How new technologies are guiding the future of sustainability
The apparel and fashion industry has reached a general consensus that things need to change when it comes to the future of sustainability.
It is widely acknowledged that as one of the biggest contributors to climate change, the industry needs to adopt more sustainable methods when it comes to textile production.
But with demand at an all-time high and over 60 million people employed in the industry along the supply chain, cutting down on production simply isn’t feasible.
Manufacturers, designers, and suppliers are all looking towards technology for the answer, with the following innovations on the horizon.
AI is changing the industry
Artificial Intelligence has been on the horizon for some time now, but like a mirage in the desert, it never seems to get any closer.
Over the past few years, AI has come ahead in leaps and bounds, growing exponentially and subtly becoming a part of our everyday lives.
Businesses across the globe are reaping the benefits of AI developments, including everything from speech recognition to marketing decision making.
For the apparel industry, AI is helping brands better understand their customers, improving everything from product offering to shipping routes.
Everyday business decisions, from how much raw materials to buy through to how to target the right customers, are now being optimised through AI and machine learning.
This dramatically cuts down on waste, resources, and time, giving hope to the future of sustainability.
Fabrics are entering the future
Since nylon was first developed back in the 1930’s, synthetic fibres have been produced by the industry, each with their own pros and cons.
But with sustainability now a hotbed issue, companies are trying to find “the one” when it comes to man-made fabrics.
The race is on to create a fabric that is light, cheap, waterproof and strong, yet is friendly to the environment.
While the discovery of the perfect material may be some time away, the race to find it has produced some stunning innovations.
Modern Meadow is a company which has created lab-made leather, with the hope of reducing the impact of the fashion industry through livestock. The enormous carbon emissions from farming, along with the chemical damage of the tanning process, contribute significantly to climate change.
But the holy grail of material reproduction is spider silk.
This incredibly durable and elastic silk is stronger than steel and is inherently eco-friendly. The problem is our little 8-legged friends can’t be farmed like silkworms, because they just end up eating each other.
It’s so difficult to make something from spider silk, that there is only one piece of fabric in existence, and that took 70 people 4 years to make!
Companies have been trying for years to recreate spider silk, but only recently have come close. American company Bolt Threads has released a limited edition range of garments made from their replica spider silk, and although a prototype, it sets the bar for future mass-scale production.
The Dyeing process is dying
You may not think that the dyeing process is all that damaging to the environment, but it’s one of the biggest polluters of our waterways.
The dyeing process uses a tremendous amount of fresh water, with 10,000 litres needed to make a single pair of jeans.
Add to that the pollution resulting from the process, which dumps high concentrations of dyes and chemicals like chromium, arsenic, copper, and zinc into rivers and lakes, any future progress in sustainability must involve an answer to dyes.
The answer may come in the form of progressive businesses which are tackling the problem through technology.
Start-up company ColorZen have developed a cotton pre-treatment step that allows the dyeing process to begin right from the field. The treatment is applied to raw cotton, making the whole process far more efficient and sustainable. This speeds up the dyeing process while using 90% less water, 75% less energy, and 90% fewer auxiliary chemicals.
Japanese company Debs Textile Corporation has developed the AirDye, a revolutionary, cost-efficient sustainable technology that enables water-free dyeing and printing on textiles. This new method saves up to 95% of the water, 86% of the energy, and 84% of the greenhouse gases as compared to conventional dye and print methods.
Pushing technology even further, the bio-tech company Ginkgo Bioworks has created a colourful dye using microbes. The pigment is naturally created by specially designed bacteria, resulting in a dye which is non-toxic, and uses hardly any water.
The future of sustainability
With the world changing, so too are people’s expectations. Millennials are now entering their 30s, and with more money to spend, they are choosing brands which are more environmentally conscious with an eye towards the future of sustainability.
For brands to remain relevant and stay in business, sustainability needs to become a core component of their strategy. How a brand defines its sustainable message can have a huge impact on its customers.
With breakthroughs in modern technology, along with innovation and a determination to help the planet, we are seeing brands embrace the need for sustainability, and taking a keen interest into how they can improve on their own practices and methods.
At immago, we need to be pro-active in assessing our own activities, both as a real response to the challenges of these issues, and as a way of protecting the value of our own brand. We firmly believe that every aspect of the production chain needs to change, from sourcing raw materials to the attitude of consumers, but whatever the future holds for the industry, immago will be there.
Contact us today if you have any questions about the future of sustainability practices, the textile supply chain, or anything else related to the textile industry. If your business wants to take a step towards a greener model, then contact immago today.
We can help with everything along the supply chain, from sourcing to distribution, all in a more sustainable and environmentally friendly way.