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Shinnaigai Botanicaldye™ fabrics

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Thermore® thermal insulation detail

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Thermore® ARIA insulation for Aspesi

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Miroglio Textile E.Volution™

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Monocel Denim

Initiatives to reduce chemical impacts

Sandy MacLennan

2 December 2014

Is it ‘the chicken or the egg?’ or the ‘tail wagging the dog?’. I asked myself this conundrum while researching chemical reduction last year. It was hard to dig out connected narratives but now, just back from Premiere Vision in Paris, I sense more joined up writing at work. For one, there was a neat ‘sustainability lab’ catalogue to review. It came out at Milano Unica the week before, driven mainly by an Italian manufacturer confederacy who are positioning themselves in an holistic way re sustainable futures.

Sandy MacLennan

Posted on 2 December 2014 by Sandy MacLennan in:
Design to Reduce Chemical Impacts

Many claim to be naturally reducing chemical impacts alongside water, waste, energy and CO2 management metrics while using organic and recycled materials, and knitting the whole idea together with ethics, accountability, traceability, biodiversity, the environment and importantly, business. Twenty companies signed up for this along with a variety of supporting organisations such as Bluemine sustainability-lab, Certiquality, Acimit, Bureau Veritas, Centro Tessile Serico, Centrocot, Fairtrade, ICEA and Woolmark.

This is great news and confirms for me that no single measurement (such as chemical use alone) can re-align an industry without the synergy other eco metrics. There are many responsible business practices companies can make to become better, and naturally, chemical reduction is becoming an integral part of that menu.

Importantly the piece identified that brands and retailers commitment in sustainability has had a significant impact on suppliers plans for more eco-responsible production at ground level. 18 named brands contributed to the survey including Armani Group, Cascade Designs, Mango, M&S, Monnalisa, Oberalp Group (Salewa and Speedo), Puma, Ferragamo, Vivienne Westwood, and others who don’t want to be disclosed. Much of this action can also be attributed to the efficacy of the Greenpeace Detox campaign. At first sight it could be argued responses to this were knee jerk, and maybe some are… but for others, they were on this path already.

And so it was from here that I turned back to CLASS, a business started in 2007, whose mission stemmed from a conviction that there was a new and different form of business to be nurtured in the fashion system, one built on a firm grasp of new technologies combined with a sharp and intuitive design. This was the basis of the CLASS platform for responsible and innovative products that mirrored consumer and brand demand for quality combined with real values and creativity. For info visit www.classecohub.org

CLASS created a new eco-resource by bringing together partners from all walks of the sustainable chain in textiles from raw materials to finished goods and helped start the juggernaut for change we see today.

And here we can see just six CLASS partners working to help reduce chemical use in different ways. 

  • I already covered the NewLife™ by Sinterama product - its High-Tech Conversion Model ™ (HTCM), non-chemically produced, luxury recycled polyester yarn that’s now being used across a wide variety of applications.
  • Look at colouration and check out Shinnaigai from Japan. This company is commercialising a new dye range called Botanicaldye™, a new way of colouring fibres with materials derived directly from a wide range of natural plants. These natural plant extracts, from fruit, flowers and grasses, produce a range of new mélange blend looks using for example, apricot, fig, sunflower, strawberry and rose as the source material, transforming through its own cutting-edge technologies, what was thought to be just a niche product into a sustainable commercial reality.
  • Thermore®, a leading maker of high tech insulation materials, has for a long time ranked sustainability as a key component throughout its wide range of natural and synthetic fill materials. Consistency and security is promised which includes a special hypoallergenic guarantee, thanks to the company’s commitment to excluding the use of PFOA and PFOAS, as recommended by Greenpeace. This has helped garner the Bluesign Certificate Award for the CLASSIC, Ecodown®, Rinnova and Thermosoft® products and certified GRS (Global Recycle Standard) for CLASSIC and RINNOVA. For details visit www.thermore.com
  • Miroglio Textile Srl has been a major player in Italian fashion textiles for many years. Today as a CLASS partner, it offers a customized service to all clients meaning that it tailors the technical process to suit clients requests, but with a continuous commitment to environmental protection. The platform is called E.Volution™ making finished fabrics with a reduced eco-footprint that comes from a mix of metrics – water consumption by 90%, Urea free processing, and 37% energy reduction, made from a mix of refining traditional technologies with the new such as disperse inkjet with water free dyes and transfer on polyesters, all the subject of four LCA results in the public domain. www.mirogliotextile.com
  • Monocel is a new textile raw material developed by the Norwegian company Nånkåtån. Monocel is twice as soft as cotton, stronger than cotton, both wet and dry, is antistatic, antibacterial, bacteriostatic, rot-resistant and has some beneficial temperature regulating properties. Monocel is based on a bamboo feedstock and produced through a new closed-loop technology, producing a modified lyocell type end product. It is an environmentally friendly technique where no harmful residual chemicals and no wastewater is produced, with all water being recycled and chemicals safely contained inside the process. Monocel fabrics take lower washing temperatures and reduces the need for detergents. CLASS also partners with the NICE initiative (Nordic Initiative,Clean and Ethical), and this new ‘material’ product represents a resurgence in Scandinavian environmental commitment with a keen eye on the world stage. For info: www.monocel.com www.nicefashion.org
  • Finally a new member of CLASS is Tessile E Salute. An Italian based organisation dedicated to a better awareness for healthier material standards in fashion. Led by Mauro Rossetti, and based in Biella, his role is to control, measure and approve all issues for the safety and management of substances used in the manufacture of textiles, clothing, footwear, leather and accessories. It is an ‘observatory’ organization for the protection of the health of the global textile community. Founded in 2001, the association is working with the Department of Health and control authorities (ISS, EU Technical Working Groups, customs agencies, local health authorities ASL, NAS) by providing its technical expertise and its network of relationships. And that only by working in synergy with these is it possible to identify the most effective solutions for combating and preventing the spread of harmful products on the Italian and European markets. www.tessileesalute.it 

But more than anything, the hard work with eco sustainability comes from the language we now use to communicate it. And how it has to be linked to creativity to nurture the textile, fashion and design system. Here is where CLASS is having its impact, and with organisations such as NICE in Scandinavia, a real change is afoot by finding the right language to build credible consumer information around products, brands and mainstream fashions that is fully transparent by showing the traceable steps along the whole supply chain. So communicating honestly to final consumers is essential. After all, they’re the ones that can create a growing demand for more responsible collections. 

Chemical reduction in textiles is not a lone wolf on the journey to clean up the whole textile industry. In some ways ‘chemistry’ is a force for good when used wisely and managed with care. There are many new technologies coming forward that rely on real ingenious lab work. Chemicals that avoid laundering, maintain a perfect appearance over time and lengthen the lifetime of a product. All good stuff, and it represents a system creating a continuous line of scientific innovation that started with William Perkin’s artificial dye invention in the 19th century, with the fabulous colour ‘mauve’.

It was the invention of modern chemistry, and marked the beginning of a journey that has produced many benefits along the way. It will continue to do this, but now in a more responsible, environmental and holistic way.