Denim sourcing increasingly focused on environmental issues
At the latest edition of the Denim Première Vision show, held in London on December 5-6, the event’s Smart section, dedicated to eco-responsible initiatives, was a big success. For the show’s London debut, the Smart section featured three sub-sections: Library, showcasing fabric and accessories samples; Wardrobe, with a selection of finished products by Pepe Jeans, Mud Jeans, Eileen Fischer, HNST and C&A, among others; and Talks, a series of round-table discussions held on the show’s second day.
Smart Library and Wardrobe were located in the same area, and the products on show were accompanied by panels describing the various eco-responsible labels and certifications available, as well as the denim supply chain’s latest technology solutions.
“We have created a glossary of the circular economy for the denim industry, because no one understands it. There are so many different certifications, and so many arguments between some of them, that labels and retailers are confused. They are afraid of taking wrong decisions. There is no miracle cure, and the majority of eco-responsible options available have downsides that are more or less obvious. The need for education is huge, and it often entails highly technical information. In parallel, across the supply chain there is a genuine awareness of how the industry works at a global level, as jeans production has been highly criticised,” said Pascaline Wilhelm, creative director of the Première Vision trade shows.
Off the record, many leading industry professionals observed that EU regulations set the bar very high in terms of environmental protection; a standard achieved sometime ago. However, only a handful of European players are making their voice clearly on the issue, compared to Turkish and Asian specialists who are keen to highlight measures they have adopted.
“I have been working in the denim industry in Italy for nearly 40 years. Very strict European regulations for textile production were indeed introduced a long time ago. The gap with Asia is still very wide, even though a few step forwards have been made. For our part, we are transparent and we take great care in respecting the environment. Even if the jeans market does have its highs and lows, high-end European labels have understood they have every interest in working with European suppliers,” said Roberto Righetti, product and sales director for Italian fabric manufacturer Berto.
Away from Europe, Soorti -- Pakistan’s largest denim and jeans manufacturer -- claims a fabric output of 6 million metres per month, as well as 3.3 million pairs of jeans per month. The company has adopted an eco-responsible approach, and is working on several fronts: from zero water waste, to the use of smaller amounts of water and cotton, to recycled polyester. Soorti was awarded the highest level, platinum, for the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification.
“We provide information about our policies and our products, but labels and retailers must find a way of incorporating all of this in their marketing plans. For the time being, several clients are still taking their time thinking about working with us,” said one of Soorti’s sales managers for the UK.
Despite the good intentions, Soorti’s website indicates there is still ground to be covered in order for the producer to improve its score in the industry's HIGG materials sustainability index, and to “reach 75%” by 2020.
Alongside Europe and Asia, South America also features a few major textile manufacturers. One of them, Brazilian giant Vicunha, together with its European subsidiary, has adopted eco-friendly policies since 2006. Among other products at Denim PV, Vicunha presented a non-dyed fabric which can be utilised and treated like denim.
“Globally, the market is still heavily focused on price but, since we introduced eco-responsible policies across our entire supply chain in 2006, this has no impact on our pricing. Our prices remain highly competitive, but I reckon that we do not talk enough about our engagement in environmental protection. We are more and more active in this respect, and this is starting to be appreciated by our clients,” said Deborah Turner, in charge of Vicunha in the UK.
Several fabric manufacturers (Advance Denim, Arvind, Cone Denim and Kipas) presented the new products they developed using the latest innovations by Cordura.
In 2009, the Invista-owned fabric brand launched the Cordura Cares programme, designed to support projects that focus on the four following elements: responsible manufacturing, sustainable performance, enduring fabrics and corporate citizenship.
At Denim PV, Artistic Milliners showcased its “SuperCharged Noir” collection, featuring Tencel’s 5S technology, offering more colour stability, more softness and elasticity, to make “fabrics last longer.”
“These new, eco-responsible products are slightly more expensive than average, but they are premium products catering to a changing market. Our R&D department is extremely active in developing new, environmentally friendly solutions,” said Cindy McNaull, Cordura’s global brand and marketing director.
Only a few weeks after the Black Friday purchasing frenzy, talk about respecting the environment, human rights and making “more durable” products that last longer may seem absolutely at odds with the current climate, or at the very least off track.
Nevertheless, there are many signs that consumers expect a greater degree of transparency about the sourcing practices of fashion brands and retailers. Especially millennials, the fashion world’s most coveted consumer target.
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