What are sustainable sources for the textile industry?
Organic and Recycled
The Covid-19 global crisis has fundamentally shaken consumer mentalities and is driving the industry to highlight the message of transparency as a sign of integrity and best practices. This crisis has also reinforced the need for reassurance and protection through textile products, specifically in lingerie and athleisure. These values have thus become core consumer values and are now at the top of concerns, through the quality and origin of raw materials.
This direction has been reaffirmed in the McKinsey report that came out in early May: “Fashion industry stakeholders must review their supply mix to strike a better risk, cost, and flexibility balance for their product offer…social and environmental sustainability have now become a baseline, as part of the ‘new normal'”! 
With this in mind, Interfilière Paris is launching a new series of articles where we will discuss solutions in terms of different types of raw materials, organized by category: organic, recycled, bio-sourced, and based on biomimicry.
Organic sources that are sustainable:
Organic materials are the most eco-friendly, (provided they don’t have to travel across the globe to be spun, woven, assembled, etc.) because they are grown and processed using no chemical products, without disturbing the ecosystem nor depleting the soil, all while preserving the health of farmers; under these conditions, they are certified “organic”. Natural fibers that best suit these requirements include cotton, linen, ramie, and silk. Furthermore, organic farming upholds the principles of regenerative agriculture, which contributes to greater biodiversity. Thus, there are programs devoted to the development of organic cotton for the textile/fashion industry, which consider social factors as well; one example of this is the Cotton 2040 project entitled “Forum for the Future”.  We can find organic cotton lace at Antik Dantel, knits at Fein Jersey and organic cotton and silk lingerie at Occidente , for example.
In addition, organic materials can also be local, as is the case with French linen and the LINportant campaign promoting the “onshoring” of knitwear production using organic Linen cultivated in France. And finally, to be considered organic, a fiber must be labeled and certified as such by a third-party certifying entity (for example, GOTS for cotton, which guarantees that 70-90% of the fiber is of organic origin, or the BCI organization).
To take things a step further in terms of sustainability, it is worth thinking about material-recycling capabilities, including of organic fibers. Recycling returns value to a previously manufactured product. For the processing of an existing material, it is key to plan for all the steps in disassembly and/or separation of fibers. In fact, blended fibers are difficult to process and generate abundant waste. When dealing with the recycling of textile fibers that share a common origin (100% organic cotton, for example), the key aspect for the quality of the future fabric is the length of the fiber that can be recycled. As it’s sometimes too short, it must be spun with another virgin fiber, often of synthetic origin, and therefore, recycled materials are normally non-recyclable themselves. To recycle a textile product that has reached the end of its life cycle, it is necessary to separate the textile from the accessories (threads, buttons, etc.). Start-up firm Resortecs and its yarn designed for thermo-dissolution may become a solution to help increase circularity and reduce waste in this respect.
In terms of circularity, there is also the possibility of recycling other types of materials into a new yarn. Such is the case with Econyl yarn or with the Seaqual initiative, which offers nylon made from PET or used fishing nets. Lace makers Tessitura Colombo, Jeana or the Illuna group , and knitters Gulbena or Innova , already offer products using these yarns.
Alternatives to silk made from cellulosic materials are also a circular solution. These include Ecovero (Lenzing), the Naia from Eastman technology and the latest innovation from Lenzing, “Tencel refibra” , which contains a minimum of 50% pre- and post-consumer recycled cotton.
And finally, let us salute French start-up “Fairbrics”, winner of the 2020 H&M Global Change Award for its Airwear innovation that is revolutionizing industrial manufacturing processes by proposing the use of CO2 as a raw material in the production of virgin synthetic fabrics.
In conclusion, we know that the perfect material does not exist and that using a systematic approach is essential. The final consumer is increasingly well-informed and sensitive to the subject of “greenwashing” and expects brands to behave with a greater sense of responsibility and sustainability. Industrial solutions will require a higher level of demand from brands for them to gain traction, and all industry stakeholders can help through research and development.
Our next post will address bio-sourcing and biomimetic solutions. Stay tuned. We’re here to supply you with innovations.
 Mc Kinsey report, “Time for change”