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.
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.
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.