Pop up Future Fabrics Expo at the Sustainable Brands Conference, London

by Charlotte Turner

Last week we joined a diverse group of thought leaders and provokers, designers, innovators, and communicators at the Sustainable Brands Conference 2014 in London. During the 3 day conference we attended a range of workshops, presentations and plenaries with experts and leaders from a mix of global industries, to explore and discuss effective and proven ways to embed sustainability in the core of your company. Central themes included the key to effective communication, and how to connect with people, not consumers – an essential in today’s globalised and consumption driven culture. In addition, a range of technological and natural innovations were uncovered, leading the way to progress across industry borders.

The reason we found ourselves at the hub of this exchanging of ideas was to showcase a pop up Future Fabrics Expo, showing several hundred fabrics with a reduced environmental impact from our extensive sustainable materials collection, along with a selection of our research and our online sustainable sourcing tool the Future Fabrics Virtual Expo.

Whilst not an audience made up of fashion professionals, it was energising to connect with people from different industries – many of whom were actually far more connected to textiles than they initially thought. We were delighted to find that strategies, thought principles, and specialist innovations really can cross borders between industries, not least because textiles and fashion affect everyone – from those of us who wear clothes (almost all of us) to those who create them (the fashion and textiles industry employs millions of people globally, and is forecast to generate $3,179.7 billion in 2015). With the fashion industry being one of the largest in the world, it’s no wonder it has the power to connect us so effectively.

The presentations will soon be available online, but in the meantime here are a couple of our favourites:

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A New Product Design Paradigm: Radical Integration of Material Sustainability, Job Creation and Customer Service (Ali Khalifa)

Aly Khalfia is an inspiring system thinker, Founder of Lyf Shoes, and Director of Design & Engineering at McDonough Innovation. Aly is redesigning the way shoes are made, sold, used, and valued through disrupting traditional industry practice. He has designed a system that both closes the loop on materials, and engages with customers in new ways, through enabling them to 3D print a pair of personalized shoes in store in as little as 90 seconds. You can watch the presentation by clicking the image above.

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Intersecting Sustainability and Marketing: Driving Positive Impact, Market Share and Brand Acuity at the Same Time (Heineken)

Whilst not strictly related to the fashion or textiles industries, this was a great presentation as it addressed an issue we have often found when we talk to brands – that there is a difference in behavior, communication, and thought process between the Sustainability teams and Marketing teams (and in the case of fashion, also in the Buying teams). This talk addressed how to alleviate the issues this can cause, and it was especially interesting to learn about their ‘Dance more, Drink Less’ campaign, which could teach the fashion industry about responsible communications, enriched experiences for customers, and accepting that encouraging consumers to buy less can actually be a good thing. You can watch the presentation by clicking the image above.

There were even more engaging presentations and impressive solutions shared at the conference, which we hope you’ll enjoy discovering online.

Join our sustainable textiles workshop

If you’d like to find out more sustainable developments and innovations in relation to sustainable fashion and textiles specifically, we’ll be holding a sustainable textiles workshop in West London on 26th November – please contact us if you would like to find out more and to book a place at our corporate or small business rates. Places are limited so get in touch soon!

Visit us at the Sustainable Brands Conference, London

written by Charlotte Turner

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We’re delighted to announce we will be at the Sustainable Brands Conference in London, from 3rd – 5th November 2014.

We’ll have a stand at the Sustainable Brands Activation Hub, where you can visit us between seminars to discover a range of reduced impact materials from the Future Fabrics Expo, discuss sustainable materials and value chains, and find out about our projects, tools, and events aimed at reducing the environmental footprint of the fashion value chain.

We’re also pleased to be able to offer a discount for our friends, clients, and wider network:
20% off when you register here with the code nwsustangleb14l

You can join nearly 500 of your peers at The Lancaster London Hotel to learn from over 60 change agents in more than 30 workshops, plenaries and breakout discussions.

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Sustainable Brands® is the premier global community of brand innovators who are shaping the future of commerce worldwide with focused attention on understanding and leveraging the role of brands in shaping that future.

This year marks the 3rd year the community is gathering in London. Dedicated business leaders from companies such as Unilever, Marks & Spencer, BASF, Heineken and others are planning to participate as well as thought leaders from Guardian Sustainable Business, Forum for the Future, SustainAbility and more. There is a conscious effort to bring unexpected participants together – large multinational corporations, start-ups, NGOs, academia, investors and government agencies – each bringing a unique perspective but shared passion for shifting the world to a sustainable economy.

Register to attend the conference here

Watch the video – Future Fabrics Expo 2014

Written by Charlotte Turner

We’re really pleased to share our video of the 4th Future Fabrics Expo which took place in September 2014 as part of Fashion SVP at London Olympia Exhibition Centre.

If you weren’t able to attend, you can still access hundreds of the showcased low impact materials, and sustainability resources online at www.futurefabricsvirtualexpo.com – where we will continue to add new fabrics and resources throughout the year.

You can also see photos of the event here, and find out what exhibitors and visitors thought here.

The video was produced and edited by Chemical Images, who also made the video for the 3rd Future Fabrics Expo in 2013 – you can watch it here.

New clothing design award announced to target environmental impact of clothes

written by Charlotte TurnerELC image - main cropped

The brand new SCAP Extending the Life of Clothes Design Awards (SCAP ELC Awards) is looking for designers to develop innovative solutions to clothes that are wearable for longer. The winner will receive £5,000 and the opportunity to progress their work and develop it for a commercial market.

SCAP ELC Awards is being brought to you by WRAP, the organisation behind the Sustainable Clothing Action Plan (SCAP) and Love Your Clothes, with support from Defra, British Fashion Council, The Knowledge Transfer Network, InnovateUK and ModeConnect.

The SCAP ELC Awards will challenge designers to address the key reasons for garment failure, which lead to items being thrown away. The concepts not only need to achieve solutions to longer life times, but also deliver ideas that are fashionable and saleable.

‘Extending the life of clothes’ is a key focus for the sector commitment, SCAP 2020, with many retailers, brands and even reprocessers signed up to it; all aiming to reduce the environmental impacts of clothes. (SCAP 2020 signatories and supporters include Stella McCartney, ASOS, John Lewis, M&S, Ted Baker and Whistles.)

Marcus Gover, WRAP Director and ELC Awards judge, said: “This is a great opportunity for designers to bring this issue to life. By applying their creativity and innovation to either sourcing or developing low impact, high quality fibres, and engineering garments that will last longer, they can instigate real change.

“We need the sector to embrace this new approach to designing clothes.”

Resources Management Minister Dan Rogerson said: “I’m delighted to support the launch of this award which celebrates the vital role designers have to play in developing and promoting sustainable fashion. Their innovations can bring us closer to a more circular economy which will benefit both businesses and the environment.”

All submissions will be assessed by a panel of judges made up of industry professionals and academics that collectively hold a wide range of knowledge and expertise in the sector, including The Sustainable Angle’s curator and educational consultant Amanda Johnston, who is also a Lecturer at the London College of Fashion.

All interested applicants must register by 24 November 2014. For details on how to register and to view the full awards brief and supporting information please visit www.wrap.org.uk/scap-elc-awards.

Follow the progress and get involved on Twitter by using #design4longevity.

4th Future Fabrics Expo and the latest textile innovations

written by Charlotte Turner

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For those who couldn’t make it (and those who could), we wanted to share news about the 4th Future Fabrics Expo, which was just successfully hosted for the second time inside Fashion SVP at London Olympia. We were visited by hundreds of fashion and textiles professionals, as well as students who will soon be bringing this sustainable sourcing knowledge to jobs throughout the industry.

If you missed the expo, you can still visit www.futurefabricsvirtualexpo.com all year round to discover a wide range of the fabrics on display at the expo, plus tools and resources to help on the journey to reducing the environmental impact of your supply chain. You can also get in touch  to discuss tailored hands on workshops and presentations for your company or event.

This was a record year for the Future Fabrics Expo, which received over a thousand registrations from leading high street, luxury and start up brands, as well as educational, government, and NGO organisations, showing that there is most certainly a growing desire to understand and learn about what our clothes are made of.

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The Future Fabrics Expo was shown to be a key platform for showcasing both sustainable textiles, and initiatives and tools from a range of organisations such as WRAP’s Knowledge Hub, String3 by Historic Futures, and ground-breaking research projects from the Royal College of Art and London College of Fashion.

A key focus for the 4th Future Fabrics Expo was on supply chain traceability, showcasing mapping and connecting tools from Historic Futures, and the FireUP project from UAL. In addition, Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) was showcased, resulting in a broad showcase of projects and tools addressing all areas of the textile and fashion value chain. Examples of CmiA fabrics from some of their dozens of member producers were on show – you can find a full list of CmiA producers via their website.

We additionally presented a seminar on ‘building sustainabiltiy into your textile buying’, exploring how to assess fabrics in relation to sustainability, avoiding pitfalls when sourcing sustainably, and developments of the sustainable textiles market.

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This year the expo was generously sponsored by Kassim Denim and Elmer & Zweifel, also sponsors of the Future Fabrics Virtual Expo (www.futurefabricsvirtualexpo.com), our online sustainable fabrics sourcing tool available throughout the year.

If you are looking to source sustainable fabrics in low quantities, we will soon launch a fabrics sourcing pool hosted on www.futurefabricsvirtualexpo.com, to allow smaller companies and emerging designers to purchase fabrics with a reduced environmental impact at manageable quantities. The launch will be announced via our periodic newsletter in the coming weeks so sign up now to make sure you don’t miss out – we’ll also be sharing information about the latest fabrics to be added to the Future Fabrics Virtual Expo.

Future-Fabrics-Expo-2014_3The 4th Future Fabrics Expo was generously sponsored by Kassim Textiles and Elmer & Zweifel.

Historic Futures: Promoting value chain traceability

written by Charlotte Turner

With only days to go before the 4th Future Fabrics Expo opens at London Olympia Exhibition Centre (28th-30th September), we’re looking forward to showcasing some other organisations that are doing important work in the field of sustainable fashion and textiles, along with our core showcase of globally sourced reduced impact fabrics.

One of these organisations is Historic Futures, who have spent more than 10 years exploring value chain transparency and traceability. This work is integral to knowing more about where our products come from, how they are made, and the impact they are having on both the environment and on global communities.

Historic Futures are currently developing String3, so we spoke to co-founder and director Tim Wilson to find out more, and we found what he had to say so interesting that you can read it in full here.

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TSA: What was the motivation to start Historic Futures and to work on improving supply chain transparency?
HF: I had been working in the value chain / traceability area for many years and realised there were no solutions focusing simply on getting reliable data from the whole chain without linking to specific product or production systems (e.g. organic). The triggering event – to actually get started – was a conversation with Nike that demonstrated how difficult it was to collect reliable data from the value chain.

TSA: Historic Futures makes it possible for companies to collect and manage value chain data – can you tell us a bit about how you do this?
The basic concept is very simple, and is analogous to situations we all face everyday. I need to speak to somebody at Company X about their new product, but I don’t have their contact details. I could ask my colleague sitting next to me, who has read about Company X, what they know about this new product and just go with that. It’s really quick and easy, and they probably know more than I do. But if I want to rely on the information – to write an article in the press, or to use in a presentation perhaps, then I’d want to speak to someone who really knows, inside Company X. It’s the same problem with value chains. I need to know the country of origin of the raw materials used in my product – because my brand has made a commitment on this, or because the law now requires me to know. I could ask my supplier – who sells me the finished goods – that’s quick and easy and they probably know more that I do, but I can’t rely on the information. Our String3 system fixes that problem – I send my question to my supplier inside String3, and it provides the tools for my supplier to send it on to their supplier. There might have been several suppliers and even they don’t actually work with the raw materials. String3 makes it simple for everyone to keep passing the question on until it gets to those who really know the answer. Sounds very simple, in reality the system is quite sophisticated – making sure that only the answer to the question is ever shared, not the details of each actor in the chain, keeping people informed of progress, benchmarking performance and so on.

TSA: You’re currently developing the newest phase of String, what will this be able to offer clients?
HF: String3 – the service we are working on now – will make it simple and efficient for people to find information about how and where their products were made. It will save them time and provide answers which are more reliable than other methods. Interestingly it will also provide a means to benchmark supplier performance – clearly identifying which suppliers and value chains are good at providing this information, driving continuous improvement. Crucially for suppliers, the service can be used free of charge and it does not disclose sourcing details to customers – so suppliers can confidently use the system to help their customers get answers to legitimate questions about raw material country of origin or value chain certification status.

TSA: We’re looking forward to showcasing Historic Futures at the Future Fabrics Expo, which is geared towards the fashion and textiles industries – can you tell us about some of the work you have done in these industries?
HF: We’ve been working in fashion and textiles for nearly 12 years – since the very beginnings of HF. During that time we have delivered projects for many of the world’s leading brands. Those projects have ranged from strategy formulation to large scale data collection and reporting – all focused on value chain mapping, to understand how and where products were made.

TSA: Are there some positive impacts you have seen from your work that you can tell us about?
HF: We’ve seen benefits across the entire value chain from better, bolder claims about finished goods for brands, to improved relationships between supplier and customer for sourcing agents, to improved inventory control and “right first time” rates for manufacturers. We’ve seen suppliers get new business through being able to deliver value chain information and improved efficiency in differentiated raw materials such as organic cotton or recycled polyester. There are many ways that reliable value chain data can deliver benefits, but the area that seems to be the most consistent across geographies and sectors is this ability to obtain reliable data – when needed – for products that contain raw materials where country of origin or compliance with some 3rd party standard is important.

TSA: What do you think are the biggest obstacles with incorporating more sustainable materials into supply chains of different sized companies?
HF: Sustainable materials is a difficult term – I’m not sure anybody really knows what it means – but there are clearly important choices to be made about materials and production processes in terms of the impact they have on people, planet and profit. For buyers, understanding what’s in your product – and whether it’s what you specified – is a critical first step. For suppliers, being able to demonstrate good practice and regulatory compliance throughout the value chain quickly and efficiently is vital if better performing materials are to become mainstream.

You can learn about String3 at the 4th Future Fabrics Expo on 28th – 30th September at Olympia Exhibition Centre, London. We’ll be showcasing the work of several organisations and projects, as well as hundreds of individually sourced and researched materials with a reduced environmental impact.

Register for free here

In conversation with CmiA: Cotton made in Africa

written by Charlotte Turner

Over the years we have researched thousands of sustainable textiles sourced from dozens, even hundreds of mills from around the world. However we have not until now had the opportunity to really showcase what Africa has to offer, something which is essential if we want to show what African industry is capable of, especially if it receives investment and support from the industry.

The House of Lords recently hosted a roundtable event to discuss sourcing African-Made goods, which highlighted the fact that profit to Africa is decreasing, whilst value added abroad is increasing, even though in the last decade a number of the fastest growing markets have been in Africa. This imbalance coupled with volatile cotton prices is something that the Aid by Trade Foundation (AbTF) aims to address with its Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) initiative, working with small holder farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa to improve social, economic and ecological living conditions.

CmiA and a range of CmiA fabrics will be included in the 4th Future Fabrics Expo (28th-30th September, London), but before then we wanted to share with you everything you should know about Cotton made in Africa.

TSA: What was the motivation behind initiating CmiA?
CmiA: Cotton plays a key role in fighting poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa and contributes to food security in many countries of Sub-Saharan Africa. So far, this potential has often been underused to further economic development. Volatile cotton prices and low productivity leave African smallholder farmers struggling to make a living from cotton production. Against this background, the Aid by Trade Foundation (AbTF) and its Cotton made in Africa (CmiA) initiative have been initiated. Since 2005, we have improved the living conditions of cotton farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa by activating market forces and creating a quality label for sustainably produced African cotton.

TSA: What are CmiA’s goals?
CmiA: The goal of CmiA is to improve the social, economic and ecological living conditions of smallholder cotton farmers and their families in Sub-Saharan Africa. Our commitment is not based on donations, but rather, on the principle of helping people to help themselves through trade: African smallholders learn about efficient and environmentally friendly cotton cultivation methods through agricultural training provided by our experts. At the same time, we establish an international alliance of textile companies which purchase the CmiA raw material and pay a licensing fee to use the label. Income from licensing fees, are reinvested in the project regions of Sub-Saharan Africa. At the end, CmiA farmers and their families profit from these investments. The underlying philosophy is already reflected in the name of the Foundation – “Aid by Trade”. Additionally, Cotton made in Africa’s purpose is to give African cotton the recognition it deserves in international trade and to lend a positive, recognizable “face” to a hitherto anonymous mass product.

TSA: Can you tell us more about the cotton industry in Africa?
CmiA: Almost 10% of the world’s cotton production is grown and harvested in Sub-Saharan Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa is the fifth largest cotton exporter worldwide. Following the USA, India, Australia and Brazil around 2.2million smallholder farmers in West and South-East Africa cultivate cotton. Often it is grown on small lots and in rotation with staple foods, such as grain, corn and peanuts, within the context of very diversified production systems. Although cotton is one major cash income, 80% of the African cotton farmers have an income per day of less than 1.5USD. By means of CmiA, the Aid by Trade Foundation tries to support cotton farmers. The initiative strengthens their resilience towards external effects like volatile prices and increasingly adverse climate changes that keep them from improving their living conditions and that of future generations ensure their food supply and preserve their health as well as the environment.

TSA: Can you give some examples of the effect CmiA has on farmers, the environment, and local economies?
CmiA: Since 2005, CmiA has created a large impact on cotton farmer’s lives and that of their families because the focus of our work are the people in the growing countries in Africa. As an inclusive standard relying on a constant improvement plan for participating farmers, the initiative has become a major player in the cotton sector across Sub-Saharan Africa. Whereas CmiA started with 150,000 in three African countries in 2007, the initiative expanded its work to up to now more than 415,000 smallholders in six Sub Saharan African countries. Family members included more than three million people profit from CmiA. Due to training in efficient and modern cultivation methods CmiA farmers have been enabled to increase their crop yields compared to a control group that is not part of the initiative by an average of 23% and thus to also improve their income. By working with CmiA, the employees in the ginneries benefit from fair contracts and prompt payment. Through community projects, CmiA improves the educational infrastructure in the project regions, ensures a better drinking water supply and strengthens the rights of women. These projects that go beyond pure cotton cultivation strengthen the local community and contribute directly to improving the living conditions of African cotton farmers and their families. Additionally, CmiA has a proven significantly better environmental footprint than conventionally grown cotton. As CmiA cotton is exclusively grown under rain-fed conditions, it thereby saves around 1,500 litres of water translated to the amount of cotton required to make a t-shirt. During the cultivation of the raw material, conventionally grown cotton produces 2.4 times more greenhouse gas emissions per kilogram of cotton fibre than CmiA.

TSA: What are your plans moving forward?
CmiA: Our plan moving forward it to expand the positive effects of CmiA on the cotton industry to the textile industry on the African continent. We aim to use our experiences to support the establishment of a sustainable textile value chain in Africa. As major international textile retailers increasingly look to diversify their sourcing, we see many opportunities for Africa’s textile to capture parts of these markets. CmiA together with its partners are therefore pro-actively promoting the concept of “Textiles made in Africa” produced for African markets as well as for export.

TSA: How do you think initiatives like the Future Fabrics Expo can help organizations such as yours?
CmiA: For us, the Future Fabrics Expo is very important as it offers the chance to create awareness for our CmiA quality label on the UK market. Thanks to the expo, we can directly interact with companies and other members of the textile value chain who are searching for an optimal solution for ecological and ethical challenges within the textile value chain. Why? We are the first initiative that made it possible to introduce sustainable cotton into the mass market and thereby create a win-win situation for every participant – from cotton farmers to textile companies and consumers worldwide. Cotton farmers and their families profit from license fees retailers pay for purchasing CmiA cotton as we re-invest the income from license fees in the project regions. Partnering textile companies obtain cotton produced under socially and environmentally improved conditions without having to pay a significantly higher price. They can thus achieve their sustainability as well as accountability goals. Consumers can directly support African smallholder farmers and their families by purchasing CmiA labelled products. With every purchase, they make a valuable contribution to Africa’s long-term future.

TSA: How can industry professionals and consumers get involved and engage with the work you are doing?
CmiA: Industry professionals and consumers can get involved in various ways: You can register for our CmiA newsletter to stay informed about our work or follow us on Youtube, Facebook or Twitter. In addition, you have the chance to support our work by purchasing CmiA labelled products. Finally yet importantly, interested companies or traders can make a valuable contribution to the future of hundreds of thousands of people in Africa by becoming partner of our initiative and purchasing the CmiA verified cotton.

You can see a range of CmiA fabrics and find out more at the Future Fabrics Expo, 28th – 30th September, London.