In conversation: Organic cotton by Elmer & Zweifel

Elmer & Zweifel, a German textiles company founded in 1855, have been showcased in the Future Fabrics Expo by The Sustainable Angle since 2012 due to their extensive range of high quality certified organic cotton fabrics, which are available in both small and large quantities. In addition to retail and wholesale finished fabrics, they also produce greige goods and their own brand of organic cotton products called Cotonea. A selection of their fabrics can now be viewed on the Future Fabrics Virtual Expo.

We spoke to Linda Schall from Elemer & Zweifel to find out more.

ElmerZweifel Future Fabrics Expo

Elmer & Zweifel: organic cotton plantations in Kirgistan and Uganda

Elmer & Zweifel have been working towards creating a more sustainable company and product offer for some time, and have extensive knowledge and control of their supply chain. For starters, they have their own organic cotton plantations in Kirgistan and Uganda, with Swiss NGO Helvetas training the farmers in organic agriculture, to produce high quality cotton certified by IMO. The cotton is then spun in Turkey and Germany, and woven and finished in the Czech Republic by Elmer & Zweifel. All stages of the supply chain including wet processing are certified by GOTS.

According to Linda, the original motivation to start offering more sustainable fabrics was “to improve social and environmental factors over the entire textile supply chain.” They also believed that to create better products, transparency had to be established. She says initially they were producing more sustainable textiles based only on demand, but then more and more clients started requesting these products, leading to the introduction of a permanent organic range – testament to the impact designers and buyers can make simply by asking questions and requesting more sustainable materials.

elmer & Zweifel - future fabrics expo

Elmer & Zweifel fabrics in the Future Fabrics Expo

Creating more sustainable products means adapting the normal design and production process, sometimes meaning that added aspects like environmental certifications can make the process take longer, but at the end of the day it is worth it: as Linda says “for us it is important that the whole supply chain is transparent, and we can have an impact all along it.”

As a business, and especially as a business that wishes to continue producing more sustainable textiles, growth is still essential. “It is for example important that the cotton projects in Uganda and Kirgistan that we support are financially viable, and hence, financial turn over needs to increase.” Elmer & Zweifel are seeing increased demand for sustainable textiles, but it is essential that as an industry we continue to seek, develop, and demand more sustainably and ethically produced materials and products.

Linda believes that one of the most pressing challenges in the industry is around ethical and social labour conditions, which need to become fairer, especially in countries such as Bangladesh. In terms of sustainable textiles, one challenge the company has identified is that there are still requests for products which at the moment are not possible to produce in an ecologically sustainable manner, for instance ‘non-iron’ fabrics. However considering the amount of innovation we have been seeing in recent years, it may be only be a matter of time until that is possible.

elmer & Zweifel on the Future Fabrics Virtual Expo

100% organic cotton chambray. Elmer & Zweifel also produce plain and patterned knitted and woven organic fabrics.

Linda summed up by telling us what she thinks is the biggest obstacle to becoming a more sustainable and less harmful industry: “More fashion collections in ever shorter intervals are coming on the market, and this fast turn around of clothes means increased production, more consumption, and more waste of clothes. Therefore, the consumer needs to be made aware much more of the quality of textiles, instead of focusing only on lower prices.”

This approach to consumption, and to a lack of focus on quality, requires an industry and society wide systemic change, in which Elmer & Zweifel believe both the consumer and industry have a part to play. Combining a refined outlook on how we buy and wear fashion, along with the use of higher quality and more sustainable fabrics would certainly have a positive affect on the damage we are causing to our environments and society.

You can find out more about Elmer & Zweifel and see a range of their sustainable fabrics on the Future Fabrics Virtual Expo, which is generously sponsored by Elmer & Zweifel and Kassim Textiles. Elmer & Zweifel will additionally be showcased at the 4th Future Fabrics Expo in London, on 28th – 30th September 2014.

Kassim Textiles sponsors LCF MA Fashion Futures project

Considering the abundance of design talent that has been seen recently from fashion graduates around the country, we wanted to share news of a collaboration between The Sustainable Angle, international denim company Kassim Textiles, and the London College of Fashion.

Through the Future Fabrics Expo, The Sustainable Angle facilitated the sponsorship of the latest project from LCF’s MA Fashion Futures course. Kassim Textiles generously sponsored the project by providing sustainable organic denims for the students to visualize their explorations of the parameters and practices used to make and wear fashion.

The projects, including Bodies of Work / Body Cut by Katharina Thiel, and Wearable Data by Caroline Yan Zheng, explored themes surrounding our relationship with fashion and the body (Theil), and engaging in speculative design to catalyse social discussion and debate (Zheng). Zheng and Thiel’s work was displayed in an exhibition at the Garden Museum.

Garden Museum Exhibition, Kat Thiel

Garden Museum Exhibition, Kat Thiel

Caroline Yan Zheng said: “As part of the Fashion & Gardens programme at the Garden Museum London, the LCF MA Fashion and Environment course had the opportunity to create garments practicing sustainable approaches. Kassim Textiles kindly supported us with their sustainable denim fabrics.

My personal approach is an on-going project, exercising the practice of speculative design. The aim of the project is to use design as a media to catalyze social discussion and debate over what life could be in the near future, to explore how to create clothes that make people think. The modern economies rely heavily on the development of science and technology, and while there is generally an overwhelming hail of all the benefits brought by them, the other doubtful impacts are less discussed. While clothes’ role in modern economy is normally to encourage consumption, this collection hopes to make people think about their possible form and identity in the manipulation of technologies. The purpose is not to indicate what is right and what is wrong, but only to encourage reflection, to make fashion participate in social debate.

My research on speculative design will carry further to form my masters project, which explores values and identity by visualizing data in 2D and 3D forms, realized in knitwear.”

Caroline Yan Zhieng

Work by Caroline Yan Zhieng

Sohail Ahmed from Kassim Textiles commented that “We at Kassim Textiles always believe in progress, and on this belief when we were approached by the Sustainable Angle to assist the students of LCF, we felt obligated to participate in these projects. This was our way of helping out future tex-perts complete their studies and step into the real world…. I believe that in not the distant future, sustainability will be the major factor.”

You can find out more about Kassim Textiles and their sustainability on the Future Fabrics Virtual Expo, and at the 4th Future Fabrics Expo in September.

Live now: Future Fabrics Virtual Expo, updated and enhanced

We are delighted to announce the launch of the updated and enhanced Future Fabrics Virtual Expo, initially developed in 2013 in response to international market demand, reflecting the global increase in interest to source more sustainably, and to extend the lifespan of the successful 3rd Future Fabrics Expo.

The virtual expo gives you a sneak preview ahead of the Future Fabrics Expo (next taking place on 28th- 30th September 2014, London), through year-round online access to a curated range of sustainable fabrics and mills.

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Click the image to visit the Future Fabrics Virtual Expo

Sustainable fabrics tool

The Future Fabrics Virtual Expo is now a more advanced online research and sourcing platform, with increased search capability, and opportunity for direct contact with mills. It can link fabric buyers and designers with international mills, and enable constant access to sourcing and sustainability information about fabrics with a reduced environmental impact.

The fabrics are searchable by categories from fibre type and price, to certification and provenance, and educational background information alongside each fabric makes it a valuable tool for both designers and buyers new to the area of sustainable textiles and materials, as well as those with established sustainable sourcing strategies.

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British wool; Low impact fish leather; Organic vegetable dyed silk; Modal satin

Diverse global fabrics

An ever expanding range of individually sourced materials from international mills is showcased on the Future Fabrics Virtual Expo, which will also be featured in the 4th Future Fabrics Expo, 28th to 30th September in London, alongside many more from around the world. The virtual expo represents a diverse overview of sustainable fabrics, from organic cotton denim, British wool, and sustainable silks, to linen and organic cotton blends, low impact leather, and woven and knitted organic cotton qualities. In addition, it features new fashion and product innovations from materials lab Materio.

You no longer need to wait until the annual Future Fabrics Expo to discover new sustainable fabrics and mills.

Visit www.futurefabricsexpo.com to find out more.
The Future Fabrics Virtual Expo is generously sponsored by Kassim Textiles and Elmer & Zweifel.

Group sourcing for smaller organic fabric orders

At The Sustainable Angle we know how difficult it can sometimes be for small companies to find fabrics which meet your desired sustainability criteria, look fantastic, are affordable, and available in small quantities.

Lebenskleidung, one of the European suppliers we showcase in our sustainable textiles collection, has developed a group sourcing pool to enable designers to source GOTS certified organic fabrics in orders as small as 5m, with the option to dye to specification. Fabrics on offer include organic sweater knits, rib cuffs 2×1, single jersey, velour, polar fleece and flannel. Fabrics are offered at preferential prices due to the group sourcing facility.

The deadline for orders is 16th June 2014, so make sure you order soon. Fabrics will be delivered from the beginning of August 2014.

For more information click here.

You can see a range of Lebenskleidung fabrics at the 4th Future Fabrics Expo on 28 – 30 September 2014 – register for free by clicking here.

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Future Fabrics Expo 2014 coming back to London

We’re delighted to announce that the 4th Future Fabrics Expo will take place for the second time within Fashion SVP, the leading UK fashion sourcing event. The expo is aimed at anybody in the fashion industry looking to discover hundreds of fabrics with a lower environmental impact including organic silk, low impact leather, recycled fibres, and reduced impact processing. We show new sustainable solutions in textiles and fashion production in a curated showcase ideal for designers, buyers, and sustainability professionals from the high street to couture houses and independent designers.

Future Fabrics Expo by The Sustainable Angle

Since its inception in 2011, the Future Fabrics Expo has achieved a winning combination of increasing the visibility of innovative textiles, effectively promoting and communicating textiles with a lower environmental impact to designers and buyers in an accessible design-led format. It has been successful in changing the outdated image of sustainable materials, building up an expanding resource of globally sourced and individually assessed fabrics which are suitable for luxury, retailers and niche fashion brands. As always, the several hundred man-made and natural sustainable fabrics shown in full-length samples will be accompanied by background information explaining the innovative materials, and showcasing best practice production and finishing processes.

The expo will be open from 28th – 30th September 2014 at London Olympia exhibition centre, Hammersmith Rd, London W14 8UX. You can find out how to attend on our website.

@Sustainable_Ang       #FutureFabricsExpo

Announcing Fabric for Fashion: The Complete Guide: Natural and man-made fibres

We are really pleased to announce the release of Fabric for Fashion: The Complete Guide: Natural and man-made fibres. The book was written by The Sustainable Angle’s curator Amanda Johnston and Clive Hallett, who wrote the first edition together. If you haven’t already seen it, the accompanying volume Fabric for Fashion: The Swatch Book is very much worth a look too, containing over 100 swatches of widely used fabrics.

Fabric for Fashion: The Complete Guide: Natural and man-made fibres

The book is an essential and easily navigable reference on a seemingly unending range of fabrics, providing in-depth details of their properties, technologies, terminologies and processes. Amanda and Clive have ensured the book “examines not only the visual and tactile characteristics of various fabrics, but also encourages a deeper understanding of their potential impacts by considering the provenance of fibres, and their processing routes.” This is something that we are always aiming to do at the Future Fabrics Expo as well, as by physically experiencing a fabric whilst being provided with the relevant in-depth information about provenance and processing, we are able to more accurately judge a fabric’s sustainability credentials, whilst evaluating relevance for the desired end application.

Fabric for Fashion: The Complete Guide: Natural and man-made fibres

The Sustainable Angle’s involvement did not stop there. Charlotte Turner from The Sustainable Angle was invited to contribute to the book, researching and creating an easy to use certifications reference guide to help designers understand the scope and remit of the industry’s increasingly used certification systems.

Charlotte Turner in Fabric for Fashion: The Complete Guide: Natural and man-made fibres

Whilst certifications are not the only way to determine the social and environmental credentials of a fabric, they can often help understand the benchmarks to which diverse materials have been produced and processed. As certifications can relate to anything from use of chemicals and fertilizers during fibre cultivation, to fair working conditions, treatment of waste-water effluent, or design for reutilization, it can be a confusing area to navigate. Take at look at the guide to find out more about some of the most commonly used social and environmental certifications (p.240-243). At The Sustainable Angle, in addition to evaluating fabrics using globally recognized certifications, we also assess fabrics against a set of environmental criteria developed with the Centre for Sustainable Fashion, which can be seen here.

'FUTURE FABRICS EXPO' London 2011

Amanda says the book was conceived “with the intention of providing designers with a complete guide to natural and man-made fibres. The integration of crucial practical fabric knowledge, tactile appraisal, and examples of varied creative fabric interpretations is intended as an accessible guide for students and design practitioners alike.”

Fabric for Fashion: The Complete Guide: Natural and man-made fibres

Added to this, “the fibre and fabric journeys of both the natural and man-made fibre types are explored by mapping the historic, social and geographic significance of the fabrics that make up the very substance of our contemporary fashion products.” All in all, the ingredients for an invaluable textiles resource.

For those wanting something creative, the book includes hundreds of beautiful fashion and textile images, several photographed by the talented Myka Baum, whose photography of the Future Fabrics Expo you can see here and here.

You can find out more and order the book on the Laurence King website.

About the author:
As well as curating for The Sustainable Angle, Amanda has spent several years working with the London College of Fashion as an associate lecturer, and as a freelance design consultant. Clive and Amanda have worked together as consultants within the fashion industry since 1982 having collaborated on numerous projects both in the UK and abroad.