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Fashion and sustainability in September 2023

By Simone Preuss


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Tree Girl. Illustration: Jackie Mallon

There was much going on in the area of sustainability in September: from industry collaboration and innovations to awards and events dedicated to the topic.

Global Fashion Agenda (GFA), for example, unveiled the 2023 Fashion CEO Agenda during the Global Fashion Summit: Boston Edition 2023. The report aims to aid fashion industry executives in developing strategies to create a sector with a net positive impact on society, the environment, and the global economy. It includes action areas for brands, retailers and producers.

A European start-up, The Shirt Dandy, meanwhile, has taken a huge plunge - the Austrian company manufactures custom-made shirts for men in India. A daring venture or a clearly calculated risk with a good chance of success? FashionUnited spoke to Thomas Hebenstreit, founder of The Shirt Dandy, about the idea behind the start-up and the challenges and opportunities of the Indian market.


The British Fashion Council (BFC), the UK Fashion & Textile Association (UKFT), and UK Research & Innovation (UKRI) have joined forces to launch what they are calling a “groundbreaking partnership” called the Circular Fashion Innovation Network (CFIN). The CFIN will sit under the BFC’s Institute of Positive Fashion (IPF) to bring together fashion industry innovators, investors, academia and broader stakeholders through an action-led roadmap to accelerate the UK to a leading circular fashion economy.

Amsterdam-based fashion outlet platform Otrium is continuing to refurbish and repair garments after a successful pilot project, in partnership with Dutch supply chain management specialist for fashion and lifestyle brands Bleckmann. The latter offers the repair and re-commerce service known as The Renewal Workshop. Together with Bleckmann's circular fashion experts from The Renewal Workshop, Otrium aims to repair 25,000 garments and make them wearable again by the end of the year.

Finnish textile manufacturer Spinnova and Swedish recycling specialist Renewcell are collaborating on the production of sustainable materials. The aim of the collaboration is to “develop and promote a concept for the commercial use and wider distribution of fibres produced from textile waste”, the two companies explained in the middle of the month. As part of the partnership, Spinnova has developed a particularly environmentally friendly process to process the raw material Circulose, which was developed by Renewcell and is based on recycled textile waste, into new fibres. In the meantime, the first fibre and fabric prototypes made of Circulose and cotton have been produced. The first consumer goods made from the new materials are expected to be on the market by the end of 2024.


Belgian machine builder Valvan has built not one but two machines that facilitate textile recycling. Fibersort and Trimclean can sort textiles automatically. This is the company's response to impending legislation on textile collection and eco-design. One garment per second, equivalent to about 1,200 kilograms per hour. That's how much clothing Valvan's Fibersort machine processes. Via two robotic arms, the garments disappear into the giant machine at lightning speed. A 3D camera determines the item's volume and size. Next, an RGB camera determines the colour of the garment. Finally, an infrared scanner finds out what kind of fabric the piece is made of.


Held on the last weekend of Milan Fashion Week, the 2023 Sustainable Fashion Awards by the Italian Fashion Confederation (CNMI) honoured a number of luxury fashion houses and notable industry figures in ten categories for their work in sustainability, including Gucci with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation Award for Circular Economy, Kering with the Biodiversity and Water Award, Manteco with the Climate Action Award and Candiani with the Groundbreaker Award.

German designer Nils Hauser was awarded the Redress Design Award 2023, the world's largest competition for sustainable fashion design. Hauser impressed the jury with his collection "Ex Voto", which consists of multifunctional garments. For all creations, Hauser used upcycled materials such as sofa cover fabrics and nylon from an old family tent. By using water-based inks, he focused on environmentally friendly materials and processes.

Two innovative companies working to tackle waste in the fashion and textile industry have been selected as finalists for Prince William’s The Earthshot Prize. Launched in 2020, The Earthshot Prize is a global environmental award celebrating and championing innovators focused on solving our most pressing global climate challenges, and for the 2023 edition, 15 finalists were selected from more than 1,100 nominations.

H&M has partnered with Central Saint Martins to offer grants to students in the BA Fashion Design and BA Fashion Communication Journalism courses. The grants, building on previous support in 2021, aim to nurture emerging sustainable fashion leaders.

September also marked the culmination of a months-long collaboration and competition involving over 50 students from the University of the Arts London, Central Saint Martins. They were challenged to reimagine various products using UPM's bio-based materials.


The Climate Week NYC commenced with the launch of the Fossil Fuel Fashion Campaign, featuring panel discussions as a central element, albeit with a need for greater actionable solutions. Hosted at NYC's Morgan Library by The Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the event gathered prominent figures, including Ugandan climate justice activist Vanessa Nakate, Eco-Age Founder Livia Firth MBE, Eco-Age Policy Director George Harding-Rolls, Harjeet Singh from the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative, Rachel Kitchin from Stand.earth, and Cameren Bullins from The Rockefeller Brothers Fund.

Apple’s annual event, which took place on the penultimate day of New York Fashion Week, had a surprise announcement. The tech giant said it would ban the use of leather for all its accessories, including watch straps and mobile phone cases. In an effort to meet its net zero emissions goal by 2030, Apple unveiled a new textile called FineWoven, a non-animal fibre, which will replace all its leather.

Leading agricultural scientists, academics, and policymakers in Pakistan are confident of the country's potential to become a global leader in organic cotton production. This consensus emerged during the second annual Organic Cotton Pakistan conference, organized by SAWIE, a platform facilitating agricultural monitoring in Pakistan. The conference aimed to outline a path toward realizing this potential, fostering excellence in growth, and boosting foreign exchange earnings.

Meanwhile at the beginning of the month in Amsterdam, the first edition of Best of Bangladesh (BoB) came to fruition. Professionals from different sectors came together to celebrate five decades of trade between Europe and Bangladesh. The event, organised by the Bangladesh Apparel Exchange (BAE), looked to revolutionize the image of the key manufacturing country, which has been tainted in the past by the fire at Tazreen Fashions (2012), the collapse of Rana Plaza (2013), and a race to the bottom around textile workers' wages. BoB showcased a country with a booming economy and huge potential. Exhibitors represented Bangladesh's vast economy, from pharmaceuticals and food sectors to the digital industry. However, the main focus was on innovative and sustainable parties from the garment and textile sector - including leather and jute. FashionUnited visited the fair to explore the atmosphere and assess the state of affairs.

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Sustainable Fashion