The “wealth from waste” philosophy is fashion’s new frontier, but it can also carry a double-edged sword of greenwashing, says Alison Jose, who develops and wholesales innovative sustainable textiles, made from farm “waste” plant fibres including aloe vera, banana, rose petal, corn, plus wood pulp and Peace Silk. Working with yarn and fabric producers in Austria, India, Indonesia and Japan, Jose started her Sydney business, STSC. Sustainable Textile Supply Chain to help connect both established and emerging fashion designers with eco-fabric makers who are determined to only make sustainable textiles and not “fake eco-fabrics”.
“So far I’ve set up ten Sustainable Textile Clubs around the world to offer information on the fabrics and their makers, because most fashion designers worldwide are facing the same problems; access, availability and affordability,” says Jose. “We can team up to combine orders and make the minimum order quantities (MOQs) required by most Mills.”
Last November Forbes magazine reported that the fashion search engine Lyst had tracked a 47% increase over the past 12 months by customers searching for sustainable fashion including specific terms such as “vegan leather” and “organic cotton”. This exponential growth in customers seeking more ethical and environmentally sound fashion has meant that many designers are looking to change.
Barriers to converting to a completely sustainable design practice can be slow. Many designers still adhere to the “fashion seasons” instead of the sustainable “timeless design” principles, plus sourcing true sustainable fabrics is very difficult. Affording the Mills high MOQ per metre cost is prohibitive plus it causes an excess of fabric, and fabric waste is the antithesis of sustainable design. Designers can also struggle to keep up with the latest research regarding which “eco-fabrics” are truly eco, and which still cause environmental harm.
“It can be enormously complicated, and a lot of in-depth research is required,” says Jose. “For example, viscose is believed to be eco because it’s made from biodegradable wood pulp, however viscose from a non-certified maker is likely to be causing mass deforestation world-wide. In addition to unsustainable forestry practices, if the viscose is not made in a “closed loop system” then both waste water and chemicals are likely to be pumped into the environment.”
Environmental not-for-profit group Canopy has proof that both ancient and endangered forests are being logged at an alarming rate and increasingly making their way into clothing.
Fabrics once touted as the “Holy Grail” of eco-fashion such as recycled synthetics like polyester and rPET fabric made from plastic bottles, are now increasingly popping up in stores. However, several new studies into recycled clothing show that it is far from being environmentally sound.
A 2018 study by RISE Research Institutes of Sweden found that recycled synthetic fabrics still shed plastic micro-fibres, both in the washing machine, and if not produced in a closed-loop system, it also sheds millions of micro-fibres in production, just like the original fabric. This plastic ends up in the waterways, ocean, sea life, seafood and humans, where the actual human cost is still relatively unknown given the raw material was made from chemicals that are known carcinogens and hormone disrupters.
On the surface, recycling this valuable secondary material is thought to be environmentally sustainable because it minimises the production carbon footprint by saving natural resources and reducing the dependence on raw fossil materials like oil, but when it comes to shedding micro-plastics, the danger is apparent as they won’t biodegrade for hundreds of years.
“In Australia however the good news is that we do not need to rely on non-natural fibres to make fabric and we can remove it from the fashion supply chain to reincarnate it into furniture, carpet, underlay, interior design, auto industry products and more,” says Jose.
“I work as a Project Coordinator with two Australian university studies, to offer circular economy solutions to designers and businesses keen to stop putting their textile waste into landfill. Through us, we help them become a Certified zero textile waste business.”
Jose is in the process of setting up a Circular Fashion Centre to address all aspects of the fashion supply chain and offers zero waste opportunities through her Impact Partners to provide education, collaboration and circular economy solutions for all industries especially high waste turn-over industries like fashion.
STSC is showcasing its innovative textiles and textile waste samples at Australia’s first sustainable textile tradeshow, Rawassembly™ at the Powerhouse Museum. Running for two days on 2nd and 3rd April, Tickets can be purchased online at www.rawassembly.com
“I’m showing a broad selection of textiles plus the amazing products reincarnated from textile waste. Sustainable fabrics include Plant Sylks from banana, aloe vera, rose petal plus one of the world’s most sustainable viscose fabric from Austrian company Lenzing who make Tencel and their latest fabrics EcoVero and TENCEL LUXE alongside beautiful artisan fabrics including over 200 examples of Peace Silk and Handloom Organic Cotton that’s been dyed with Ayurvedic medicinal herbs.”
MEDIA INFORMATION. Alison Jose - firstname.lastname@example.org - m. +61 414 289 778.