Do you know where your clothes come from and how they are produced, from cool outdoor clothing to the technical garment for your fitness?
Each year, to support world market demand, the textile industry produces around 1.2 billion tons of CO2 according to a recent McKinsey study: “more than that produced by all international flights and ships combined”. An alarming environmental impact if you add the pollutants released into the environment that often derive from the chemical treatments to which fibers and fabrics are subjected before becoming clothes.
The situation is accentuated by the dizzying emergence of the so-called fast fashion, fast fashion – disposable – which follows the current trends and the moods of the consumer, often not very attentive to the quality of what he wears and the “way” in which is done. Suffice it to say that approximately 80 billion new items of clothing and 5.8 million tons of textile waste are produced every year in Europe, but only a quarter of which is recycled.
The provocation that follows is curious: if the number of times we wear a dress in a year were doubled, the greenhouse gas emissions would be 44% lower, McKinsey says. It’s like saying that our closet can help save the world.
Recycle and reuse to recreate value
Pollution is only one aspect of the negative effects of the textile sector on the environment. And the data confirm it: to produce clothing, footwear and home textiles purchased by European Union families, in 2017 about 1.3 tons of raw materials and 104 m3 of water per person were consumed, the 2019 report reads of the European Environment Agency.
But what if the life cycle of a garment does not end when you decide not to use it anymore and throw it away? What happens if it is recycled and reused in order to be transformed into something totally new, avoiding it becoming a waste but a product capable of still generating value? Certainly the volume of waste released into nature is reduced, but also the waste of raw materials, water and non-renewable resources.
This, in a nutshell, is the “Circular Economy” approach applied to the fashion industry: trying all together to promote a “closed” production cycle – just like natural ones – that does not lead to the elimination of the product, but to the its continuous transformation, creating fashion design projects capable of helping the environment.
Sustainable yarns, not only natural ones
Responsible fashion has become a trend. More and more often we buy a garment giving preference to natural and sustainable fabrics. But it is not only the type of fibers that are used that make the fabrics “green”, but the production process with which they are made.
The organic or animal-based fibers – for example those of the cotton of the t-shirts or of the wool of our sweaters – which at first life seem the most harmonious choice with nature, can involve uncontrolled and low quality work processes. Among the main consequences, the enormous waste of raw materials, such as water and the land to be used for crops and breeding, the exploitation of animals and the poor protection of those who work in the sector. For this reason, it is always important to ensure that the products we buy comply with correct production methods, both on an environmental and social level.
Think of the “cruelty-free” products that safeguard animals and all those certifications that guarantee the production and ethical sustainability of a yarn through the control of every single phase of its production process. The same goes for fibers artificially produced by man through the chemical industry, which need oil to be able to produce so-called synthetic fabrics – such as polyester or nylon to be clear – and can significantly impact the environment as soon as they become waste.
However, not everyone knows that thanks to innovative technological solutions it is possible to create “man made” fibers that fully respect our Planet.
Think of regenerated or fully recycled synthetic fibers whose use can help develop a virtuous life cycle for each garment, minimizing industrial waste. But also to the possibility offered by textile solutions that mix the technical properties of synthetic yarns with the high quality of natural ones. Or, of products that use organic synthetic fibers, which do not require the use of toxic components and which are capable of degrading quickly ensuring a minimal environmental impact.
Looking for virtuous production models
To be sure that a piece of clothing is truly sustainable, it is therefore essential to ask what it is made of and how it was made, with what social, environmental and economic effects. In short, we must try to know its production and life cycle.
A “circular” approach to fashion allows us to consider fabrics – whatever they are – as a precious asset that can always be recycled, reused or “regenerated” to create new textiles that guarantee high comfort and high performance for those who use them thanks to the use of innovative technologies and processes that enhance their technical qualities, while reducing waste and pollution.
The new technologies that are revolutionizing the world of fashion also allow you to design your yarns, immediately thinking of the path that a fabric will have to take to reach the consumer, to be used, disposed of and then converted.
This means being able to trace the production chains to check the materials used and the conditions in which they were used and transformed: knowing if a yarn has been certified or complies with specific standards allows you to discover the history of what you are wearing and certify its value, protecting people and nature.
Sustainability in fashion is therefore first of all awareness. Knowledge of what I buy and use, the result of a profound ethical choice. It is the possibility that gives me a “dress” to share a message and tell a life philosophy.
We call it #greenperforming.