In the face of the lockdown, fashion retailers are moving at a slower pace with employees absent from the office and no exchange of samples to monitor the development of collections. Fashion fairs have also closed their doors and deliveries of goods or customer orders are rare. Meetings with suppliers are a distant memory, as between strikes, yellow waistcoats, Christmas periods, Chinese New Year, getting around was already an ordeal since 2019.
As a result, delays on the collections are already felt, orders and products are cancelled if they are not already in production, quantities are revised downwards. But how can we continue to develop the collections under these conditions? And how to maintain the actions implemented under pressure, but which present economic and ecological opportunities.
Although this is a complicated time for everyone, it is an opportunity to take a step forward by accelerating the implementation of good ecological and innovative practices. It is also a good way to get ahead of the competition by preparing for the technological shift that the textile industry is undergoing.
We will review three alternative, non-exhaustive proposals in this article.
1 // Online meetings to reduce C02 emissions
On average, textile buyers travel 8 weeks a year. At present, travel is forbidden, and fashion shows are postponed. We can see the rise of online platforms that put buyers and suppliers in touch with each other, where the first advantage is to allow supplier sourcing to continue. The second advantage is financial, as an annual subscription costs the price of a single trip. The last and most important advantage is ecological: the consequent reduction in the number of round trips, and therefore of CO2 emissions, because a Paris-China flight is equivalent to 3m2 less ice pack for our polar bears, according to a study published in the journal Science.
Today, it takes more than 15 return trips by plane to create a single product!
In a textile company, every season (between 4 and 6), the buyers launch calls for products from their supplier base. In order to win the product tender, the suppliers propose up to five prototypes straight from their factories, in express delivery, because the selection takes place a few days later, and the stakes for the supplier are high. Then follows the perpetual cycle of product creation: samples to validate the gradation of sizes, samples to validate the accessories, the colours, the product in its entirety, samples for the photo shoot, samples for the archive… that is more than 15 return trips by plane to create a single product!With an average of 400 products to 1000 products per year, that makes tons of material thrown away to be able to offer the most attractive product in the window. Today, this unprecedented situation allows retailers to test the potential of reusing old models that have already been validated in previous years, to save on the costs of designing and manufacturing prototypes.
2 and 3 // From 3D fashion shows to zero waste pattern making
In general, to produce a product on the assembly line, the model is cut out of fabric mats, and 22% of these scraps of material are not used and are burnt.These scraps correspond to the outline of collars, sleeves, print connections for patterned fabrics, etc. This represents significant financial and environmental costs.
3D prototyping has long been in development in the textile sector, and it is accelerating during this crisis. Let’s hope that this will continue to reduce the costs of manufacturing and return flights for the planet, even if the 3D data flows are not zero impact, it remains much less impactful.
What if we took advantage of the development of 3D technologies seen above to accelerate the use of zero waste patterns? I have already seen these patterns in use in some shops and it works well, a reduction of 22 to 2% of fabric waste but the implementation of these 0 waste patterns has a significant cost in R&D.
These examples are far from being the only ones, many other projects will be implemented and let’s hope that we will be able to get some positive aspects out of this crisis for the environment and the fashion industry.
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Greeny Bird Dress supports brands and retailers in their ecological transition through material sourcing. Re-invent the way you design your collections by integrating alternatives to petroleum-based plastics and traditional leathers, through a range of innovative and biodegradable textiles.