Kassim Denim interview: Reducing the impact of denim

Kassim Denim is a pioneering vertically integrated denim mill from Pakistan, and long time supporter of the Future Fabrics Expo and The Sustainable Angle. Kassim Denim develop, innovate, and produce an extensive range of denims, many made with organic cotton and cellulosic fibres, finished using low impact processes.

Kassim Denim have worked with some of the world’s leading denim brands, so we has a conversation with Sohail Ahmed, Kassim Denim’s market developer, to find out the latest news on what the company is doing to reduce it’s environmental impact, and instead create positive change for the company and the environment that hosts it.

Read the full conversation below, and discover a range of Kassim Denim sustainable fabrics at www.futurefabricsvirtualexpo.com.

TSA: Can you tell us what your role is, and how you are involved in improving sustainability within your company, and in the textiles industry?
KD: As a market developer it’s my task to keep our administration updated on matters of sustainability, whether it be sustainable processing, or sustainable raw materials like yarns, dyes and chemicals.

TSA: What first inspired Kassim Denim to start working on improving sustainability in the textiles industry?
KD: Our motivation… “Sustainable, environmentally responsible, green management”  are the key factors to Kassim Denim’s endeavors to produce the best denim fabrics while maintaining the true essentials of being eco-friendly, to match up with the drive to consumer product sustainability. 

Each of these three perspectives is an integral part of our commitment for integration of an environmental and social lens into core operational and financial management — from material sourcing through product design, manufacturing, distribution, delivery and end-of-life management.

We travail to implement sustainability-focused initiatives along our entire supply chain, both upstream and downstream.

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TSA: Can you tell us a bit about what Kassim Denim is doing to be more sustainable?
KD: We keep a stringent vigilance to environmental, health and safety-driven issues, and always take immediate initiative on new regulations like restricting toxic chemicals, innovations in toxic disposal etc. We have committed ourselves to minimize our carbon footprint, in addition to other major concerns such as energy use, material and water resource use, and waste management.

TSA: What do you hope your initiatives and products will change and improve?
KD:

  1. Protecting the environment and the health and safety of employees and others
  2. Seeking innovative technologies and cost-effective ways to further improve our manufacturing processes
  3. Strategizing to increase energy efficiency and reduction of emissions of solid waste, air and water pollutants.
  4. Increasing competitiveness of products and technologies to meet the needs of our clientele.
  5. Innovative and eco-beneficial productions

TSA: What do you think are the most pressing environmental and social challenges in the industry currently?
KD: We look at the impact textile production has on global climate change. We equate climate change with our own lives and base this on studies of just how the changes will impact us directly, that wet regions will be wetter, causing flash flooding; dry regions will get drier, resulting in drought. And  …  a heat wave that used to occur once every 100 years now happens every five years. Most of the current focus on the carbon footprint revolves around transportation and heating issues, and the modest little fabric all around seems to be unseen. But we at Kassim Textiles see it as a gigantic carbon footprint. The textile industry is the 3rd largest contributor to CO2 emissions in Pakistan, after primary metals and nonmetallic products and their exhausts.

TSA: What do you think is the biggest obstacle to becoming a more sustainable and less harmful industry?
KD: The biggest obstacle to sustainability is greed. The race to make more and more money with minimum expenses. And to top it all the total lack of respect of the nature and turning a blind eye to the future of this planet.

TSA: What positive developments have you seen in the industry over the years?
KD: In the years I have been working here at Kassim and also observing industrial changes, though very slow paced, there is a definite awaking to the realities of the dangers to the environment. The bodies working for environmental protection have gained the voice to bring their point to the consumers, who in turn are now demanding eco-friendly and sustainable products from the producers.

TSA: In your opinion, will it be the consumer who will facilitate the change in the supply chain, or will it be the design and manufacturing industry?
KD: Designing and manufacturing is always dependent on the consumers wants and demands, hence it’s the consumer who will initiate the want, and the manufacturer shall have to cater to these demands.

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Kassim Denim can be seen at the Future Fabrics Expo on 28th – 30th September, London, and all year round on www.futurefabricsvirtualexpo.com.

They can also be visited twice a year at several global trade fairs: Texworld, Munich Fabric Start, Premier Vision China, Premier Vision Istanbul, and Bangladesh Show (Dhaka).

Kassim Denim are generous sponsors of the Future Fabrics Virtual Expo, and the Future Fabrics Expo, 28th – 30th September, London.

Natural dyeing with Bougainvillea Couture

As one of the companies featured on our sustainable textiles sourcing website Future Fabrics Virtual Expo, we wanted to introduce natural dye studio Bougainvillea Couture, which was founded in 2011 by UK based and renowned textile designer Luiven Rivas-Sanchez. Bougainvillea Couture produces limited edition ranges of sustainable luxurious fashion accessories, ensembles and fabrics using premium natural materials, responsibly and globally sourced from all over the world.

We spoke with Luiven to find out more about Bougainvillea Couture, sustainability in relation to textiles production and finishing, and what needs to improve in the fashion and textile industry.

Luiven explained that “Bougainvillea Couture engages in holistic and generative textile processes that transcend design trends. We work with a dedicated team of textile experts, designers, artists and practitioners. Together, we source the finest fabrics worldwide to selectively and sustainably hand dye and treat cloth. With craftsmanship and intimacy at the helm, every fabric and accessory created under the Bougainvillea Couture label, meets with uncompromising standards of sustainable assurance and ethical excellence, key factors we believe have been stripped away by a fashion industry with imperatives leaning towards speed and low cost.”

You can read the full conversation below…

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TSA: What was the motivation to start Bougainvillea Couture?
BC: Being trained in design, the motivation to found Bougainvillea Couture was firstly based mainly on aesthetics. However, as we became more aware of textile pollution, our design ethos and rationale consequently changed.

TSA: How has your work with natural dyes evolved since its inception?
BC: Our work with natural dyes has come a long way. We are in a position to develop dyeing strategies and invest in lower impact methods of fabric production. It is a team effort that requires constant research and nourishment.

TSA: What first inspired you to start working on improving sustainability in the fashion / textiles industries?
BC: Colour, and the way it can be used to improve textile dyeing strategies without compromising the environment.

TSA: Can you explain how do you classify ‘sustainability’ in relation to your work?
BC: At Bougainvillea Couture, we aim to be as innovative and sustainable as we possibly can, for us sustainability means the ability to design and produce high end fabrics using low impact dyeing methods and techniques.

TSA: Can you provide an outline of your project?
BC: Our project is based on long term ideals. We have a vision to develop a range of sustainable fabrics and fashion accessories for men and women using sustainable guidelines. We work closely with practitioners and suppliers and have huge respect for them. It is part of the sustainable strategy we support, and one of the reasons that makes us proud of what we do and produce.

TSA: What do you hope the work of Bougainvillea Couture will improve in the industry?
BC: Because of the amount of chemical dyeing processes remaining unchanged, with critical high levels of pollution still affecting our eco-systems, we hope that our revised dyeing guidelines will eventually make a difference.

TSA: Can you tell us about any positive impact you have seen from your work?
BC: Yes, the way our customer base see textiles through our work is slowly changing. They understand more about how it is made and are more respectful of our ideals and goals.

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TSA: What do you think are the most pressing environmental and social challenges in the industry currently?
BC: Chemical pollution is still top of the agenda, the elevated cost of sustainable organic materials, and lack of respect towards the lower tier members of the supply chain continue to negatively affect the industry. Practical and feasible changes are needed to achieve higher standards of textile and social sustainability.

TSA: What would you like to see happen more in the fashion and textiles industries?
BC: We would like more comprehensive dialogue and collaborations between textile manufacturers, suppliers, scientists, designers and consumers.

TSA: Are there any common misconceptions about sustainability in fashion and textiles that you’d like to talk about?
BC: There is this huge misconception that sustainability is fashion exclusive and part of a trend. To us, sustainability means consumption in dire need of reassessment, purely to avoid further environmental disasters, if not for us, for future generations. To widely address and embrace sustainable issues, the industry and consumers need to take a more holistic approach to clothing.

TSA: Do you see designers and practitioners becoming more sustainable in your eyes, and how?
BC: The potential is huge, but only if their general views of sustainability are pragmatic and their goals are realistically achievable, slow and long term planning is part of our mantra.

TSA: In your opinion, who will primarily facilitate change in the supply chain?
BC: We believe the biggest onus lies within the manufacturing industry, but designers need to work closely with them, it needs to be a symbiotic relationship. The consumer tends to be price driven.

TSA: Do you have any events or courses coming up where people can connect with you?
BC: Yes, we have started running sustainable dyeing workshops, and have plans to develop and expand on this.

You can see a range of Bougainvillea Couture’s naturally hand dyed fabrics on the Future Fabrics Virtual Expo. Keep an eye on the blog and twitter for news of upcoming sustainable dyeing workshops.

Building a ‘Sustainable’ Business – Start up workshop

Charlotte Turner, researcher and project manager at The Sustainable Angle was recently invited to present a sustainable sourcing workshop to fashion start-up companies at the Fashion and Textiles Museum in London, as part of the Creative Hub project led by the Centre for Sustainable Fashion. We were delighted to take part to provide guidance on sourcing more sustainably, alongside a tailored series of talks on design strategy, manufacturing, and brand values and communication.

The Creative Hub is a new business-mentoring scheme run from the Fashion and Textiles Museum, with the Centre for Sustainable Fashion offering tailored business support to 30 fashion businesses over the next year. They selected “beneficiaries with an interest in and commitment to doing things differently, those who are willing and able to explore and instigate new business models; those with genuine creative flair and those who understand that good business involves 360 vision.”

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This one-day workshop was designed to provide a snapshot analysis of the opportunities sustainability can provide for a new business, and the starting points for integrating sustainability into the design and business planning process.

As materials are often the starting point when considering sustainability in a design business, the sustainable sourcing session delivered by The Sustainable Angle provided simple framework for sustainable materials and supplier sourcing, as well as showcasing over a hundred sustainable textiles samples. The presentation included:

  • Sustainable materials – an overview of how and why we need to rethink the materials and processes we use in fashion and clothing production
  • Measurements and guidelines – What benchmarks exist and how can we best use them to our advantage
  • Today / Tomorrow – How do we improve our sourcing practices / who should be involved?
  • Fabric showcase ‐ What is available and a discussion of commercial viability and questions to ask mills and suppliers

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It is exciting to see the diverse and boundary pushing ideas being explored by start-ups and small businesses, and so we hope that initiatives like Creative Hub, and sustainable sourcing platforms like the Future Fabrics Expo and online Future Fabrics Virtual Expo will continue to equip designers, buyers, product developers and more with the knowledge, resources and skills needed to run their businesses in the most sustainable ways possible.

People, planet, and profit at the Source Summit

I recently attended the SOURCE Summit hosted by the Ethical Fashion Forum at the Human Rights Action Centre at Amnesty International HQ, to find out about some of the latest developments in ethical and sustainable fashion. The day was focused around 3D profit, discussing how you can link financial profit with positive social and environmental impact.

Photography by Rachel Mann

Photography by Rachel Mann

We believe that business is changing, it’s in part due to external pressures but what I find most relevant about the topic today is that there is a real business case to investing in sustainable reform,” Summerly Horning from Tau Investment Management.

Photography by Rachel Mann

Photography by Rachel Mann

After a range of panel discussions and break up sessions discussing topics ranging from accounting to production, the day wrapped up with a panel discussion chaired by Baronness Lola Young of Hornsey about the future of the fashion industry and how it might achieve “3D” success. Dr. Maximilian Martin, founder of Impact Economy and one of the panelists summed it up by saying:

The textile and garment industry has a role to play, you are innovators and many of you are operating boutique businesses that are working with really interesting ideas about shared products, long value chains, etc. I think many of the things that you’re working on have much more potency to drive wider change than you realize.

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.

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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.

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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.

Sustainable sourcing at Outdoor Fair

The Sustainable Angle attends Outdoor Fair Germany

Earlier this month we attended the Outdoor Show in Friedrichshafen, Germany, to discover new innovations in performance textiles, and hopefully discover a wide range of materials with a reduced environmental impact. Visitors were greeted by outdoor equipment and clothing manufacturers and brands, as well as dozens of suppliers and manufacturers specialising in outdoor and technical fabrics and finishes, many of whom are certified bluesign® partners.

bluesign® certification is a good sustainability indicator for performance fabrics, as it assesses water effluent, air emissions, energy consumption, worker safety, consumer safety, RSL/chemical residues, and responsible use of resources for textile products, from fibres and yarns to fabrics and final products; components for textile products, chemicals and dyestuffs, and textile processing techniques. The step of so many mills from the sector to work to the bluesign® guidelines showed a positive move towards a less harmful industry.

The Sustainable Angle attends Outdoor Fair Germany

When talking to the companies it soon became apparent that sustainability is more of a priority in the outdoor and performance industry than in the fashion sector, with brands and mills both making it a priority to reduce their impact on the environment that they are designing for. By showcasing more of these innovations, we aim to showcase even more ways that the fashion textiles sector can lower their impact and improve on their business practices, and by proxy benefit through the reduction of waste and chemical outputs, and the saving of resources.

To round off the trade show, the European Outdoor Group hosted a Sustainability breakfast, which included presentations on topics including the environmental impact of the leather production process, cellulosic fibres, and the EOG’s latest projects. Overall it was positive to see commitment from many suppliers and brands to progress more sustainably, and hopefully seeing the outdoor industry bring greater cohesion to this journey will provide the fashion industry with more positive examples to build on.

A range of sustainable performance and outdoor fabrics can be seen at the Future Fabrics Expo in London, 28th-30th September. Find out more and register here.

You can also visit the Future Fabrics Virtual Expo to view a growing range of sustainable textiles from around the world. Click here to find out more.

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.