Why eco-textiles offer the greatest opportunity for innovation
It is undisputed that the trend towards sustainability and ecological awareness is no longer a short-term fad. Organic, organic, fair or green have now reached every sector of the economy. The textile industry is no exception. Innovations in the field of eco-textiles are a recipe for success.
Our clothing should be crease-free, easy-care and dimensionally stable. Exotic colors, great design and reasonable price are of course also included. That can't be done without chemistry. A lot of chemicals, some of which are harmful to health and in many cases also have a massive impact on the environment. The term sexy underwear takes on a completely new meaning.
And then there are the production conditions: Cheap production through exploitation and child labour ghosts in the minds of consumers and they make no difference between Prada and H&M.
As negative as this may sound, there are great opportunities for innovation for companies with ideas and initiative.
From corporate social responsibility to a profitable business model
While social action in companies (CSR) was previously seen more as a tool that sharpens the contour of a brand, according to a study by the German Institute for the Future, this trend towards a profitable business model is set to become established.
This means that companies in the textile and clothing industry develop new and innovative products that bring values such as sustainability and fairness along with simple utility values such as functionality and design.
According to a global study by the renowned Edelman communications agency, 86 percent of consumers worldwide are willing to change their consumer behaviour and buy other brands than before if they help to improve the planet in this way. This means nothing more than what many have so far seen as employment for elitist minorities is now becoming mainstream: Organic becomes the new standard.
Especially in the textile and clothing industry, innovation with a focus on eco-effectiveness in the sense of a sustainable production process is in greater demand than ever before, so it is no wonder that the number of quality seals for fair and ecologically correct textiles is large and unmanageable. Some are assigned by the respective manufacturers themselves and are therefore only conditionally meaningful. Others, such as the Oeko-Tex Association, which awards the "Confidence in Textiles" seal, operate globally and independently. Their labels are available in different versions: The Oeko-Tex Standard 100 tests exclusively for harmful substances in textiles, while the Oeko-Tex Standard 100plus also tests compliance with strict environmental and social standards.
Does the effort pay off?
Well, on the one hand, the so-called "meaning market", i.e. the market for products or services that offer non-material advantages over the pure use factor, is actually growing rapidly.
There is still plenty of room for innovations of all kinds. How far this can go is shown by the development of a 3D printed sponge bikini, which also cleans the sea while swimming. The function of the "Sponge Suit" is created by an extremely porous material that repels water but absorbs all other substances such as oil or chemicals.
Or the Vorarlberg company Wolford, which recently announced that it is working on a bra that is supposed to be completely biodegradable. Not an easy task, as twelve different components and suppliers are required to manufacture a bra.
Of course, the question also arises as to what it costs to ignore the trend towards sustainability. As part of a campaign called "Detox", Greenpeace has called on some of the world's best-known clothing brands to work with all their suppliers to stop the poisoning of water by harmful chemicals. The status of the addressed companies is made public and evaluated in the Detox-Catwalk. There are those companies that have committed themselves to and implemented the corresponding criteria, the "trendsetters", those that have committed themselves but not yet implemented, these are the "green washers". And then the "tail lights": according to Greenpeace's definition, these are the "poison junkies who do not want to make a commitment and refuse to take responsibility for their poison trail,..."
Conclusion: Innovation opportunity through eco-textiles
Innovation pays off, especially in the textile and clothing industry. And there again, especially in the field of ecologically sustainable and fairly manufactured products, keyword: eco-textiles. Or, conversely, it can be fatal to shut oneself off from trends in this area in particular, to let the train go. Awareness of mindfulness with our environment has arrived in the middle of society. To close oneself off is punishable by the consumer.
Born in Graz, Austria. After positions as project manager & head of innovation of the project management at LEAD Innovation, Daniel Zapfl has been responsible for the success of the innovation projects of our innovation partners since January 2018.