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Community waste less  fashion industry must spend more on research | Upload Lifestyle

Waste Less: Fashion Industry Must Spend More On Research

by: Peter Sant
waste less  fashion industry must spend more on research | Upload

The rise of fast fashion in Australia means 6000 kg of clothing is dumped in landfills every 10 minutes. The ABC’s War On Waste visualized this statistic by piling a giant mound of clothing waste in the city's middle. So what to do about it?

Craig Reucassel in front of pile of fashion waste
Photo by TDT. Craig Reucassel: 'War on Waste'

Recommended: Recycled Material: Clothing From The JUNGL

Sustainable fashion experts advocate abstaining from buying fast fashion, promoting clothing swaps, and repairing old clothing. Others suggest buying organic and ethically-sourced clothes or designing clothing using zero waste techniques. The hope is that greater transparency in supply chains will lead to an end to sweatshops and unsustainable fashion practices. These are admirable initiatives, but they only reduce wastage or delay garments from ending up in landfills. They do not address the fact that the scale of fast fashion is so massive it can easily eclipse other sustainability initiatives. Nor do they address the wastefulness of existing technologies and the urgent need to research new ones.
Even if we could magically stop all garments' global production, we would still need new, green technology to clean up the waste we have already created. There are long-term strategies for green technologies such as electric cars, but where are the major companies and research institutes developing the next generation of sustainable fashion technologies? The development of new synthetic biology technologies may be the key.

From Catwalk To Research

I want to share my journey from zero waste fashion design pioneer to trans-disciplinary fashion researcher to highlight the challenges faced by sustainable fashion and the need for more research. Ten years ago, I presented my 'Zero-Waste' Fashion collection at London Fashion Week. Other sustainable designers and I took the waste streams of different industries such as scrap materials and leftover fabric and created our readers. I was selected for 'Estethica,' a new initiative created by sustainable fashion gurus Orsola De Castro, Filippo Ricci, and Anna Orsini from the British Fashion Council. Sustainable fashion was shown on London catwalks next to luxury fashion – a revolutionary step for the time.
I pioneered a way of creating tailored, high fashion garments so that all the pieces of a garment fitted together like a jigsaw puzzle and no waste was created. Conventional pattern cutting creates about 15% wastage of material, even if a computer has optimized the pattern. I wanted to change the way clothing was made systemically.

3 piece sof fabric

Design a garment with zero waste requires new patternmaking techniques based on advanced mathematics.
But the problem with zero-waste design is that it is tough to create. It requires a skilled designer to simultaneously imagine the garment as a 3D item and a flat pattern while trying to fit the pieces together like a jigsaw. It is easy to make an unfitted or baggy garment, but creating something that looks good and fits the body was a real challenge.

Even after all these years, most contemporary zero-waste fashion is still not tailored to the body. I practiced this technique for years to master it. It required breaking all the rules of conventional pattern-making and creating new designs based on advanced mathematics. These were exciting times. Our fabrics were organic; we made everything locally and ensured everyone was paid an ethical wage. The press loved our story. But problems started to emerge when it came to sales.

We had to sell more expensive garments, using a smaller range of fabrics – our materials and labor costs were higher than those produced overseas. Often fashion buyers would say they loved what we did, but they would politely take their business elsewhere after looking at the price tag. As a sustainable fashion designer, my impact was limited. It was also impossible to teach zero-waste fashion design without explaining how advanced mathematics applied to it. It was time to try a new approach, so I decided to use science and maths to traditional fashion techniques. My Ph.D. research explored the underlying geometry of fashion pattern-making. Combining fashion with science allowed the conventional methods and artistry to make garments explained and communicated to scientists and engineers.

In the meantime, fast fashion companies rapidly expanded, with Zara, Topshop, and H&M. They produced massive amounts of cheap products making low margins on each garment. Consumers quickly became addicted to the instant gratification of this retail experience. The size and scale of their production produced hundreds of tonnes of garments every day.

The Limits Of Fashion Technology

Fast fashion companies such as H&M have developed recycling initiatives in which consumers can exchange old clothing for discount vouchers. This is supposed to prevent clothing from going to landfills instead of recycling it into new clothing.

However, some are skeptical of H&M’s recycling process. In 2016, investigative journalist Lucy Siegle crunched the numbers and concluded that “it appears it would take 12 years for H&M to use up 1,000 tons of fashion waste”. This, she said, was the amount of clothing they produce in about 48 hours.

Recommended: Sustainable Fabric: Textile Without Pollution

A 2016 H&M sustainability report reveals that only 0.7% of their clothes are made from recycled or other sustainably-sourced materials. In the story, H&M acknowledges :

Today, this is not possible because the technology for recycling is limited. For this reason, the share of recycled materials in our products is still relatively small.
Their 2016 annual report states that more research is needed:

A more significant proportion of recycled fibers is to be added to the garments without compromising quality and to separate threads in mixed materials.
Sustainable technologies strive for a “circular economy,” in which materials can be infinitely recycled. Yet this technology is only in its infancy and needs much more research funding. H&M’s Global Change Award funds five start-up companies with a total of 1 million Euros for new solutions. Contrast this with the millions required by the most basic Silicon Valley start-ups or billions for major green technology companies such as Tesla or SolarCity. There is a dire need for disruptive new fashion technology.

Many of the promising new technologies require getting bacteria or fungi to grow or biodegrade the fabrics for us – this is a shift to researching the fundamental technologies behind fashion items. For example, it takes 2700L of water and over 120 days to grow enough cotton to make a T-shirt. However, in nature, bacteria such as 'acetobacter xylinum' can produce a cellulose sheet in hours. Clothing grown from bacteria has been pioneered by Dr. Suzanne Lee. If a breakthrough can be made so that commercially grown cotton can be produced from bacteria, it may be possible to replace cotton fields with more efficient bacteria vats.
Dr Suzanne Lee
Designer Suzanne Lee shares her experiments in growing a kombucha-based material that can be used like fabric or vegetable leather to make clothing. 

But why stick with cotton? Fabrics can be generated from milk, seaweed, crab shells, banana waste, or coconut waste. Companies such as Ecovate can feed fabric fibers to mushroom spore called mycelium to create bioplastics or biodegradable packaging for Dell. Adidas has 3D printed a biodegradable shoe from spider silk developed by AM silk.

Although I began my journey as a fashion designer, a new generation of materials and technologies has pulled me from the catwalk into the science lab. A collaboration between designers, scientists, engineers, and business people has become essential to address these complex issues.

To clean up the past and address the future's waste problems, further investment in fashion technology is urgently needed.

Before you go!

Recommended: Black Friday Not Sustainable At All Especially For Fashion

Did you find this an interesting article, or do you have a question or remark? Leave a comment below.
We try to respond the same day.

Like to write your article about fashion?
Send your writing & scribble with a photo to [email protected], and we will write an interesting article based on your input.

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Being involved in sustainability activities has changed my view on this subject a lot. Climate change and pollution are borderless and thus solutions and information has to be shared globally. Rich, 'developed' countries have to start supporting countries that don't have the means and knowledge to improve their situation. Sustainability movement is as strong as its weakest link - whatsorb.com is a helpful platform to speed up the X-Change of Global Sustainability.

 

Being involved in sustainability activities has changed my view on this subject a lot. Climate change and pollution are borderless and thus solutions and information has to be shared globally. Rich, 'developed' countries have to start supporting countries that don't have the means and knowledge to improve their situation. Sustainability movement is as strong as its weakest link - whatsorb.com is a helpful platform to speed up the X-Change of Global Sustainability.

 

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Waste Less: Fashion Industry Must Spend More On Research

The rise of fast fashion in Australia means 6000 kg of clothing is dumped in landfills every 10 minutes. The ABC’s War On Waste visualized this statistic by piling a giant mound of clothing waste in the city's middle. So what to do about it? Photo by TDT. Craig Reucassel: 'War on Waste' Recommended:  Recycled Material: Clothing From The JUNGL Sustainable fashion experts advocate abstaining from buying fast fashion, promoting clothing swaps, and repairing old clothing. Others suggest buying organic and ethically-sourced clothes or designing clothing using zero waste techniques. The hope is that greater transparency in supply chains will lead to an end to sweatshops and unsustainable fashion practices. These are admirable initiatives, but they only reduce wastage or delay garments from ending up in landfills. They do not address the fact that the scale of fast fashion is so massive it can easily eclipse other sustainability initiatives. Nor do they address the wastefulness of existing technologies and the urgent need to research new ones. Even if we could magically stop all garments' global production, we would still need new, green technology to clean up the waste we have already created. There are long-term strategies for green technologies such as electric cars, but where are the major companies and research institutes developing the next generation of sustainable fashion technologies? The development of new synthetic biology technologies may be the key. From Catwalk To Research I want to share my journey from zero waste fashion design pioneer to trans-disciplinary fashion researcher to highlight the challenges faced by sustainable fashion and the need for more research. Ten years ago, I presented my 'Zero-Waste' Fashion collection at London Fashion Week. Other sustainable designers and I took the waste streams of different industries such as scrap materials and leftover fabric and created our readers. I was selected for 'Estethica,' a new initiative created by sustainable fashion gurus Orsola De Castro, Filippo Ricci, and Anna Orsini from the British Fashion Council. Sustainable fashion was shown on London catwalks next to luxury fashion – a revolutionary step for the time. I pioneered a way of creating tailored, high fashion garments so that all the pieces of a garment fitted together like a jigsaw puzzle and no waste was created. Conventional pattern cutting creates about 15% wastage of material, even if a computer has optimized the pattern. I wanted to change the way clothing was made systemically. Design a garment with zero waste requires new patternmaking techniques based on advanced mathematics. But the problem with zero-waste design is that it is tough to create. It requires a skilled designer to simultaneously imagine the garment as a 3D item and a flat pattern while trying to fit the pieces together like a jigsaw. It is easy to make an unfitted or baggy garment, but creating something that looks good and fits the body was a real challenge. Even after all these years, most contemporary zero-waste fashion is still not tailored to the body. I practiced this technique for years to master it. It required breaking all the rules of conventional pattern-making and creating new designs based on advanced mathematics. These were exciting times. Our fabrics were organic; we made everything locally and ensured everyone was paid an ethical wage. The press loved our story. But problems started to emerge when it came to sales. We had to sell more expensive garments, using a smaller range of fabrics – our materials and labor costs were higher than those produced overseas. Often fashion buyers would say they loved what we did, but they would politely take their business elsewhere after looking at the price tag. As a sustainable fashion designer, my impact was limited. It was also impossible to teach zero-waste fashion design without explaining how advanced mathematics applied to it. It was time to try a new approach, so I decided to use science and maths to traditional fashion techniques. My Ph.D. research explored the underlying geometry of fashion pattern-making. Combining fashion with science allowed the conventional methods and artistry to make garments explained and communicated to scientists and engineers. In the meantime, fast fashion companies rapidly expanded, with Zara, Topshop, and H&M. They produced massive amounts of cheap products making low margins on each garment. Consumers quickly became addicted to the instant gratification of this retail experience. The size and scale of their production produced hundreds of tonnes of garments every day. The Limits Of Fashion Technology Fast fashion companies such as H&M have developed recycling initiatives in which consumers can exchange old clothing for discount vouchers. This is supposed to prevent clothing from going to landfills instead of recycling it into new clothing. However, some are skeptical of H&M’s recycling process. In 2016, investigative journalist Lucy Siegle crunched the numbers and concluded that “it appears it would take 12 years for H&M to use up 1,000 tons of fashion waste”. This, she said, was the amount of clothing they produce in about 48 hours. Recommended:  Sustainable Fabric: Textile Without Pollution A 2016 H&M sustainability report reveals that only 0.7% of their clothes are made from recycled or other sustainably-sourced materials. In the story, H&M acknowledges : Today, this is not possible because the technology for recycling is limited. For this reason, the share of recycled materials in our products is still relatively small. Their 2016 annual report states that more research is needed: A more significant proportion of recycled fibers is to be added to the garments without compromising quality and to separate threads in mixed materials. Sustainable technologies strive for a “circular economy,” in which materials can be infinitely recycled. Yet this technology is only in its infancy and needs much more research funding. H&M’s Global Change Award funds five start-up companies with a total of 1 million Euros for new solutions. Contrast this with the millions required by the most basic Silicon Valley start-ups or billions for major green technology companies such as Tesla or SolarCity. There is a dire need for disruptive new fashion technology. Many of the promising new technologies require getting bacteria or fungi to grow or biodegrade the fabrics for us – this is a shift to researching the fundamental technologies behind fashion items. For example, it takes 2700L of water and over 120 days to grow enough cotton to make a T-shirt. However, in nature, bacteria such as 'acetobacter xylinum' can produce a cellulose sheet in hours. Clothing grown from bacteria has been pioneered by Dr. Suzanne Lee. If a breakthrough can be made so that commercially grown cotton can be produced from bacteria, it may be possible to replace cotton fields with more efficient bacteria vats. Designer Suzanne Lee shares her experiments in growing a kombucha-based material that can be used like fabric or vegetable leather to make clothing.  But why stick with cotton? Fabrics can be generated from milk, seaweed, crab shells, banana waste, or coconut waste. Companies such as Ecovate can feed fabric fibers to mushroom spore called mycelium to create bioplastics or biodegradable packaging for Dell. Adidas has 3D printed a biodegradable shoe from spider silk developed by AM silk. Although I began my journey as a fashion designer, a new generation of materials and technologies has pulled me from the catwalk into the science lab. A collaboration between designers, scientists, engineers, and business people has become essential to address these complex issues. To clean up the past and address the future's waste problems, further investment in fashion technology is urgently needed. Before you go! Recommended:  Black Friday Not Sustainable At All Especially For Fashion Did you find this an interesting article, or do you have a question or remark? Leave a comment below. We try to respond the same day. Like to write your article about fashion? Send your writing & scribble with a photo to  [email protected] , and we will write an interesting article based on your input.
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