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How the Fashion & Textiles industry are Eco – Evolving into 2021


In 2020, we saw the rise of ‘sustainability’ ‘carbon zero’ ‘waste-reduction’ and ‘recycling’ within the fashion and textiles sectors, and now 2021 looks set to push those eco-credentials even further…

Image courtesy of Lenzing

As we have seen with retail, the fashion industry is in the midst of major change spurred on by environmental challenges that can no longer be ignored and the ongoing pandemic. For years, designers have stated that the fashion system is broken: too much product, delivered globally, marked down too soon. The fashion cycle was turning too fast and with it excess waste, pollution and a knock-on effect on creativity.

At the designer end of the scale, the likes of Gucci, Tory Burch, Erdem, Gabriela Hearst, amongst others compiled an ‘Open Letter to the Fashion Industry.[1] ’ Published in May 2020, the letter stated, ‘[r]ecently a group of us from across the global fashion industry, from CEOs to buyers and creative directors, came together in a series of conversations with a shared vision; to discuss ways in which our business needs to transform.

 ‘We agreed that the current environment although challenging, presents an opportunity for a fundamental and welcome change that will simplify our businesses, making them more environmentally and socially sustainable and ultimately align them more closely with customers’ needs.

‘We hope to achieve this by adjusting the seasonality and flow of both womenswear and menswear goods, starting with the Autumn/Winter 2020 season.’

The letter goes on to list the need for smaller, in-season collections, balanced flow of deliveries, and discounting only at the end of the season. This would create less unnecessary product, waste, travel, make more use of digital showrooms, and to review and adapt fashion shows.

The letter signs off: ‘Working together, we hope these steps will allow our industry to become more responsible for our impact on our customers, on the planet and on the fashion community, and bring back the magic and creativity that has made fashion such an important part of our world.’

2020 has certainly been a tough year for fashion, however, this Open Letter summed up a general consensus across the entire industry. Throughout the pandemic, consumers have had more time to think about their purchases: Are they necessary? Are they sustainable? Since the beginning of 2020, Lyst[2]  has reported a 37% increase in searches for sustainability-related keywords increasing from 27,000 in 2019 to 32,000. Other key terms on the increase include ‘upcycled fashion’ ‘second-hand’ and ‘slow fashion’.

Throughout 2020, brands and designers have continued to address sustainability in a myriad of ways, including carbon footprint reduction, combating waste, implementing eco-friendly fibers and affectively incorporating circular models.

Fiber image courtesy of Lenzing

Seven for All Mankind made a commitment to ensure more than 50% of its product will be created from sustainable materials by 2023. The brand also launched its 080 jean collection made with sustainable organic cotton and recycled elastane.

Camper [3], meanwhile, launched its unique Right and Upright boot and bootie featuring an innovative knitted construction technique that contains eco-friendly TENCEL™ branded lyocell fibres from botanic origin and derived from sustainably grown wood sources. The process recycles water and uses 95% less in comparison to conventional cotton.

Online fashion retailer ASOS.com debuted its first circular collection, featuring trend-led and fashion-forward styles across clothing and accessories, all of which have been designed and made to meet “industry-leading circularity principles, with no compromise on product or price”. The 29 styles were all designed to incorporate key green practices including zero-waste, durability and recycled elements.

For TENCEL™, Lenzing’s flagship brand for textiles, it introduced its very first carbon-zero TENCEL™ branded lyocell and modal fibers to the market. Launched in September 2020, those carbon-zero fibers are in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals to limit global warming through reduced production emissions. 

Fully embracing sustainability from fiber to finished garment, the TENCEL™ Luxe brand also joined forces with Red Carpet Green Dress™, a global organization, which aims to promote sustainable couture designs, to debut a range of eco-couture textiles at the 2020 Oscars.

As we move into 2021, sustainability is no longer a sideshow but a prerequisite for large and small brands alike. We already know that the annual fashion calendar is looking very different, with digital shows and presentations, smaller collections and eco-friendly promises. Many designers have also stated that collections will now be tightly edited and client focused, with the use of recycled, deadstock and eco-friendly fabrics.

TENCEL X Athleta Marathon – image courtesy of Lenzing

With the onset of COVID-19, activewear brands, in particular, have been investing a lot of time and resources in developing comfortable and eco-friendly collections. For example, US-based Athleta launched its studio jogger, a multipurpose piece designed for yoga and off-the-mat wear using TENCEL™ Modal fibers [4], which is lightweight, soft, quick drying and easily packable when on the go. Furthermore, Lululemon also introduced new activewear garments featuring a blend of TENCEL™ Lyocell fibers, LYCRA® and Lululemon’s own X-STATIC® nylon for increased comfort during intense workouts.

The concept of sustainability within the fashion and textile sector is not new, however the pandemic has put the subject into sharp focus. Moving forward into this New Year, we can expect more change as the industry addresses biodegradability, the reuse of existing fabrics, circular models and localised production. Time is of the essence and 2021 will really set apart those that are willing to invest and adapt their business model to befit the environmental challenges we face today.





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