The Sustainable Angle’s
Future Fabrics Expo 2013
At Fashion SVP

By guest writer TEXTILE ARTIST MISHA WATERTON

Last month saw the Sustainable Angle hold their 3rd annual showcase of Future Fabrics Expo. The event was part of Fashion SVP’s sourcing event at the Olympia Exhibition Centre, London.

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Future Fabrics Expo showcases commercially viable fabrics sourced from suppliers using sustainable principles, who are committed to reducing the environmental impact of the current textile supply chain.

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This year’s Expo demonstrated an impressive array of materials, with lines representing the scope of sustainable production. Much of the show leaned towards mainstream retailing with many of the fabrics ideal for commercial fashion development. A buzz of interest was also created around exciting future material prospects.

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Lines ranged from a selection of textiles produced on-shore in Britain, organic leathers tanned using rhubarb, beautiful Icelandic fish leathers and a modest but elegant selection of world wools.

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In recent years, a predominant focus for sustainable developments for many industry areas has been on-shore production. Globalisation and cheaper labour in developing economies has meant that the majority of the UK’s textile produce has been imported from across the globe. A new addition to this year’s Expo was a selection of fabrics made in Britain, aimed at supporting on-shore production and manufacturing for textiles here in the UK. The selection of fabrics demonstrated a trend of high quality and a classic sense of British style. Companies included: Ardalanish, Dashing Tweeds, Holland & Sherry, Laxtons, London Cloth Company and Marling & Evans.

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The use of leather in the fashion industry contributes to the growing demand for animal produce and therefore to the expansion of factory farms and slaughterhouses. However, responsible sourcing and increased traceability are a viable way of working sustainably and improving supply chain systems.

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A German company, Deepmello, source their raw material as a by-product from animals used within the meat industry. They also ensure they obtain responsibly farmed and mainly organically raised animals. The leathers were extremely soft and gave an appearance of immaculate quality. Leathers are tanned using the roots of rhubarb, without the use of heavy metals and with minimal environmental impact. Deepmello follows IVN guidelines and is certified by ECARF.

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The company Atlantic Leather was certainly a highlight, as their seductive display of vibrant fish leathers attracted much attention. Atlantic Leather is an Icelandic family-run firm, which has been developing the production of fish leathers for the past 20 years. This experience has brought them to their current position of being able to manufacture environmentally sound leathers from salmon, perch, wolfish and cod, in an impressive choice of colours and textures.

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Like Deepmello, these fish leathers are produced using by-products, namely, fish already used for food manufacturing. The fish have been sustainably sourced, with no risk of endangerment. The company also uses only geothermal hot water for processing and electricity supplied from a hydroelectric power station. Amazing leathers and environmentally sound – these striking fish products offer plenty of scope for further use within the fashion industry. Atlantic Leather is certified with Blue Angel and IVN standards.

There were many natural fibres on show, with a few stand-out examples of how natural fibres can be produced sustainably.

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Avani produces hand spun and woven fabrics made from wools and silks such as Tibetan sheep wool, merino wool and Eri silk. The fabrics are spun using solar powered energy and are dyed using natural methods, with harvested rainwater, which is then re-used.

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Morse Felt Studio also showcased fabrics made from natural fibres, using compositions of silk, wools and linens. The combination of fibres, the use of vegetable dye and eco print help build these artisan felts into stunning fabric pieces. As more crafted work, this product would perhaps lend itself more to the bespoke market rather than mainstream.

The company Tintoria di Guaregna concentrates on improving systems linked to the dye industry and has developed a dyeing process using dry herbs. Research has ensured colour-fastness and resistance without the use of hazardous chemicals that harm the environment.

The global force wielded by today’s vast fashion industry also creates a wide spectrum of environmental and supply chain concerns. Key issues encompass: short product lifecyles; over consumption and waste; overuse of chemicals; water consumption and energy use; and pollution with high CO2 emissions. These can carry significant negative social, health, trade and economic impact. Using new technology and industry development, we can make informed decisions to explore, support and advance sustainable systems and continue improvements in this area. With more and more businesses taking responsibility and committing to these imaginative improvements, the future for sustainable textiles within the mainstream industry is looking hopeful.