Eco-responsibility is now a priority issue for the underwear industry. Whether in terms of materials or production, brands are proposing new alternatives to traditional processes that have a significant impact on our environment. The 2020 edition of the Salon International of underwear has been marked by the creation of an entire space dedicated to more responsible underwear.
More and more brands are switching from standard cotton and synthetic fibres to more energy-efficient and less harmful ones.
1 Recycled lace
Lace, the leading material used in the underwear sector, can now be found in a recycled version. Etam has also opted for recycled lace for the renewal of its permanent lace line. The young brand Nénés Paris offers its entire collection in recycled fibres (lace and jersey).
2 Organic cotton
The integration of organic cotton in the collections is also growing. The Olly lingerie brand offers an entire range of models in GOTS-certified organic cotton, the dyeing of which is OEKO-TEX certified.
3 Eco-friendly natural fibres
Other fibres are also used for their beneficial properties. DO YOU GREEN uses pine fibre. In addition to being ultra soft, it has anti-perspirant properties and above all uses 50% less water than stantard cotton. Bamboo fibre, offered by the Canadian brand Sokolof lingerie, is also a success. Its lightness as well as its antibacterial and absorbent properties are appreciated by customers. Other brands, such as Saint Basics, are integrating Eucalyptus fibre for its antibacterial and breathable properties and its silky feel.
4 Materials specific to the bath
The swimwear sector has not escaped this ecological awareness either, notably through the use of the recycled and recyclable fibre Econyl®. The eco-responsible brands Luz and Coco Frio produce their entire range of swimwear in Econyl®. More traditional brands are also moving towards eco-responsibility. Rouge Gorge lingerie is offering, for the first time, a swimming costume in this fibre for its summer 2020 collection.
THE DESIGN AND MANUFACTURE OF UNDERWEAR
There are other solutions to reduce the impact of lingerie manufacturing on the environment. Some brands will develop biodegradable products so that they do not degrade the planet at the end of their life. The Australian website TheVeryGoodBra assures that the materials, elastics and packaging of its underwear are entirely compostable.Others, such as Mirabilia Lingerie will make sure to limit the resources used by using existing fabric scraps.
The choice of components
The choice of components is also important. Bras are made up of several components: the cups (with or without foam), the underwiring, the wings, the cup, the straps and the accessories (rings, sliders and hooks). The latter are traditionally made of plastic-coated steel. Steel production is known to be energy intensive. And in this case, the addition of plastic accentuates this effect. Designer Paloma Casile decided to use Zamak, which uses half as much water as other metals, for her buckles. The buckles have been standardised for all the models in the collection in order to ensure traceability and optimise production. Indeed, the non-textile parts of a bra are often offered by suppliers from their stock and are very difficult to trace. Naming the components is therefore a highly recommended practice to facilitate the control of their quality and origin. The most controversial element in the development of bras is the foam used to make the shells. Made from polyurethane, bra cups are difficult to recycle and are made from fossil resources. Some alternatives are emerging, such as coffee fibre, but they are still rare.
THE SUPPLY OF MATERIALS FOR UNDERWEAR
The question of production and its routing is more than topical in the lingerie sector and more globally in fashion. Asia currently represents 60% of the supply of French clothing brands according to the IFM observatory (1). The coronavirus crisis has now highlighted the problems linked to the dependence on Asian imports: delivery times, use of aeroplanes, carbon footprint, etc. The sector is therefore rethinking its logistics circuit.
1 Near Import (Mediterranean Basin and Europe)
The countries of the Mediterranean basin such as Turkey, Morocco and Tunisia are going to be increasingly solicited by the large brands in order to improve their reactivity.
European countries will also gain ground. They are already appreciated by responsible lingerie brands with a view to limiting their carbon footprint and preserving their know-how. Olly lingerie sources its materials and accessories from Italy, Austria and Germany and makes its models in Hungary.
2 French relocation
High-end lingerie brands are increasingly relying on French manufacturing. The creator of the designer brand Livy, Lisa Chavy, recently announced the forthcoming opening of a Parisian workshop to relocate part of her production (2).
But “made in France” is not only reserved for luxury. The manufacture of clothing and underwear at Lemahieu, a company based in Saint-André-Lez-Lille in the Hauts-de-France region, has been in full swing for several years. The company works with both mass retailers and up-and-coming brands such as Le Slip Français, not to mention menstrual panties brands such as Petites Culottées and So’Cup.