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Clothing & Textile Manufactures: Using Sustainable Practices to Grow the Industry

Melina-DrugaThe environmentalist movement began in the 1970s.  Since then, we have become increasingly aware of the impact of human activity on the environment.  That impact includes the production of clothing and other textiles.  Chemicals such as formaldehyde, bleach, solvents, and PVC are used to produce textiles.  Plant-derived fibers often are exposed to fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides.

The following companies are being proactive: reducing their employees’ and customers’ exposure to chemical hazards and producing sustainable textiles.

 

number-1Freitag

The Swiss company takes what it calls R.I.Ps (Recycled Individual Products) to produce bags.

 

number-2Patagonia

In addition to selling clothing, this company participates in environmental causes.

 

number-3BAM Bamboo Clothing

The company produces clothing made completely out of bamboo fibers.

 

 

1. Freitag

 

“Recycle and recontexualize.” – Freitag on its Facebook page

 

Founded in 1993 by graphic designers and brothers Daniel and Marcus Freitag, the company manufactures bags out of recycled air bags, seat belts, bicycle inner tubes and truck tarps, and clothing out of plant-based fibers.

The first product the brothers made was for themselves – a messenger bag to use while biking that was both tough and water resistant.  Using the traffic as inspiration, the bag was made using auto and bicycle parts.  Each year, the company uses 130,000 seatbelts, 15,500 bicycle inner tubes and 300 truck tarps, Freitag says.

In 2014, the company began making clothing using compostable, vegetable-based textiles called F-ABRIC.

Freitag is headquartered in Zurich-Oerlikon, Switzerland.  According to the company, it employs 160 and has stores in eight cities in Eurasia as well as products sold in more than 460 stores globally.  Between 1997 and 2015, Freitag won dozens of awards for its innovative design and materials.

Switzerland is one of several European countries committed to banning plastics from landfills, according to Messe Dusseldorf.  Annually 7.7 million tons are recycled.

Annually, 12.7% of handbag and luggage sales in the European Union are lost to counterfeit products, according to the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market.  The largest manufacturers in the European handbag and luggage market are Italy, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and Spain.

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2. Patagonia

Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.” – Patagonia

 

Patagonia began as a company that manufactured alpine climber’s tools.  The company was founded by Yvon Chouinard in 1965 under the name Chouinard Equipment.  Starting in the early 1970s, it began to produce clothing for climbers.  The clothing line became popular and was given the name Patagonia to separate it from the tool business.  Today, it produces clothing for a wide variety of outdoor enthusiasts including trail runner, fishermen and skiers.

The company has devoted itself to environmental issues.  Starting in 1986, 1% of all sales go toward these causes, according to Patagonia.  The road to environmentalism started in 1998 when employees at Patagonia’s Boston store fell ill with headaches caused by the formaldehyde on the cotton clothing stored in the basement, the company reports.  It began conducting research and started using only organic cotton in 1996.  Other clothing is manufactured via recycling.  Fleece jackets were originally made using recycled plastic bottles and now are produced using old fleece jackets.  Other clothing items are made using recycled textiles.

The company has worked to increase its energy efficiency and improve working conditions.  Although Patagonia considers itself an environmentally sustainable company, it admits there is more it could do.

According to a 2016 report by Sage Business Researcher, Patagonia is the leader in lessening environmental effects on the supply chain.  This has allowed the company to charge a premium for its products, but customers are willing to pay because of the company’s excellent reputation.  In the latest years figures available, 2008-2013, profits tripled.

Increasingly, Sage reports, customers are increasingly paying attention to the companies that manufacture the products they buy.  More than 60% of respondents to a Nielson survey said they purchase from companies they trust, and between 30% and 55% said they purchase from companies that use organic products, are known for being environmentally friendly, make a commitment to social values or are active in their communities.

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3. Bam Bamboo Clothing

“On a mission to create the most comfortable active wear and to have fun while doing so.”  – Bamboo Clothing’s Facebook page

Founded in 2006, Bamboo Clothing is the first company in Europe to produce clothing made out of fibers made from bamboo cellulose.  It was founded by ex-pole vaulter David Gordon and headquartered in Plymouth, UK.  The company sells athletic wear.

Clothing is manufactured with 68% bamboo mixed with 28% organic cotton and 4% elastane, according to the company. Bamboo is sourced in China and was chosen because it is one of the fastest-growing plants on earth.  The bamboo used by the company is not treated with pesticides or fertilizers.

While clothing is dyed with low-environmental-impact products, fabric is bleached before it is dyed.  Bamboo Clothing is seeking a more environmentally friendly option, the company says.

In addition to being a renewable resource, bamboo also is durable, offers the wearer UV protection, is water resistant and has antibacterial properties.

Globally, the sports-apparel market is forecasted to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 6% and reach $125 billion in value in 2017, according to Research and Markets.  Demand is expected to be the strongest in Asia.  The market is very fragmented, with the top 10 companies dominating 25% of the market.

Between 2015 and 2020, the market is forecasted to grow at a CAGR of 4.3%, according to Allied Market Research, and reach $184.6 billion in 2020.  Men are the largest demographic of athletic apparel.  Discount stores will see the greatest revenue followed by brand outlets, as consumers of sports apparel prefer to shop in store instead of online.

The top factors propelling growth, according to Allied, are a fitness conscious customer, athletic apparel becoming trendy and the increase of women participating in sports.

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