsule collection made by the three winners of the Eileen Fisher x CFDA Social Innovator Award.
Eileen Fisher partnered up with the CFDA (Council of Fashion Designers of America) to create the EF x CFDA Social Innovator Award, which was a competition open to 60 universities across the USA to invite three recent graduate students for a one year fellowship at EILEEN FISHER to figure out a solution for the damaged garments that are returned by customers through the brand’s take back program.
The three winners were: Lucy Jones, Teslin Doud & Carmen Gama. They were tasked with finding a profitable, scalable and beautiful solution for all these garments. During their fellowship they rotated through all the different departments of the company to get a 360 view of their operations and values. Once the rotations were over, they ventured to play and experiment with the mountains of clothing stored for them to find a solution. They came up with a system with the capability of scaling the production of making new clothes out of old damaged clothing. The final proposal was the
To fully move away from materials Remade in the USA capsule collection which debuted at a pop up store in Brooklyn in July of 2016.
Q: How has EILEEN FISHER benefited from the Awards?
This project puts EILEEN FISHER on the path to becoming a zero waste company and helps us achieve the Vision2020 goals.
Q: Is this the beginning of a radically different business model?
There are two ways to answer this question: for EILEEN FISHER and for the apparel industry at large. In terms of EILEEN FISHER, we do see this initiative as one that could ultimately lead to a truly circular business model. This means that, at some point in the future, all garments we manufacture would ultimately be returned for resale, repair or remaking into new products. Of course, achieving this vision depends on many things: (1) All customers would participate in this program by eventually bringing their previously-worn EILEEN FISHER items back to our store; (2) All EILEEN FISHER garments will be designed for disassembly and reuse; (3) the company will have the infrastructure in place to accommodate the volume; and (4) all the components of our garments (i.e. zippers, thread, buttons) would be reusable.
In terms of the apparel industry, this is where the real impact happens. If the majority of apparel brands were to aim for circular and find ways to incorporate it into their own business models, then we will have a chance of making a real dent in the volume of textile waste on this planet. We are making a sincere effort to prove the viability of this model. Other companies will also need to take a leap of faith.
Q: How important is it to keep operations local?
Keeping this effort local is certainly desirable. It doesn’t make sense financially or environmentally to ship used clothing around the globe (again) in order to remake it into something new. A network of local remanufacturing operations provides jobs, strengthens the local economy and reduces carbon emissions. That said, this could be a new commerce opportunity for developing countries that currently receive boatloads of unwanted used clothing.
INSIDER SERIES #05
THE RENEWAL WORKSHOP
Co-Founder, The Renewal Workshop
Q: How did you come up with the Renewal Workshop concept?
The Renewal Workshop came out of two trends I kept seeing as I worked in the apparel industry. The first is that the apparel is a linear system where we take new raw materials and make new clothes, but at the end of their life, there was not a good system for a completely circular economy. The other is how often I would be in a factory any where in the world and watch hundreds of thousands of articles of clothing get made and thought, how can this model be sustainable? There has to be a different kind of business model where we recover the resources already invested in the clothes we make and how can we decouple resource use from profitability. So we built The Renewal Workshop to serve apparel brands to solve both of these challenges.
Q:How does it work?
The Renewal Workshop serves apparel brands. We partner with them to recover value from their unsellable returns and excess inventory. The Renewal System takes discarded apparel and textiles and turns them into Renewed Apparel, upcycling materials or feedstock for recycling. By extending the life of products through the renewal process of cleaning, repairing, managing individual items and conducting quality inspections on the items, customers get access to not new products of the highest quality.
Data is collected on everything that flows through the system and is shared with brand partners to help them improve the production and design of future products. Renewed apparel is sold direct-to-consumer through renewableworkshop.com, in selected stores or through the brand’s sales channels.
Q:What sort of impact are you having?
We look at impact in two ways, the first is the impact of running a company differently to how a
traditional business is run and the second is the impact our business makes on the industry.
To the first area – we have set up the business such that we lead with our values in how we are structured and how we operate. Our management structure is one of self organizing where each employee has autonomy over their area of expertise, this allows for a more nimble organization that can serve the needs of our purpose and our customers faster. We also have embedded a strong set of values into our decision making process. For example – We manage our time by being present with what is here right now, remaining in the moment, and giving ourselves time to absorb and process. We allow things to happen in flow.
The second is our impact on the industry, in just a year we have been able to divert over 20,000 lbs of textile waste from landfill because of our operations. We see waste diversion as only one of our impact areas, soon we will see a shift in the apparel industry where sales can come for the same product allowing a circular economy for the apparel industry.
Q:What next for the Renewal Workshop?
As a new company we still have a long way to go to serve more apparel brands and shift more business models. And to be demonstrating the business case for an apparel brand to become a circular economy business. This is where we are focused right now, but in the future we are excited for the opportunity to start closing the loop on garment to garment recycling through strategic partnerships.
INSIDER SERIES #06
WESTPOINT HOME LLC
Normand P. Savaria
President, CEO, WestPoint Home LLC
Q: WestPoint Home has a long history and tradition in home textiles (over 200 years!). Has this longevity influenced the company’s approach to sustainability?
WestPoint Home has a longstanding history of environmental responsibility and sustainability. In the United States, we continue to lead initiatives for recycling and purifying water, repurposing waste into new end uses, and developing home textile products that are sustainable, safe, and eco-friendly. WestPoint Home has opened, managed, and partnered with facilities around the world, and we are proud our international facilities meet the same high environmental standards of our American-based factories.
Q: How do your customers influence your product development?
At WestPoint Home, the most important factor in developing new home products is listening to our customers. We are always asking what drives our
customers. We are always asking what drives our customer, and how products can positively impact their everyday lives. Many of our customers, especially millennials, prioritize sustainable, organic products, so we are happy to supply that demand with high quality, eco-friendly bedding and bath at reasonable prices.
Q: Do you see evidence that the customer is caring more about the sustainability of their home textile choices?
Consumers are increasingly savvy about sustainability in their home textiles choices. We notice that a greater percentage of overall product assortments are organic and sustainable stories, which drives pricing, performance, and, ultimately, increased adoption. At WestPoint Home, our organic textile products are softer and stronger than ever, and popularity is driving the price and demand dramatically closer to parity with non-organic product.
Q: What’s on the horizon for hospitality, public procurement, and other big users of home textiles? Any big shifts to more sustainable product lines in that sector?
Millennials have a tremendous impact on the hospitality and travel industry. Their desire for authenticity is a game changer for how hotels market themselves — from design to food and beverage service to overall experience, including the linens in the room. Coupled with millennial interest in sustainability, WestPoint Home’s attention to organic materials, laundry processes, and recycling options for hotel sheets and towels becomes very important over the next few years.
Many hotels are focused on eco-responsibility, and even hiring executive-level sustainability officers. In addition to construction and infrastructure, trending shows these officers will need to address water and energy conservation in the laundering process. WestPoint Home is proactively working with
INSIDER SERIES #07
COUNTRY ROAD GROUP
Sustainability Manager, Country Road Group
Q: Who is the Country Road Group?
The Country Road Group (CRG), a subsidiary of South Africa-based Woolworths Holdings Limited, is one of Australia’s largest specialty fashion retailers, operating five differentiated brands; Country Road, MIMCO, Trenery, Witchery and recently acquired Politix.
Q: When did your sustainability focus step up?
In August of 2015, CRG embarked on a “Good Business Journey” to further embed sustainability into the business, with a goal to make every product more sustainable by 2020. As part of this commitment, CRG set out to improve traceability through the supply chain and develop responsible sourcing strategies for all key raw materials – cotton, cellulose, leather, wool and timber.
CRG was one of the first Australian brands to become a member of the Better Cotton Initiative in March of 2016 and has been engaging with suppliers to set up strategies for working with BCI-accredited mills and sourcing cotton as Better Cotton. CRG also sources organic cotton for selected ranges and are working to convert at least 30 percent of its cotton products to more sustainable cotton (BCI or organic) in the coming year.
Q: What about other Preferred Materials?
CRG has spent the past year mapping its cellulose supply chain to get a better understanding of the risks associated with deforestation. CRG has traced 93 percent of total cellulose back to the fabric producer, with around 43 percent coming from Lenzing and Aditya Birla – the world’s first fabric producers to meet the CanopyStyle audit requirements. Furthermore, approximately 30 percent of CRG’s cellulose products were made from lyocell and modal fibers made from wood pulp sourced from responsibly managed forests and converted into fibers using manufacturing processes that minimize impact on the environment.
In response to the number of environmental and animal welfare challenges that leather poses, CRG has spent the past two years mapping its leather supply chain, with around 30 percent of leather spend sourced from tanneries accredited against the Leather Working Group (LWG) environmental standard. CRG is also a member of the Textile Exchange Beef and Leather Working Group, with the objective of partnering with a diverse range of stakeholders to address the complex issues within the leather and beef supply chain.
INSIDER SERIES #08
Wendi Goldman, Sustainability Champion and Chief Product Officer, Gap
& Nancy Green, President and CEO, Athleta
This spring, the leading global retailer Gap Inc. unveiled new commitments from two of its five brands, Gap and Athleta, to accelerate the use of more sustainable fibers in apparel production within the next five years. The goals were announced in advance of Earth Day last April.
Gap, the company’s namesake brand, announced a new commitment to obtain 100% of its cotton from more sustainable sources by 2021. To achieve its new cotton goal, Gap will continue to partner with Better Cotton Initiative (BCI). BCI works with farmers around the world to improve cotton production for the people who cultivate it, the environment, and the cotton sector’s future. The brand sourced 3.8 million pounds of Better Cotton for Spring 2017 product. Gap’s new commitment also includes the use of other sustainable cotton such as organic, recycled and American-grown.
We believe in actively protecting the planet we all share,
shared Gap’s Chief Product Officer Wendi Goldman, who serves on both the Gap Foundation Board of Trustees and Gap Inc.’s Sustainability Board.
For Athleta and our community, the Earth is our playground, and we believe it’s vitally important to protect it for the next generation,
Gap’s cotton goal is part of the brand’s Gap for Good platform for more sustainable fashion, which also includes saving water and reducing energy consumption, as well as educating and empowering women through Gap Inc.’s signature life skills and education program, P.A.C.E. (Personal Advancement & Career Enhancement).
Gap Inc. recognizes the importance of improving the sourcing of cotton, which is one of the most water-intensive crops globally and impacts the lives of millions of people around the world; a significant portion of the fabric used by Gap Inc. brands is cotton. Collectively since 2016, Gap, Banana Republic, Old Navy and Athleta have sourced more than 11.5 million pounds of Better Cotton – enough to make 7.4 million pairs of jeans.
Athleta, whose assortment predominantly features technical fabrics, announced a series of sustainability goals including a commitment to use fibers that are better for the planet: by 2020, 80% of the brand’s apparel materials will be made with sustainable fibers.
With our new sustainable cotton goal, we have the opportunity to make a big impact on the global cotton community, and bring to light what’s so incredibly important to the future of garment manufacturing, what matters to us as a brand, and what matters to our customers.
said Nancy Green, president and CEO of Athleta, who also serves on both the Gap Foundation Board of Trustees and Gap Inc.’s Sustainability Board.
With the use of more recycled and sustainable fibers, we’re working to lessen our impact on the environment and preserve the Earth’s precious natural resources. Using our business for good is central to the mission of Athleta.
Athleta has been working to aggressively increase its use of sustainable materials over the last two years by converting materials to recycled synthetics, organic cotton, TENCEL and Lenzing Modal. These more sustainable fibers are transformed into high-quality, high-performance fabrics in many of Athleta’s signature styles. The brand will meet its new 2020 goal through a focus on partnering with fiber and manufacturing suppliers on innovative solutions
In 2016, seven million plastic water bottles were diverted from landfill as a result of Athleta’s use of recycled polyester.
The sustainable fiber goal is one pillar of the brand’s expanded sustainability platform, which also setting goals to use more efficient fabric dyeing and finishing techniques to save water; to help empower the women who make its clothes; and also reduce waste at the brand’s stores and HQ operations.
As an enterprise, Gap Inc. recognizes there is more work to be done, and continues to explore new to address the raw material impacts of its supply chain. Most recently, in July, the company announced a new company-wide policy to eliminate the sourcing of wood-derived fabrics from ancient and endangered forests by 2020, partnering with the non-profit organization, Canopy, as part of their sustainable fashion and forestry initiative known as CanopyStyle.
Gap Inc. is also taking action as a global retailer to reduce its environmental footprint across its supply chain. By the end of 2020, Gap Inc. has committed to a 50 percent absolute reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in its owned and operated facilities globally from a 2015 baseline, and to divert 80% of its waste in the U.S. Since 2014, Gap Inc.’s suppliers have saved more than 750 million liters of water– that’s enough to provide every person in the U.S. with one days’ worth of drinking water.
INSIDER SERIES #09
Chief Financial Officer, prAna
Q: What does a “preferred fiber portfolio” look like for prAna?
Currently, we define a preferred fiber portfolio as using the best practices in natural and synthetic fibers available on the market that use green chemistry. Lucky for us, being able to tap into the awesome service of the Textile Exchange Preferred Fiber Reports allows us to be mindful of our total fiber usage and the percentage we are purchasing, which is a key instrument that we use to set goals for future fibers. In the past, we have used a materials thermometer coupled with
customer insight data to strategize and prioritize the fibers we could use as a best practice on the market, and how to have the most impact. This directly influenced our ability to commit to 100 percent organic cotton and achieve it.
Q: Where are you now on your cotton journey?
This year we are excited to announce that our Spring 18 collection represents the last step in our conversion to 100 percent organic cotton. This has been a long journey for prAna ever since we learned about the impact of insecticides and pesticides on not only the soil, but also the farmers, for conventional cotton.
At prAna, we not only consider the best practices in the raw materials we use, but are also committed to hiring sustainable vendors to expand our values that all humans should be treated equally and have access to their basic needs. Therefore, we directly microfinance (See: Why Organic Matters — Sustainable Clothing Movement) an organic cotton farmer co-op in India that allows farmers to purchase cotton seeds and supplies interest free each season. This means the farmers can avoid high interest rates on bank loans, which have contributed to one
of the highest farmer suicide rates on the planet.
Our Spring 18 collection represents the last step in our conversion to 100 percent organic cotton. Our commitment to replacing all conventional cotton in our products speaks to the continued momentum of the Sustainable Clothing Movement and the drive to lessen our impact on the planet.
Q: How important are man made cellulosics for prAna and what are you doing in this area?
prAna’s journey to eliminate use of rayon/viscose was not an easy one and there were a lot of valuable learnings along the way that we would love to share with others. For example, how we devised a plan, built internal and external stakeholder partnerships, overcame challenges and obstacles, and streamlined the process.
At prAna, we are passionate about our Forest Fiber Policy and elimination of rayon/viscose because it directly supports SDG 15, and rayon is hands down one of the dirtiest fibers (from an environmental perspective) in the apparel industry.
Having a strong forest fiber policy means we are not supporting poor land management, deforestation, or illegal logging, which all ultimately impact biodiversity.
Q: What’s on the horizon?
A lot! We are always working to improve our internal sustainability plan that pushes us to constantly innovate and use the business platform for change, while at the same time holding us accountable on an annual basis. The ultimate goal is to create product that promotes a circular economy and ensures that we continue to serve the prAna customer by creating ethical product that promotes positive social and environmental impact.
INSIDER SERIES #10
PLASTICS FOR CHANGE
Founder/CEO, Plastics for Change
Q: Can you tell us a little about Plastics for Change?
Plastics for Change has adopted strategies from fair trade agricultural practices and applied them to the informal recycling economy in developing countries. Our deal process and mobile platform provides urban waste pickers with access to fair market prices. We work with apparel brands to immediately improve the social and environmental impact of their garments, while increasing the value of their goods to today’s conscious consumers.
This initiative is about using mobile technology to create sustainable livelihoods for the urban poor while helping the industry make a profitable transition towards a circular economy.
Q: How did you get started on this journey?
This initiative is about using mobile technology to create sustainable livelihoods for the urban poor while helping the industry make a profitable transition towards a circular economy.
My journey started with a trip to Cambodia back in 2011, where I became fascinated with the opportunity to use plastic waste as a means to reduce poverty in developing regions.
The scale of this problem is audacious. 2 billion people are living on $2/day and 3.5 billion people are living without access to crucial waste management services.
My trip to Cambodia inspired me to write my honors thesis on the subject in university. I have been focused on implementing human-centric solutions to this environmental challenge ever since.
Q: Can you give us a snapshot of the industry – and the shifts at play?
The industry is making a lot of process, but unfortunately, the problem is also growing at an alarming rate.
In most developing countries the consumption rate for plastic is growing at double digits. In fact, in the next 24 hours, the virgin plastics industry will consume approximately 7 million barrels of oil. Municipal waste management budgets simply can’t keep pace with this exponential growth, therefore it is imperative to catalyze the industry to transition towards a circular economy. The actions we take in the next decade will determine the direction of the planet for the next hundred years.
The good news is that consumers are increasingly concerned about how their choices impact the environment, their community and their own well-being. They expect companies to be greener and offer more ethical products and services.
Q: How are companies responding to this awareness?
We’ve had fair trade agriculture for decades and there is a lot that the recycled polyester supply chain can learn from this sector.
Collecting and recycling PET bottles supports millions of economically vulnerable families globally. The Word Bank estimates that 1% of the urban population relies on recycling as their primary household income.
The textile industry can make a contribution to all 17 SDGs by supporting a circular economy in developing regions. Now more than ever, consumers want to purchase from brands who share their values. Consumer advocacy is driving companies to take action. We’re living in an incredible time where we have the ability to address the textile industries problems at scale.
INSIDER SERIES #11
CEO, Ioniqa Technologies
Q: Tell us about Ioniqa?
Ioniqa is a cleantech spin-off from the Eindhoven University of Technology (The Netherlands) and is specialized in “magnetic smart materials” and separation processes. This has led to the invention of a profitable circular solution for almost a quarter of all plastic waste in the world.
Q: TAnd you’ve got a new PET bottle recycling process?
We’ve discovered the key to the Eternal PET Bottle and/or the Eternal T-shirt, with an innovative process to recycle all types and colors of PET Polyester waste into virgin-grade raw materials, suitable for any new PET application. This process can be repeated endlessly with no degradation in quality.
The best news is that the recycled raw materials can compete in both cost and quality with virgin raw materials, produced from crude oil.
Q: What stage in development are you at?
In 2013, Ioniqa managed for the first time to prove its circular recycling technology successfully on a laboratory scale. Then we realized in 2014 a scale-up to one liter volume and proved again that our technology not only worked but was economically feasible as well. Currently Ioniqa is successfully testing its process in the Port of Rotterdam on a scale of 1,000 liters. Internationally, there is a lot of interest in our process and curiosity by consumer brands about the effects on industrial level. This year – 2017 – we will start to develop our first production plant of 10 kilotons in the Netherlands, the first country in the world where post-consumer PET Polyester waste will be upcycled cost effectively on an industrial level. This innovation can then be copied and scaled up globally through licensing.
Q: What’s the special aspect of what you do?
The current mechanical recycling techniques for PET plastics are unable to separate the colors from PET waste and have a limited lifecycle because the quality diminishes after each recycling round. So it’s possible to recycle PET bottle-to-bottle but a used blue bottle can only be recycled into a blue bottle again, and after six rounds the recycled material is worn out.
Ioniqa discovered that a process which uses magnetic smart materials was able to completely break down PET polymers into their original building blocks: pure colorless monomers. These recycled virgin-quality raw materials can be polymerized into any kind of high-quality new PET or Polyester product.
The Ioniqa methodology with magnetic, catalytic nanoparticles is a platform technology. That means that our process can be applied for other waste materials as well. We’re currently doing research on other types of plastics and organic materials such as cotton and paper. Our ambition doesn’t stop with PET.
INSIDER SERIES #12
Director of Impact & Sales, Thread International
Q: Why do you focus on the “First Mile”?
Those living and working in the First Mile (where raw materials are sourced and processed) must endure poor and unforgiving conditions. To create real change in the First Mile of our supply chain, Thread’s impact team designs and implements programs that go beyond auditing to ensure those individuals have access to dignity and opportunity.
Q: Tell us more about the programs you run?
For example, in 2016 Thread launched a micro-loan program to provide interest-free loans to our Haitian suppliers. We’ve transferred the leadership of our quarterly plastic supplier meetings to our Haitian members, which helps develop professional skills throughout the supply chain, and after Hurricane Mathew we came together with Team Tassy to deliver truckloads of sand to one of our areas so that the population could raise themselves above the floods.
Q: What do brands achieve by using your fabrics?
Timberland used our “Ground to Good” canvas in its canvas boots and, compared to conventional cotton canvas, saved more than 30 million gallons of water, 15,000 lbs of pesticides and recycled 765,280 bottles.
Q: And are you seeing an impact?
In Haiti and Honduras, we’ve created 3,845 income opportunities, exported 378,127 lbs of plastic waste, generated $91,987 revenue for our members, and brought 1,046 hours of professional development and training. We’re pretty proud of all that, and there’s much further to go as we develop.
Timberland on Thread International partnership
At Timberland, we have goals to steadily increase our use of recycled materials in all our products. To do this, we are constantly looking for new sources of recycled materials. What got us most excited about Thread is how many steps they go beyond just addressing the environmental benefits of recycled plastics. Thread strategically uses their sourcing to produce positive social impacts through the creation of dignified jobs in developing regions . This focus results in significant added value to what Thread provides us and subsequently what we provide to the consumer.
Environmental Stewardship Manager, Timberland
INSIDER SERIES #13
perPETual Global Technologies
Dr. Vivek Tandon
CEO, perPETual Global Technologies Limited
Q: Tell us what you do at perPETual?
perPETual Global Technologies developed, and successfully commercialised, a sustainable and cost-effective chemical process to reverse engineer consumer waste PET bottles into high quality sustainable (poly)ester. This sustainable ester can be used to directly replace conventional esters made from PTA and MEG, high carbon footprint petrochemicals.
The first application of this ester is the manufacturing of high quality sustainable polyester filament yarns for the textile industry. Through our partner, Polygenta, in India we recycle 2 million plastic bottles a day, selling 20 tonnes of filaments yarns a day.
perPETual enables recyclers and industrial manufacturers to use waste plastic bottles as feedstock in place of traditional oil and gas based PET chemicals. A large focus of the group has been to ensure that our process at scale is able to produce a sustainable filament yarns that match the cost of traditional filament yarns whilst consistently retaining the quality.
Q: How confident are you we can close the loop on plastics?
The growing problem of waste plastic PET bottles is known. The perPETual team, supported by its investors, have dedicated over a decade developing a novel solution. Today, we believe our technology is the only process than can transform waste plastic bottles back into sustainable ester profitably. In addition to this we have successfully (at batch scale) converted 100 percent polyester garments back into ester and back into filament yarns, thereby completing the loop.
We are seeking partners to roll out the technology globally. Working together we can make a material difference.
Q: What was special about 2016?
2016 was a great year from us. Thanks to the support of our customers, we gained confidence that filament yarns produced using our ester met the performance qualities of some of the world’s largest sports, high fashion and automotive brands. We trebled the number of customers we were supplying, opened offices and partnerships in Europe, South East Asia and Turkey.
Q: So where next?
We currently process 2 million plastic bottles a day. In the next 12 months, we will expand to process over 6 million bottles a day. Our aim is to process over 50 million plastic bottles a day within three years. We are talking to both industrial partners and investors to work with in order to achieve this.
We continue to invest significant money into research and development to further improve our process, reduce production costs, recycle different forms of plastic waste and recycle waste textile.
INSIDER SERIES #14
Gr3n — RECYCLING
Q: Who is Gr3n?
gr3n is a swiss company based in Lugano. Our vision is to eliminate the issue of plastics waste on a global scale. We aim to provide a profitable way for plastic producers and waste recyclers to threat plastic waste and close the loop.
Q: What’s different about the gr3n process?
gr3n has developed an innovative process, based on applying a new microwave technology to a well-known chemical reaction. For the first time, an economically efficient chemical recycling process for PET (Polyethylene Terephtalate) will be possible. We are now developing an industrial implementation of this recycling method. This new process can potentially change how PET is recycled worldwide with a huge financial benefit for the recycling industry.
Q: Why hasn’t this been done before?
In the past many efforts were made to transfer chemical recycling from research labs to industry but the economic aspects blocked the proposed solutions. Thanks to the DEMETO (Depolymerization by MicrowavE TechnolOgy) technology developed by gr3n this approach becomes real. gr3n has a massive advantage with respect to its competitors, because it is the only provider of the chemical recycling solution, closing the PET lifecycle, offering polymer grade material, treating waste, lowering carbon footprint and most importantly providing cost savings for players in the value chain. We think it can multiply PET producers’ profit margin by 4 to 5 times.
Q: What stage are you at?
From September 1st 2017, gr3n and our partners started the next phase of work on the DEMETO technology. With 10.0M€ kindly funded by the EU through the EU Horizon 2020 project, our goal is to realize the first full scale pilot plant. This phase will last for three years and will eventually lead to the commercialization of the microwave reactors.
Q: What happens next?
As soon as the plant is optimized, gr3n will produce andcommercialize the first de-polymerization reactors for the market. We will also remain in charge of maintaining the de-polymerization reactors that represent the technological heart of the plant.
INSIDER SERIES #15
CEO of The Aquafil Group
Q: Tell us about Aquafil’s regenerated nylon?
ECONYL® yarn is a unique product, not only because it’s 100 percent regenerated from nylon waste, such as fishing nets and carpet fibers, but because it can be regenerated an infinite number of times without any loss in quality. This is what makes it truly revolutionary for the circular economy. It breaks from the traditional model of creating, consuming and disposing – a model I saw was no longer sustainable.
Q: What have been some of the biggest barriers to the growth of regenerated nylon?
One barrier is awareness – textile manufacturers and designers need to know that regenerated nylon is a real option, and that the quality is just as good as with traditional nylon, but with a lower environmental footprint and in most cases a comparable cost. We have seen a growing interest in sustainable materials – including by the end consumers – and are confident that this trend will continue.
Q: Where is it currently being used?
So far, ECONYL® yarn has been used by over 150 different brands in the apparel and carpeting industries. Major athletic brands like Volcom, adidas, Speedo USA and Kelly Slater’s Outerknown have incorporated ECONYL® yarn into their swimsuits and outerwear, and even luxury brands such as Stella McCartney have embraced the product. We are eager to see what partnerships the next year brings.
Q: What are your long-term goals for ECONYL® yarn?
Our goal is to create a more sustainable future for the environment and for generations to come. We want all designers and manufacturers to recognize the power of ECONYL® yarn, and use it to reduce their own environmental impact. It’s a sustainability story that we want everyone to be part of.
Q: What other options for regenerated nylons are there now, and what emerging technologies do you see taking off in the future?
For regenerated nylons, I can honestly say that ECONYL® yarn is the only product of its kind. However, I hope that many more textile ingredient manufacturers recognize that an upfront investment in a sustainable process or product can pay dividends down the road – for your customers, for the planet, and for your bottom line.
INSIDER SERIES #16
Head of Innovation & Sustainability, Ecoalf
Q: What inspired you to dedicate your brand to removing waste from the environment?
I’ve been working in fashion my whole working life and I met Javier Goyeneche (the founder of Ecoalf) when he was just launching the brand. Here’s what happened…
I found out about his work just when I decided I was leaving the fashion world. I had come to the conclusion that fashion didn’t match with my personal and ethical point of view of how fashion should be. However, I decided to join Javier in 2010 and I’ve been working in the “soul” of the company ever since. Sustainability is in the DNA of the company. My remit covers sustainability, innovation, design, materials, processes…and so on.
Q: What role do your suppliers play?
For us, our suppliers are much more than suppliers; we couldn’t have arrived where we are now without them.
I personally work with them from the very beginning; they are very involved with our business and us. I work with the R&D departments, with the technicians and together we develop all the materials. I learn a lot with them! First of all I need to know them very well, understand how they work, what kind of productions they can do, what they do the best… Once I understand them and the possibilities, the technical strengths and so on, I help them to introduce all the sustainable innovations in materials and processes…. And basically I drive them crazy!! It is a joke, but it is something like that, because many
times I need them to stop the machines and start testing something special for me that maybe would not work. Or maybe yes… I can say all our suppliers are wonderful people and they have supported us always.
Q: Where is Ecoalf today with its collections and raw materials?
Our main raw materials are the recycled ones, basically the polyester is from PET bottles and nylon comes from fishing nets and pre or post consumer recycled nylon.
With synthetic fiber we get amazing qualities, I would say we have fantastic fabrics with a high standard in terms of quality and also hand feel, even in very light qualities. Now we are working with PET from the sea bed. In 2015, we launched our UPCYCLING THE OCEANS.
Through the fishermen in Spain we are recovering the marine litter from the all along the bed of the Mediterranean Sea (this is very important, no one is recovering it from the sea bed). Now we are working in 32 ports, with 440 boats and more than 2000 fishermen. By the end of 2017, we will have recovered about 150 tons of marine debris. We transform the PET from the sea into a polyester yarn that we use in our inner collections. We also want to offer this opportunity to other companies. We are really strong in
regenerated synthetics and that’s why we started with outer garments. Each time we develop new fabrics we add a new kind of product to our collection.
Now we not only have regenerated synthetics, we have regenerated cotton and regenerated wool as well. We are also adding other sustainable materials to our portfolio (so not only recycled) for next season (SS18) we will have Tencel and organic cotton as well. For next AW18/19 we will have a totally new look collection.
Q: And what’s next for Ecoalf?
Well, a very important KPI for us in 2018 is “cyclability”! We signed the Global Fashion Agenda Call to Action. We are working on nylon made from fishing nets, yarn made from Spanish nets. we are still working on this. Oceans are very important for us, so we are exploring more materials made from the oceans…nets, seaweeds, and chitosan… Let’s see!
INSIDER SERIES #17
Q: Who is Virent?
Virent is a technology development company based in Madison, Wisconsin, USA. Virent’s technology creates the chemicals and fuels the world demands from a wide range of naturally occurring, renewable resources. Virent is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Andeavor.
Q: What is Virent doing to advance biobased synthetic textiles?
Virent developed the BioForming® technology, which uses plant based feedstocks to produce bio-fuels as well as BioformPX® paraxylene, a key raw material to produce bio-polyester fiber.
Virent has progressed its technology through pilot and demonstration scale, and produced the bio-paraxylene that was used to make the world’s first 100 percent plant based polyester shirts. Virent is currently working on scaling up its technology for commercialization.
Q: What are the main challenges to reaching scale and how can the industry address them?
Scaling up and commercializing a new bio-based technology to produce biosynthetic fibers has some significant challenges. One way to address these challenges is through companies who all share a common interest collaborating in commercializing a new technology.
Virent’s view is that a Consortium approach is critical to addressing the scale-up challenges inherent in the deployment of novel technologies.
In July 2016, Virent announced the formation of a Strategic Consortium to commercialize the BioForming technology for low-carbon fuels and bio-paraxylene. The Consortium connects the key strengths of its members, who are all leaders in their sectors with a strong desire to develop sustainable solutions. Consortium members include Andeavor (a leading US refiner and marketer of fuels, interested in low-carbon fuels); Johnson Matthey (a UK based global specialty chemicals and sustainable technologies company with expertise in scaling up new technologies); Toray Industries (a Japan based integrated chemical group with global operations and strong businesses in polyester fibers and textiles) and The Coca-Cola Company (interested in bio PET for packaging.)
Q: This is a significant shift from working in secrecy. What are the benefits?
Yes indeed. Each Consortium partner brings diverse capabilities and perspectives to the common vision of meeting the changing needs of their customers, who are seeking more sustainable products and services.
INSIDER SERIES #18
CEO and Co-Founder, Bolt Threads
Q: Tell us about your product and where the idea came from…
We originally studied real spiders’ silk, to understand the relationship between the spiders’ DNA and the characteristics of the fibers they make. Today’s technology allows us to make those proteins without using spiders. Primarily our fibers are made from sugar, water, salts and yeast. No spiders are harmed in the making of Bolt Threads Engineered Silk™ fibers! In fact, there are no spiders at all in the process.
Q: Why it is this technology an important part of textile innovation?
We can tune our fibers at the molecular level, allowing us to design materials with custom performance attributes. Because we are designing an entirely new method of manufacturing fibers, we have the opportunity to make the most environmentally conscious choices at every stage. We look forward to reducing pollution in the textile industry, as well as solving end-of-life plastic microfiber pollution issues, since our fibers are protein based.
Q: What you have achieved and why it is different?
We are one of the first companies in decades to create a truly new textile rather than rely on existing materials like cotton and polyester. We’re very excited about the performance and sustainability implications.
Unlike PHA* for example, which is a polyester, our material is not. Our material is made up of protein building blocks, just like natural silk. Our protein-based fibers are biodegradable. There is not yet a generic name for our material, but our proprietary name is MicrosilkTM.
Q: Where is your material manufactured?
All of our production is currently in the United States and we plan to keep it here.
Making our products in the US, using domestically grown crops and manufacturing resources, enables us to create jobs and also eliminate some of the environmental impact of transportation.
Q: Any exciting news to share?
We’re thrilled to announce a partnership with Stella McCartney. We’ll be unveiling our first collaborative product, a one-of-a-kind custom dress made entirely of Bolt Microsilk™ at the New York Museum of Modern Art’s exhibit “Items: Is Fashion Modern?”.
Q: Where do you see things going from here?
We hope to revolutionize the way textiles are manufactured. Since we’ll have complete control over our supply chain and the material properties of our fibers, we can make performance fibers, sustainably.
*PHA (Polyhydroxyalkanoates) are a class of natural (not synthetic) polyesters that are derived from bacterial fermentation. Basically, microorganisms synthesize polyesters in nutrient-deficient conditions, and these PHAs can then be harvested.
INSIDER SERIES #19
Head of Product Development, Tierra
Q: Where did the idea to create a fully bio based product came from??
One of our colleagues did a thesis on bio based synthetics a few years ago, and we discussed her findings and ideas around integrating biosynthetics into our collections. During that conversation we decided to challenge ourselves with the idea of making as technical a product as possible: fully made out of bio based materials. Normally if you want to learn something, clear boundaries of what you want to do are needed, and you need to stick to the original brief.
Q: Why was this project important to you and the brand?
As a brand and product development team we are constantly trying to evolve, learn, and get better in all aspects of product development.
Q: How did you engage your suppliers?
After specifying what functions and characteristics we wanted in the product, the challenge was to solve that only with bio based materials. Some details that we take for granted in garments we basically had to solve in other ways because no bio based alternative was available. For example buttons instead of zippers and velcro, knots instead of plastic cord locks.
An important partner in this project is the Swedish weaver FOV who is making the fabric according to our spec with the Evo yarn. Also Baur-Vliesstoffe who is making the wool padding has been very helpful.
We also believe it’s important to have a good relationship with the garment manufacturer. We have been working closely with our Hungarian factory for a long time, and they know we sometimes want to push the development process further than other brands.
Q: You are becoming famous for your work in this area. Where to next?
The good thing about the ISPO and Outdoor awards and the following press is that now small manufacturers around the world, that might have bio based products and ideas that we can use in the future, have contacted us.
We will continue using bio based synthetics in future collections: both 100% and partly bio based materials. For FW18 we are blending in 30% bio based synthetics into the linings we are using. 30% bio based amounts to a lot less extracted oil when we talk about a fabric like lining that we buy a lot of.
The main topic when sourcing bio based synthetics is off course how the raw material is produced and where it comes from. Production methods and chemical management is of course equally important as it is with traditional oil based synthetics.
INSIDER SERIES #20
R. Nanda Kumar, CEO at Chetna Organic
Rhett Godfrey, Founder, Chetna Coalition
Q: In a nutshell what is the Chetna Coalition?
The Chetna Coalition is a collaborative value chain and sourcing network of nearly 30 SME brands and facilities cooperating for shared value and the long-term sustainability of Chetna Organic’’s 15,000+ cotton farming families.
Chetna Organic farmers are small, marginalized farmers based in the rainfed regions of Maharashtra, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh.
Chetna Organic’s strength is collective action and fairness of the supply chain.
Q: What do you aim to do together?
Our aim is simple. We work together to grow the value of our fiber and the sustainability of our farming community. We seek year-on-year improvements in the quality, integrity, traceability, and transparency of our cotton and the sustainability of our shared farming community.
Q: Are you seeing progress?
Yes, indeed. We have increased cotton sales 4x. This is an important business parameter. We are creating enough demand for Chetna to be able to increase their farmer base.
We pay farmers a 10% premium, plus find other ways to improve incomes. For example, we organize seed pre-financing and coordinate purchasing projections for on-time procurement finance.
We recently launched organic cotton’s most comprehensive farmer data and transparency program-customized software “SourceTrace” and can track all cotton bales, and even finished goods, back to the Chetna farms.
Q: So how does all this great work scale?
This year, the Chetna Coalition model is ready for replication. We have a proven system, a paid membership model, full time staff, and custom software.
We invite others to join our movement to grow sustainable organic cotton coalitions around the globe.
In a constant search for new initiatives on its quest for a more sustainable fashion Industry Skunkfunk joined a game changer project where people and environment go hand in hand allowing the brand to have a positive and verifiable impact. Welcome to Chetna! Skunkfunk deeply cares about the people we work with. That is why we are part of the Chetna Coalition. The Chetna Coalition (ChetCo) creates community-driven, collaborative and sustainable business solutions to improve the lives of organic cotton farmers and garment workers. Thank you to the people that make this possible!
Mikel Feijoo Elzo
Founder and President, Skunkfunk
INSIDER SERIES #21
Q: Tell us about MetaWear in one sentence…
MetaWear is committed to authenticity, transparency, ethical production, certified organic and eco-friendly fibers, renewable energy and social innovation.
Q: What do you offer your customers?
Metawear was founded as a solution provider to propel the sustainable fashion movement forward. As the “intel inside” of environmentally-friendly and ethical manufacturing, MetaWear offers turnkey full package production of knit apparel and other custom goods.
We are the first and only manufacturer of Cradle to Cradle certified and/or GOTS certified apparel in North America.
Under our 40,000 square foot solar-powered roof in Virginia, we offer cut and sew, garment dyeing, tie-dying, washing, screen-printing and embroidery, using only sustainable fibers and materials.
MetaWear’s in-stock blank program allows for quick turns, low-minimums and flexibility for custom-printed T-shirts and other fashion basics.
Our multi-tiered platform of bronze, silver, gold and platinum gives our brand and retail customers the ability to meet their price targets. It allows for both partial or fully USA grown and sewn from farm to finished fashion.
Q: Is collaboration part of the MetaWear business model?
Absolutely. Our business model is built on collaboration. For instance, our co-branded initiatives include collaborations with the college market, major online retailers, spa resorts and fashion brands such as “Hanky Panky by MetaWear” and “Indigenous by MetaWear”.
Some of our circular innovations include partnerships with zero-waste designer Daniel Silverstein – where we send him our organic cotton fabric scraps for his high fashion designs. Another is the cut and sew we do for Thread International’s finished garments.
As a champion for regenerative organic agriculture and fashion circularity, we have also co-created products and market initiatives with a wide array of companies such as Li & Fung/Conscious Creative’s “Stubborn Climate Optimist” Mission 2020 T-shirts. (2020T.us)
INSIDER SERIES #22
Senior Director of Corporate Development, Patagonia
Q: Patagonia is a clothing brand so why are you so interested in farming and food?
The Gulf of Mexico ‘dead zone’, just offshore from my home state of Texas, is the largest ever measured. The drinking water of more than 210 million Americans is polluted with nitrate, a key fertilizer chemical that has been linked to developmental problems in children and poses cancer risks in adults. More than 50 percent of America’s topsoil has disappeared. “Conventional agriculture”, the root cause of these and many other environmental and human health problems, has left our planet in dire straits.
In 1994, Patagonia decided to switch to organic cotton throughout our line. This move provoked a fundamental change in our attitudes about agriculture. Taking hundreds of employees on tours of cotton fields, witnessing for ourselves the dangers of pesticide use and the benefits of organic farming, enlightened us to the many benefits of regenerative organic agriculture. We expanded from fiber into food with the launch of Patagonia Provisions, our in-house food startup, which has the goal of fixing our broken food system.
Q: What does it mean for agriculture to be regenerative?
Right now, many definitions are emerging about what it means for agriculture to be “regenerative.” Almost all of them focus on the land management practices, such as using cover crops, rotational crops, reduced tillage, and rotational grazing to increase soil health, but when we dug deeper, we found that each definition differs greatly, with some even allowing synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. We asked ourselves how a system can be regenerative when fields are sprayed with these harmful chemicals. Also, almost no existing definition addressed the welfare of the animals, farmers, or workers of the land. We felt strongly that before “regenerative” gets coopted like “sustainable” has, a high bar definition had to be set for the term, and a certification was the next natural extension of this.
Q: What motivated you to push for a standard for it and what will this mean for your company?
The Regenerative Organic Certification is the result of a cooperative effort among a coalition of change-makers, brands, farmers, ranchers, nonprofits and scientists, all with a clear goal: to pave the way to an agricultural future focused on enriching the soil, while valuing people and animals.
Our approach does not aim to supplant existing organic standards, but instead provides detailed guidance on how producers can establish and implement a regenerative organic framework that builds soil health. For Patagonia, Dr. Bronners, and the other brands committed to scaling regenerative organic practices within our supply chain, this means educating our partners on the certification and guiding them on the path to Regenerative Organic Certification. Because this is an aspirational standard, we realize this will be a journey for the farmers and ranchers with which we work, but with a certification in place, a roadmap has been set to move our food and fiber providers towards improved management of their land, soil, animals, and workers.
Q: What happens now?
Creating a certification is just the beginning. Regenerative organic farming is not a new concept, and farmers around the globe have been using practices outlined in the Regenerative Organic Certification for hundreds of years. We now need to educate brands and consumers on what it means to have the Regenerative Organic Certification label on a product. We want to provide consumers a label that ensures all the critical parts of an agriculture operation are addressed through this holistic certification, eliminating the confusion and greenwashing that occurs with the myriad of labels that exist on products.
To us, success will be defined by wide scale adoption and understanding of the Regenerative Organic Certification by farmers, brands, and consumers alike. In 2014, research by Rodale Institute estimated that if current crop acreage and pastureland shifted to regenerative organic practices, 100% of annual global CO2 emissions could be sequestered in the soil. One of the requirements of the certification is to measure soil health on a regular basis. Our hope is to demonstrate that by adopting regenerative organic practices, a farm is able to measurably improve the health of their soil and potentially sequester carbon, proving that agriculture can be a solution to climate change.
INSIDER SERIES #23
Head of Vendor Relations & Sustainability Non Food, Tchibo
Q: Tell us a little about your cotton strategy?
Cotton is one of the most important materials in our products and therefore a major focus in our sustainability work.
As we see it, there is no alternative to sustainability. In times of climate change, inequality and an increasing incidence of international conflict, the question should not be “Why are we committed to sustainability,” but “How can we make this happen?” Therefore, we have a clear target: a 100 percent sustainable business.
In 2007, we started to integrate cotton from sustainable sources into our products. From the first few products we have expanded to our entire assortment, including day- and nightwear, ladies, men and kids clothing as well as home textiles such as bedlinen and towels.
Today, 80 percent of the cotton in our apparel and home textiles comes from sustainable sources. The majority comes from organic cultivation (certified to the Organic Content Standard or the Global Organic Textile Standard). We also support the Aid by Trade Foundation’s Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) initiative as a purchaser of CmiA cotton and as a partner in community projects.
Next to integrating sustainable materials into our products we also have a strong focus on creating more transparency and sustainability throughout our cotton supply chains. To achieve this we know that sector-wide collaboration is a key instrument to drive change. This is why we decided to join the Organic Cotton Accelerator (OCA). Jointly, we believe that we can tackle the challenges around organic cotton in a systemic and holistic manner.
Simultaneously we are working on pilots, building up supply chains from the cotton origin to the end product. Our partnership with the Appachi ECO-LOGIC Project is our flagship project in this.
Q: What was your “cotton highlight” of 2016?
Our cotton highlight 2016 was our cooperation with the Indian Appachi ECO-LOGIC project which led into our first ECO-LOGIC ladies wear collection that was launched in a March 2017 in a fashion show.
We first collaborated with the Appachi ECO-LOGIC project in 2015. Working with the project gives us the opportunity to not feed “top-down’” requirements into the supply chain, but to work from the “bottom up” from the cotton field to the product. We like to see us as a partner in the process, not as a top down customer alienated from the different parts of the chain.
What inspires us about the project is the strength, self-determination and independence of the farmers involved in the project. And, against that background, it gives us great joy to give farmers and their work, as well as all the other people involved in the supply chain, a face, an identity through our collection. It also allows us to pass on the value of their work to our customers, as well as their passion and the care they bring to their product.
Our first ECO-LOGIC collection was special because it built on the great quality and special value of the cotton. It was built on a modern and timeless design and reflected the inspiring interconnection between quality, design and sustainability. But most importantly: behind the collection are great stories of the people involved in the manufacturing of the clothes.
Q: Where next for Tchibo?
We are striving to close the gap from conventional to sustainable cotton and are looking to achieve the 100 percent mark within the next few years. This is the toughest part of the stretch, because now we have to find solutions for product types which are not so easily transitioned for a good mix of quality, sustainability and mainstream pricing.
Also, we want to strengthen industry solutions and innovative new approaches in the cotton sector. As an industry, we still have a lot to learn to have the highest possible impact along our chains. We need the space for trial and error and an understanding by the public that the industry will also make mistakes. The crucial thing is that we never give up to find new solutions.
And, most importantly, we want to bring the message of sustainability across to our customers more effectively. A sustainable world can only be created if all actors in the supply chain – from the cotton farmer to the customer – align on this mission. For that we have to find good ways of attracting our customers to our sustainable products.
INSIDER SERIES #24
Responsible Sourcing Manager, FatFace Ltd.
Q: What inspired Fatface to dig deeper into cotton sourcing and come up with a preferred cotton strategy?
While we were building the FatFace business strategy, we recognized that part of what our customers wanted from us was sustainability. In fact, a lot of customers think of us as a sustainable brand, and we realized we could be doing more to meet their expectations. We decided that in order to create quality products that our customers feel proud to wear, sustainability should be built into the product from design.
Cotton is such a valuable material for us as it is a natural resource forming the basis of the majority of our products. Our customers know us for our cotton jersey t-shirts, casual popovers and relaxed trousers, so making these products sustainable would be a huge win for us and for them. We also know that cotton is an incredibly important raw material that supports the lives of millions of people around the world.
By promoting the integration of sustainable forms of cotton into our products we are showing our customers how committed we are to improving livelihoods and protecting the environment.
Q: You began this journey quite recently (in 2016) and have made stunning progress so quickly! Looking back, what have been the biggest challenges?
We made a huge leap in our initial commitment, and probably didn’t think too hard about how it was actually going to be achieved! Having said that, the fact that we committed to buying 100 percent sustainable cotton by 2020 has meant that we have a strong and consistent message for our suppliers – they have to get on board to stay with us. In general, they’ve been brilliant, understanding and supportive; with a lot of them including us in their existing sustainable cotton process and some completely reforming their supply chain to meet our needs. We are working in partnership with a lot of our suppliers and the whole process has helped us to get to know each other and improve our ways of working alongside each other.
We’ve found gaining traceability in the supply chain and designing and implementing a process to track our cotton buy across the business really difficult.
We’re not a very “automated” retailer, so fitting a traceability process into our buying process has been a long journey. But we’re trialing a system now and training our buying teams so we’re hoping we’ve got something that works for us. We’ve spoken to a lot of other retailers who are on a similar journey to us and they have similar feedback – we think there is a big opportunity for the person or company who can develop an “off the shelf” sustainable materials track and trace system.
Q: And your greatest achievements?
We only published our commitment in September of 2016, and we’re already at 34 percent of our cotton buy being sustainable so we’re really pleased with our progress – 3 percent of our cotton is organic and 31 percent is BCI.
Our next big challenge will be to bring the suppliers who don’t supply 100 percent cotton garments and our accessories suppliers on board.
Q: Finally, looking forward…. What’s coming next?
We’re focusing most of our attention on our sustainable cotton commitment – this will be such a huge win for our business and it really is a huge chunk of what we buy and sell, so we’re trying not to get too distracted by other materials.
Having said that, there is a lot of innovation going on in the world of textiles right now, and our buying teams have really got the bit between their teeth on this! So our menswear range will include some hemp blends in coming seasons and we’re looking at responsible wool, sustainable leather, preferred viscose and recycled materials for our polyester and nylon blends, especially in swimwear.
Watch this space!
PHOTO: Jane is wearing one of FatFace’s staples: the Breton tee – which will be a core program, made with organic cotton from our Spring 18 collection (in store around Christmas time), she’s also holding one of our favorite organic cotton blouses: Jenny Giraffe popover, 100% organic cotton.
INSIDER SERIES #25
CEO-Director General, Hilaturas Ferre/Recovertex
Q: Does recycled cotton generate more waste during production than virgin cotton?
The total waste percentage in the Recover process is ±15%, 5% in the recycling process and 10% in the spinning process. Not much more than when spinning virgin fibers, where there is ±8% waste. Most of our waste fibers are collected and going to downcycling applications (e.g. insulation).
Q: How does Recover’s recycled cotton compare to virgin?
We always say that Recover yarns are a ‘different animal’: to say that it is virgin or near virgin quality might give the wrong expectation. We are confident that Recover yarns are among the best quality recycled cotton yarns out there but we cannot claim to be like virgin quality – not only in things like pilling performance but also due to the recycled nature, our yarns perform differently in many ways (e.g. less shrinkage etc.).
This should be better understood by the market, and it is part of our journey to educate the brands/retailers and supply chain on this. Even though it is not virgin quality we are confident about 100% commercial viability, and performance is for sure good enough for apparel and other applications.
Supply chain (knitters, finishers) also have a great role to play in optimizing the quality of fabrics made with our yarns. We can for sure achieve a standard that is perfectly acceptable for the market. What’s more there are aesthetic advantages with Recover thanks to the unique ColorBlend process which is let’s us create incredible color effects like mélange and heathers and is as accurate as any other dye-system.
Q: How about when it comes to price?
We are not familiar with all virgin cotton prices globally. We are comfortable to declare that in general Recover yarns are fully competitive with virgin options. Important note is that you need to compare the price with dyed virgin cotton yarns.
Q: What about capacity and the potential for growth?
Capacity No issue. Potential for growth: very large!
Q: And to the future – will brands be feeding post consumer waste into their own new recycled products?
Yes, together with brands we can divert all types of cotton rich textile waste into Recover+ closed loop yarns that can go back into the brand supply chain.
Q: How much virgin cotton can we conceivably save?
I wish I could answer that question! Foreseeably, it could be ±15% percent based solely on the volume of wastage from cutting.
Q: How many cycles can mechanical recycling be repeated before it needs to undergo chemical recycling or downcycling?
2-3 loops, but likely more depending on product performance needs. With every recycling cycle we need to blend with supporting fibers so therefore we can always upgrade the recycled material of any generation with supporting carrier fibers. Of course there is a limit to the quality you can achieve after many cycles, this must be considered.
INSIDER SERIES #26
TERRE DE LIN
Director, Terre De Lin
Q: Who is TERRE DE LIN?
TERRE DE LIN is a cooperative specialized in the production of textile flax (linen) from the seeds to the fiber. We are 650 farmers and 240 employees who share the same passion for flax. We also share a committed to quality and to innovation. The team focuses on keeping a specific know-how, and strive constantly to improve our production, respect for the environment in compliance with TERRE DE LIN cooperative values. We are based in the Upper Normandy area of France, where the unique terrain of the region produces textile flax of the highest quality. The cooperative represents 15 percent of the world’s quality flax production.
Q: When did TERRE DE LIN start its business?
TERRE DE LIN has been a passionate player in the flax sector since 1939. We developed our company – and our values – over many decades. We were there right from the beginning when France was first developing its flax/linen cooperatives.
Q: Where do you focus your business?
We are quite unique in that we are involved in all the upstream activities of flax production including breeding, seed production, fiber scutching and hackling, and marketing shive by-products. We are joined by two other Upper Normandy cooperatives into what we call the COMLIN cooperative union. The three of us share know-how and marketing of our flax fibers. TEX NORD, our marketing subsidiary, partners with most of the flax spinneries around the world.
Q: Who are your main customers?
We sell seed to cooperatives, scutching mills and distributors throughout Europe but mainly in France. TERRE DE LIN and TEX NORD fiber customers are mainly spinners. They are based in several locations. TERRE DE LIN and TEX NORD work with the largest European and Asian spinners. Although many spinners are now based in Asia, TERRE DE LIN wanted to preserve relationship with European spinners, they represent 25% of our supply. Other fiber customers are the paper industry, the insulation and the technical and composites use industry. We have had partnerships with brands such as Freitag, La Révolution Textile in France and Kenland Linen in Japan.
Q: How do you address sustainability?
Flax is environmentally friendly: it does not have to be irrigated and requires few inputs. It follows a long cycle of crop rotation (6-7 years) which increases crop biodiversity and prevents diseases. Plus, it is a carbon sink that holds 3.7 tons of CO2 per hectare. We base our business on these fundamentals.
Furthermore, the benefits to the cooperative are multiple. For instance the farmers use
ropes made from their flax for farm work and scutching. We have created varieties that are naturally resistant to diseases (only 3 diseases in 30 years) and we share learnings from agronomic trials. There are few areas where we grow flax organically. We consider that conventional flax and organic flax farmers can learn each other to obtain continuous improvements on sustainability and on quality management. All our organic flax is GOTS certified.
From a social point of view, the cooperative system has a transparent and equitable governance system. Each member owns a share of the cooperative. Farmers all have equal voting rights and make decisions together. The cooperative has a long-term development policy to ensure its members income is sustainable and incomes are equitable between farmers.
TERRE DE LIN cooperative operates at a human scale. Rooted in its area, TERRE DE LIN contributes to economic development and local employment.
INSIDER SERIES #27
President, Hemp Fortex Industries Ltd.
Q: Can you tell us a little about the history of hemp?
Hemp is the most environmentally sustainable fiber. It was also the first fiber cultivated for textiles. It was used throughout history, for things like ship’s sails and artists’ canvases. The Age of Exploration and the Renaissance are filled with hemp; there’s a lot of romance to it. It’s also a beautiful fiber to work with, with long fiber surfaces that catch the light and a rich texture.
Q: Where is it being produced?
All of our hemp is grown and processed in China. We are a vertically integrated manufacturer which gives us stewardship over every part of the process. We source the best and most environmental fibers, spin the highest quality yarn, to knit and weave fabrics that are both fashionable and eco friendly.
Q: What trends are you seeing?
We are seeing advances in eco- processing all the time. In the market there is a new interest in hemp both in fabric, for its cache, and in active wear and workwear for its performance features; antimicrobial properties and strength. We are seeing a lot more acceptance.
Q: Is demand growing?
There is a lot more interest from mainstream fashion companies, outdoor companies and also workwear is a big new area. We see the market growing in apparel and accessories.
Q: What’s next for Hemp Fortex?
We are always working on encouraging more hemp crop production and appropriate mechanization of processing to increase availability and reduce cost to grow the market. Largely, the fiber is just little known. One exciting thing we are looking into is US-grown hemp fiber.
INSIDER SERIES #28
Supply Chain and Sustainability, Outerknown
Q: What drew you to using hemp in the Outerknown range?
Hemp has the vibe and feel that’s right for our brand, rich texture, lots of character, and it hits all of our sustainability goals as a fiber. Hemp naturally uses less water and no pesticides. Hemp knits have a tendency to have high shrinking, this can present problems during cut and sew, but we have good partners and they have been able to figure out the controls in manufacturing.
Q: How are you using it?
We use both knits and wovens primarily in blends with organic cotton. Some are blended with recycled polyester.
Q: What’s the future of hemp as a serious mainstream preferred fiber?
Hemp is a great fiber; it’s extremely durable and the textures are amazing.
Hemp has such a compelling history: It was one of the first fibers spun into textiles, it was used to make ropes during mariner’s times when sailing vessels were the main mode of transportation.
There is a certain mystique to hemp too. Cultivation is illegal in some countries, the United States included, although we’re trying to bring it back…
In January of 2015, The Industrial Hemp Farming Act (H.R. 525 and S. 134) was introduced in the House and Senate. If passed, it would remove all federal restrictions on the cultivation of industrial hemp, and remove its classification as a Schedule I controlled substance.
I don’t feel it will overcome cotton as a staple, however.
INSIDER SERIES #29
Q: Can you tell us a little about your work with hemp?
We first got into hemp only because we thought it was “cool.” But I soon realized that there
is more to this fiber and its properties. The longer we worked with it, the more convinced I became about its benefits, but it took me years to realize its potentials. Today I am more convinced than ever that hemp is key for a better and healthier future, especially if we want to feed all people on our planet.
Q: Where is it being produced – and what trends are you seeing?
It used to be grown all over the planet in the past. Thanks to open-minded people it is again grown nearly all around the globe, but at the time being in most cases for smaller research projects rather than industrial applications. In Europe today, most of the hemp is grown for its seeds, which is a steady growing market. Fibers however are only used in paper, construction and non-wovens – mostly for the automotive industry. All of those markets are struggling with pricing compared to other raw materials. The only place today to find fine textile qualities made from true hemp is China, where there has never been any prohibition or demonization of this plant.
Q: What barriers exist to hemp being fully mainstreamed in the market?
Those barriers do exist. One is definitely in the minds of consumers after all those years of demonizing the plant. But I am neither a psychologist nor a marketing guy, so let me stick with the ones I know – the technical barriers: the basic key technologies we have for hemp fiber processing and conditioning date back to the 1940s, but even for harvesting the plant there exists no turn-key-technology for startups to get going on this initial step. The reason is simply that nobody in the western countries kept working on those technologies after the prohibition and until lately the remaining eastern block and China were not known for being great developers of harvesting or processing technologies. It is of course obvious that – with today’s technologies – it would be easy to outperform those old systems when it comes to performance and qualities. But there are still very few companies out there which have realized the true potential of the plant. Therefore, the development of the necessary technologies still has to find a higher pace in order to make the processing more economic and the resulting products more competitive.
Q: And to the market – is demand growing and if from what direction?
Regardless of the relative high pricing of hemp textiles the demand has been rising for years. And even without modern technologies being available yet, the Chinese are trying to keep up with it by using the existing old technologies and experimenting with new ones, which are still in development. This is only for the textile hemp fibers. But demand for hemp seeds and new: for CBD (an extract finding use in medicinal products) is still growing faster than for the fibers. But this multiple use of the plant (not to forget about the shives – the wooden core, which today is not only used as animal bedding and fuel, but also for active carbon and even for capacitors) is also fueling the research on the fiber side, as countries like Canada who
turn over a billion/year with hemp seeds, but still burn the fibers because of the lack of technology, see a strong need to make the fibers valuable for their industries.
From our own perspective: there were only few years in our company ́s history in which the demand was not much higher compared to what we were able to deliver according to our quality standards. It is no wonder though: whoever tried hemp socks or anything else you are wearing directly on your skin, will buy hemp products again as long as they can afford it.
On the research side we are working since quite some years with automotive and construction stakeholders in Europe, as those industries also see a strong potential in the fiber and definitely have more resources for R&D then the eroding textile industry in Europe.
Q: What’s the future for hemp?
It’s definitely bright! It might not be the textile industry leading the way in this time of cheapest production and fast fashion. But every technological achievement will also have impact on the overall pricing of hemp fibers and available processing technologies for all industries.
INSIDER SERIES #30
CEO & Co-Founder, Evrnu
Q: How did Evrnu start?
Evrnu was founded by Christopher Stanev and myself. Christo and I have deep roots in the textile and apparel industry, with personal commitments to innovate in a way that reduces negative impact to natural resources while at the same time growing our industry in to the future.
Q: Tell us how you are doing that?
Using state-of-the-art chemical regeneration technology, we have developed a process that transforms postconsumer cotton garment waste into high quality cellulosic fiber. Evrnu fiber can be functionalized to perform like a natural or synthetic fiber, and has significantly improved dye properties compared to cotton, polyester and rayon alternatives.
The implementation of the technology will help to preserve the textile supply chain by using minimal water and preventing greenhouse gas produced from garment waste going to landfills.
Q: So what stage have you reached?
This past year, Evrnu made significant R&D advancements in developing fiber properties, created new garment prototypes and formed several new partnerships with leading retail and apparel brands. Evrnu is producing fiber
on behalf of these brands in a pre-production pilot facility in the US. They will be steadily increasing capacity over the next year, with aims to produce 1 ton of fiber per day by the end of 2018 on behalf of their initial Early Adopters.
Q: What’s next?
So far we’ve created fiber and fabric with a range of profiles, including denim and microfiber. Our early adopter agreements with Levi’s, Target and other leading brands continue to grow and we’re building a test production line at our prototype facility and positioning to scale.
INSIDER SERIES #31
Head of CSR, Hessnatur
Q: Hessnatur is well known for its use of organic cotton and other natural fibers. What made you introduce modal?
Being a pioneer in terms of sustainability is important to us. We were one of the first companies to introduce entire product ranges in organic cotton.
Up till now, we were solely focused on natural fibers so this is a new area for us – and although Lenzing Modal Edelweiß has a natural source (beech wood), it is classified as a manufactured or “man made” fiber. We were so impressed by the innovative closed loop technology used by Lenzing in the production of Modal Edelweiß, and the fact that they only use certified sustainably sourced beech wood from Austria for its production that we decided to try out this new path.
On top of the sustainability credentials we also love the quality of the fabric!
Q: Tell us more about the quality an why you like it so much?
For instance, modal dresses are particularly soft and very pleasant to wear. Even after many washes, their shape remains intact. In fiber mixtures, the special properties of modal have a positive e ect on the other fibers and improve the wearing properties; so cotton becomes softer, silk more stable and linen more elastic.
Q: What makes Lenzing Modal Edelweiß so sustainable?
We only use the Modal Edelweiß. The special feature of Lenzing Modal Edelweiß – and only for Edelweiß – is the sustainable production of the fiber.
From raw material wood to pulp production and fiber production, all stages of fiber production
are located in the same location. The wood comes from proven beech forests, which do not have to be irrigated artificially.
In addition to the cellulose, co-products (valuable substances) are obtained in further process steps. Thus, one obtains acetic acid for the production of food or also xylose, which is the basis for the production of sweeteners. Sodium sulfate – a by-product of fiber production – is used in the production of glasses.
The chemical processes are carried out in a closed circuit with a recovery rate of 95 percent. Also during this stage of the production there are no pollutants and over 50 percent of the wood can be used. The remainder of the wood is thermally recycled which contributes to the energy production at the factory.
PHOTO: Kristin is wearing a Hessnatur top made from 100% Lenzing Modal Edelweiß.
INSIDER SERIES #32
Head of Sustainability and Ethical Trade, Stella McCartney
Q: How important is viscose to the Stella McCartney brand?
Viscose is one of our most used raw materials for Ready-To-Wear (RTW) – women’s, men’s and kids. We use it to make our iconic “cady” and we blend it with organic cotton to create the lining for all of our outerwear and tailoring.
Q: What is a preferred viscose for Stella McCartney and how do you ensure your products meet this criteria?
We are proud to say that all of the viscose we use comes from sustainably managed and certified forests in Sweden, or sources that have been verified to be free from ancient and endangered forests.
In 2014, we started working with Canopy Planet and we made the commitment to ensure that all of our cellulose fabrics meet strict sustainability standards by 2017. In order to achieve this, we mapped our viscose supply chain to understand the risks, and partnered with suppliers that have full visibility of where their pulp comes from.
We are continuously working together with our suppliers and our production teams to monitor the origins of the viscose and verify sustainability credentials to ensure that no viscose used in our products is contributing to the destruction of ancient and endangered forests.
Q: What is Stella McCartney doing to lead the way in “greening” MMCs?
At the end of 2016, we became the first brand, out of the brands that made commitments with Canopy Planet, to achieve our target while continuing to use viscose. By making and meeting the commitment, we have demonstrated that it is possible to have a fully traceable and sustainable viscose supply chain that originates from certified forests.
Q: What’s next on the viscose sustainability journey?
We are looking into how we can better support conservation solutions and alternative feedstocks.
We are also investing in circular materials as these completely avoid the extraction of resources from our natural environment. This is a very exciting time for technologies that can recycle viscose textiles into virgin fibers and fabrics in a never-ending loop. This cuts down on water use, decreases emissions of carbon and chemicals, and preserves our natural resources.
INSIDER SERIES #33
CEO and Founding Partner, Orange Fiber
Q: So who is Orange Fiber?
The company, founded in February 2014, is composed of 5 members: Adriana Santanocito, CEO & founding partner, specializes in innovative textile design, Enrica Arena, marketing and communication specialist & founding partner, Francesco Virlinzi and Antonio Perdichizzi, entrepreneurs, Corrado Blandini, lawyer. Four collaborators complete the team: an industrial chemist, a textile process expert, a financial and management advisor and a social media specialist.
Q: How did you start out?
Following a collaboration with Politecnico di Milano University back in 2012, we developed a process to create a fabric using the leftovers of the citrus transformation industry. We have patented and produced an innovative fabric from citrus waste. In 2014, on Vogue Fashion’s Night Out, we presented the first prototypes: a lace-like fabric blended with silk and another blend more similar to satin. In December 2015 we opened our first pilot plant to enjoy savings in product logistic and to produce the material for our first order. We have produced new prototypes very similar to silk, with a soft, drapery, light feel. They can be colored and
printed as traditional fabrics (inkjet printing and natural colors included).
Q: So where does all this happen?
The first part of our process takes place in Sicily, where citrus cellulose is extracted, then our raw material is sent to our Spanish spinner partner and finally it comes back to Italy (in Como), where another partner transforms it in our exclusive fabric.
Q: Don’t you compete for land with food production?
No, compared to existing man made fibers from cellulose, either from wood or from hemp and bamboo, our fiber does not require dedicated yields alternative to food consumption, but reuses a waste thus saving land, water, fertilizers and environmental pollution.
The very first fashion collection made with the exclusive Orange Fiber fabric was launched on Earth Day 2017 by Salvatore Ferragamo – one of Italy’s top fashion brands and a world leader in the luxury industry – in a collaboration that represents the shared ethical values underlying
the project, shaping the fabric and showcasing its potential for elegant and sustainable applications.
Q: And you are gaining other influential supporters?
Yes, Orange Fiber is now a portfolio company of FTL Venture Inc., the global venture capital fund founded by prominent fashion and digital entrepreneur Miroslava Duma that helps new technologies and sustainable innovations create products and brands to evolve the fashion industry and help reduce its social and environmental footprint. Miroslava Duma is a member of the Orange Fiber advisory board.
Q: How are you funded?
So far we have raised more than €300,000 in a mix of public funding and private business angels.
We have recently been awarded €150,000 as the winner of the Global Change Award by the H&M Foundation. The Global Change Award aims to find disruptive ideas that can help to protect the earth’s natural resources by closing the loop for fashion – our project was selected as one of the five winners by the expert jury from over 2,700 projects coming from 112 different countries.
Q: What is your vision for the company?
At Orange Fiber we want to establish
ourselves as the first Italian mover in the segment of sustainable fabrics through the “green” production of cellulosic fabrics from renewable sources and to create a highly recognizable textile brand for its commitment to environmental protection and transparency.
INSIDER SERIES #34
ALLIED FEATHER & DOWN
Creative Director, ALLIED FEATHER & DOWN
Q: Tell us about your journey in responsible down?
The journey towards responsible down should be di erentiated from the journey towards the Responsible Down Standard. ALLIED has been involved in the path towards responsible down long before the standards were written. There was no third party industry certification in which the farms and slaughterhouses we had been working with could be audited, so we created our own, working closely with partners to ensure that ALLIED’s material was not coming from live plucked or force fed birds. But when animal welfare activists focused on us, the need for a large scalable industry standard became paramount. And thankfully, with all the work and relationship building we had been doing within this supply chain for several years, it was possible to respond quickly and help develop what would eventually become the Responsible Down Standard.
The path to certifying all of our material in the beginning wasn’t easy. When so little value of the bird comes from the down, it was hard to have complete unfettered access deep within the supply chain.
Working with a much broader team allowed us to look closer at all aspects of animal welfare, which became both one of the biggest challenges AND ultimately, the biggest reward.
Diving deeper into the supply chain globally with a new perspective allowed us to look beyond the critical issues and opened everyone’s eyes to some of the smaller issues – and e ect a very quick change. The industry was so focused on the two major issues at hand; a lot of other practices regarding the treatment of the animals could be improved. This is something that we have learned from as a company as we now are constantly working with animal welfare groups to ensure we are not only abiding by, but also actually developing, best practices above and beyond any standard.
Q: What changes have you seen on the ground since the RDS/ TDS was released?
The biggest change on the ground is transparency. Even as the RDS was being developed, it was very di icult to audit parts of the supply chain and this needed to be done with the awareness that many of those running the farms and slaughterhouses really did not want us there. Now we are able to take entire film crews with our brand partners to film and tell consumer-facing stories in even the most remote parts of the supply chain. It’s clear that the farmers understand that what we are doing is not just good for our industry, but helps them as well in the long run. In our last trip with a large partner, a still photographer, videographer and drone operator, the farmers were not only
open, but also excited to have their portraits taken with the team.
The overall feeling on the farms has now gone from suspicion to pride. And that is really exciting to see, because this bodes well for working closer with the farms to potentially develop traceability programs starting that far back.
Q: What have been some of the biggest barriers to the uptake of certified products?
Some of the biggest barriers now come following the sourcing. The necessity to certify every step of the supply chain can become costly for many small and medium sized brands. In many large brands as well, down is not a large part of their overall collections. Brands need
an incentive to be able to amortize those costs which can be quite significant.
As more brands are able to adopt and openly and correctly label products, the consumer will start to recognize what the standard marks mean and then seek them out. Without high level consumer marketing for the standard itself, which can be di icult to do, it becomes a bit of a circle… the brands are slower to adopt because it is expensive and not driven by consumer awareness yet brand adoption is the only way to drive consumer awareness sans consumer marketing by the standard.
Q: What have been some of the biggest barriers to the uptake of certified products?
For something like these standards, consumer response is complicated. If you were to ask 100 random consumers whether something like the RDS is important in their decision to buy a down jacket, the “no” or “I don’t know” response would likely far outweigh the positive. However, even if 99 of those people responded that it didn’t matter to them, it only takes that one person to raise an issue that quickly makes the other 99 care.
However, the consumer desire for transparency and the ability to interact with such an important part of any down product in a tool like our trackmydown is proving quite successful. Perhaps one of the most important roles of the standards is providing an insurance that allows brands to have the confidence to communicate further about their down and down products without feeling like they are painting a target on their backs. This allows for more positive and open communications about down and down products leading to more informed sales associates and more knowledgeable consumers.
INSIDER SERIES #35
Supply Chain Leader, Ramblers Way
Q: Tell us about Ramblers Way’s relationship with wool?
Ramblers Way is a sophisticated casual clothing brand established in 2009. We chose to focus on wool because of its innate sustainability as a renewable, agricultural fiber. We were fascinated by wool’s unique properties – moisture-wicking, odor resistance, and insulating in both hot
and cold weather – and sought to create wool products that could be worn comfortably next to the skin. Being in Maine where millions of sheep were grazed as part of a once thriving woolen industry, we recognized wool as a textile fiber. However finding the superfine, long staple fibers necessary to produce the soft, ultra-lightweight wool fabrics we envisioned was a challenge.
Q: How is Ramblers Way working with suppliers to achieve your goals?
In order to achieve our vision, including making our clothing from start to finish in America, we created a supply chain to meet our unique standards.
We hand selected each partner based on core capabilities and shared values starting with fiber, sourced directly from fine wool Producers in the West, to hands-on relationships with the combing and spinning plants in the South to smaller knitting and dyeing factories in New England. This supply chain means we support local, American businesses, forge face-to-face relationships with our suppliers and continue to develop our expertise in wool textile manufacturing. It is a strategy in which our oversight gives us full traceability, transparency and discretion of the process from start to finish.
Today, we still work with many of the same U.S. suppliers, but our fiber strategy has evolved to include certified organic wool and potentially Responsible Wool Standard wool. Ramblers
Way was certified to the Global Organic Textile Standard in 2016, and we use GOTS as an international sourcing strategy in order to ensure that the environmental and social standards we care deeply for are honored.
Together with GOTS, the RWS is an important part of our long-term wool strategy. We supported its development and we’d like to see RWS embraced by more of the U.S. wool industry.
Q: And what’s around the corner for Ramblers Way?
Because our supply begins with fiber, we own all the manufacturing outcomes – we are responsible for the byproducts and waste too. It’s fun to think through the myriad applications for wool. We’re currently working with Cradle to Cradle on certification of our clothing and end-
of-life potential and exploring approaches like textile-to-textile circularity and upcycling with The Renewal Workshop.
Ongoing challenges for Ramblers Way include innovating manufacturing processes to dye wool and make it machine washable without jeopardizing people and the planet. There’s always the “wool is for winter” obstacle too. Ramblers Way wool may be worn year round – of course!
INSIDER SERIES #36
Supply Chain Manager, Triaz Group
Q: What is Triaz’s involvement with organic silk?
Triaz GmbH supports a rather unique organic silk project in China. We have held 50 percent of the Chinese Company “Organic Textiles” (OTEX) since 2015.
OTEX produces organic silk in the province of Sichuan and makes clothing out of it in its own dyeing and sewing factory.
OTEX is the only producer of organic silk in China and makes 30 tons of silk filament a year.
Q: What does it mean for silk to be organic?
The organic silk is made from the cocoons of silkworms, who are fed only with organically grown mulberry tree leaves. The high quality and the pureness of the food has a positive impact on size of the cocoon and the quality of the silk thread.
Q: Besides no chemical use, what are the advantages to silk being organic?
At the moment a total of 203 hectares are organically cultivated within the organic silk project. The smallholder farmers not only breed silkworms, but grow di erent vegetables in mixed cultivation with the mulberry trees and rear cattle and poultry under organic standards. The organic silk project contributes to the protection of the environment in a country which su ers severely from ecological problems. In addition, the project brings a livelihood to 250 smallholders and helps them to stay in the countryside which is helpful because China has a huge problem with rural depopulation.
Q: Beyond organic cultivation, what else are you doing to improve the sustainability of organic silk?
OTEX makes fashionable textiles out of organic silk, which are certified to the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS). The sewing factory complies with the Fair Wear Foundation the code of conduct.
Triaz invites other companies with interest in organic silk to join them in the use of this unique product.
INSIDER SERIES #37
Founder and CEO, Vegea
Q: Who is Vegea?
Vegea is a biobased material obtained from the processing of the oils and lignocellulose contained in grape marc: a totally vegetal raw material consisting of the grape skins, stalks and seeds derived from the wine production.
Q: What inspired you to invent a whole new type of leather?
As an architect, working in furniture designs, I had to face the issues connected to some textiles and materials commonly used in the fashion and design industries. I was inspired by this but mainly by a deep respect for the animals and the environment. That’s why I begun to collaborate with research institutes specialized in macromolecules synthesis, and where I met Francesco Merlino, industrial chemist, who soon began to feel as passionate about the project as I did. After three years of hard scientific research, together we founded the Vegea Company in 2016.
Q: How hard was it to get from concept to “real thing”?
It was very hard to turn the idea into a real thing. We carried out a scientific investigation on di erent agro-industrial plant-based matrices and after years of totally self-financed research we finally discovered that grape marc (that is to say the grape skins, stalks and seeds that remain after pressing the grapes in the wine making process) contains multifunctional components that are just perfect to be transformed into eco- sustainable technical fabrics.
Q: What role has the H&M Foundation Change Makers Awards played in your success?
We will always be grateful to the H&M Foundation Global Change Award for strongly believing in our project. They are supporting us to develop and accelerate our innovation with tailor-made skills and tools and helped us get prepared for the media attention. We won the first prize and received a 300.000 euro grant and this gave us the opportunity to scale up our idea faster.
Q: What’s next for Vegea?
We are now producing the material in a pilot scale, continuing the research to improve the characteristics of the material and running the patent integration.
We are also working on the first fashion prototypes. In October, in Milan, at the prestigious location of “Leonardo’s vineyards- Villa Atellani”, we will showcase the first collection of garments, handbags and shoes that we will also use to talk about Vegea’s philosophy and versatility during exhibitions and events of sustainable fashion.
Now we are looking for industrial partnerships with textile industries, distilleries and wineries in order to switch to an industrial scale production of Vegea as fast as possible.