April has been the most active and promising month so far this year in terms of sustainability in the fashion industry. It was marked by Earth Day on 20th April, Fashion Revolution Week, which commemorated the tenth anniversary of the Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh on 24th April 2013, and the World Retail Congress in Barcelona from 25th to 27th April, which focused on sustainability, transparency, traceability and responsibility, among other topics.
Probably the best news, however, came from members of the European Parliament's Environment Committee: they worked out stricter regulations and called for the end of fast fashion, a business model that promotes excessive production and consumption. Instead, the MEPs want to encourage European Union countries to produce recyclable, sustainable and socially responsible textiles that are more durable, easier to reuse, repair and recycle.
In the UK, the Competition and Markets Authority's (CMA) Green Claims Code, launched ten months ago, aims to show brands and retailers how to avoid greenwashing by communicating their sustainability claims honestly and accurately so as not to mislead people.
In an interview with FashionUnited, Cecilia Parker Aranha, director of consumer protection at the CMA, spoke about the regulator's ongoing investigation and findings on the Green Claims Code. She also gave advice on how to avoid greenwashing as a brand and what the future of sustainability communication in fashion might look like.
German fashion brand Armedangels provided a good example of this by changing its marketing strategy, claiming that “sustainable products don’t exist”: every newly produced product leaves an ecological footprint and pollutes the environment - no matter how consciously and resource-consciously it is manufactured. “Don't fall for promises that buying a product will do good for our planet, but listen carefully,” said Katya Kruk, impact & innovation director at Armedangels. “Consuming less and going for better quality is the best thing you can do for the environment.”
The month of April also brought technological breakthroughs: the Hong Kong Research Institute of Textile and Apparel (HKRITA), for example, presented Acousweep, a new technology that uses sound waves to separate microplastics from wastewater. It captures and separates particles smaller than 5 millimetres, which are then collected in a separate container and can be recycled. According to the European Environment Agency, synthetic textiles account for about eight percent of the European that end up in the oceans. According to the Circular Economy Action Plan, which was published in March 2022, the EU is being urged to tackle microplastics.
The UK got its first sustainable denim wash facility: the Blackhorse Lane’s Denim Wash Lab and Innovation Hub, which launched on 20th April in Walthamstow. The two state-of-the-art machines - the G1 70 All-in-One washing machine and The Laser made by Italian denim machinery specialists Tonello - will operate both commercially and act as a learning resource for students, brands and creatives who want to work on more sustainable ways of working with denim washes.
Materials science company Pangaia and Natural Fiber Welding (NFW) unveiled the world’s first commercially available apparel made from Mirum, a new, plant-based and plastic-free material designed to be a solution for footwear, fashion, automotive, accessories, and upholstery. The latest innovation released through Pangaia Lab is an air gilet, which combines Pangaia’s organic cotton, signature fleece lining and its Flwrdwn filling made using a combination of wildflowers, a biopolymer and cellulose aerogel, with an exterior made from a newly reformulated and thinner leather-like version of Mirum.
Discounter Primark launched its first circular collection, while Zara partnered with Circ on a collection made from recycled polycotton. Active apparel manufacturer Smartwool took textile-to-textile recycling to a new level when it announced the launch of the ‘Second Cut’ hiking sock, its first circular sock made from old, discarded socks sent in by customers, thus turning old socks into new socks.
Adidas, meanwhile, announced that 96 percent of the polyester used in its products is recycled and beauty and fashion group Puig joined the Sustainable Markets Initiative’s Fashion Task Force. Nike announced the launches of new upcycled collections in the frame of its Re-Creation program for London and Paris this summer and the Natural History Museum in London presented a collection in collaboration with sustainable clothing company Teemill. The US bag and fashion label Coach launched its sub-brand Coachtopia, which is based on a circular design philosophy and Gen Z. The brand is also focusing on the recyclable sector.
New research by financial think tank Planet Tracker, however, revealed that many of the world's largest textile companies like Anta Sports, Gap, Levi Strauss, Nordstrom, Under Armour and Victoria's Secret are failing to link executive pay to environmental, social, and governance (ESG) performance, a key driver of credible action.
Two retail concepts intended to make sustainability more tangible in April: 00.thestore in London and the Mountain Store of French sporting goods retailer Decathlon, which FashionUnited visited in Passy, France. In London, the third edition pop-up of the carbon neutral boutique 00.thestore opened on Rathbone Place. The aim was to curate the most innovative and exciting sustainable brands; to provide a physical platform for digital eco-conscious labels to gain a wider audience; for shoppers to connect with sustainable design and feel inspired to move closer towards a more waste-conscious lifestyle.
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