Future Fabrics Expo - Sustainable Textile Heaven

04 Oct 2013

The Sustainable Angle Future Fabrics Expo 2013

Organic and sustainable fabrics, artisan textiles have been a personal passion for nearly 20 years and while sourcing them is one of the 4 fundamental cornerstones of the Cock & Bull Menswear range and business model, it has also been the most difficult task. 

It was, therefore, with great pleasure and excitement that I arrived at The Sustainable Angle: Future Fabrics Expo (at Fashion SVP) last week Monday to be confronted with the largest choice of sustainable fabrics and sustainable fabric producers I have ever seen in one place. Having just completed a very busy 4 months with the launch of the Cock & Bull & Co. sustainable menswear boutique, I was hoping to wiz around the venue and depart for a well deserved day off for my birthday. Alas, the fabrics were calling me as well as the seminar programme put together by Fashion SVP, and needs must and all that.

Upon arriving I greeted a few familiar faces (including bearded photographer extraordinary and all round cool guy Yev from the Green Lens Studio and Kate from the Ethical Fashion Forum) before I headed to a crowded corner of the room were other equally excited buyers were indulging in perusing the drape of over 500 fabrics.  It was obviously rush hour when I arrived so I took my place in the line of what looked like a fairly quiet rail and waited my turn to stroke, scrunch and weigh to my heart’s content.

The Future Fabrics sustainability criteria, for inclusion in the expo was that the natural and man-made fabric producers and weavers were able to demonstrate an ‘ongoing commitment to improved performance across the supply chain’ in the 3 stages of  (1) fibre cultivation and processing (2) spinning, weaving and knitting; and (3) bleaching, colouring & finishing.

Additionally, the mills would have to adhere to environmental principles around water, waste, energy and biodiversity, which were established with the Centre for Sustainable Fashion, including:

A. In relation to WATER – ‘the reduction of water use and wastage across the textile supply chain’;

B. In relation to WASTE – ‘the utilisation of identifiable waste streams for textile production and the reduction of waste creation throughout the textile supply chain’;

C. In relation to ENERGY – ‘the reducing of carbon impact across the textile supply chain; and

D. In relation to BIODIVERSITY – the preservation and promotion of biodiversity with an emphasis on diversification in textile fibres; moving away from a global dependence on raw materials that utilise unsustainable agricultural practices or result in the depletion of finite natural resources.

Each sustainable fabric supplier exhibiting at the Future Fabrics Expo was able to demonstrate which areas of the  above ustainability criteria it satisfied in a clear and easy format.  In addition, they were able to show if the cloth was ‘ethical’ and also if it was ‘whole supply chain certified’.

There are now dozens of certifying bodies worldwide that have been established to verify the claims made by suppliers of both green, eco and sustainable fabric manufacturers as well as the products that are made with them.  As a buyer of sustainable textiles and fabrics the array of bodies is somewhat overwhelming even for me and so my strategy is to try and keep up to date with the bodies in certain key areas:  UK, Europe, India, China & US where we source our fabrics from and place the trust in them that we hope our customers place in us.

I am very happy to report that there will be over a dozen new mills that we will be contacting for samples for future Cock & Bull & Co. ranges.  Currently on our wish-list is a waterproof organic canvas (organic cotton or hemp) for a range of outerwear jackets next winter.

Thanks to the wonders of smart phones, detailed notes are no longer necessary.  A simple click is all that is necessary to capture details of fabrics of interest.  I took a LOT of photos.  I was like a kid at Christmas in sustainable fabric nirvana.

During my visit I was also able to attend the the seminar by Lorna Fitzsimons, Director of The Alliance Project:  The Viability of Bringing Garment and Fabric Manufacturing Back to the UK. It was also great to finally see the driving force that is  Kate Hills and Director of Make it British a site that fully got behind the Cock & Bull Menswear label when it was first launched last year.  Both seminars were informative, invigorating and inspiring.  These ladies are truly gems who have dedicated their enthusiasm and energy to the cause of manufacturing in the UK.

If we tallied the hours we have spent over the last 18 months searching for fabrics that fit our criteria of ethical – sustainable – beautiful, the hours  easily adds up to several weeks.  Visiting the Future Fabrics Expo has resulted in cutting down the amount of time we spend sourcing suitable textiles for our range which enables us to spend more time on product development and our customers. 

We would like to say a very big thank you to The Sustainable Angle for organising the show at SVP they have made our job somewhat easier and assisted us in being able to concentrate our efforts around more design, product development and customer service.

A A Lindsay

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