Edited by Christian Thompson
Welcome back to this week’s inflection point. Last week, we broke down the consumer narrative behind fast fashion's story. This week, we are diving into the textile industry to go a layer deeper into the sustainability angle of the story.
For the last inflection point, we discussed the rapid growth of fast fashion and where it is heading in the future. As a result of fast fashion, the textile industry has gone into overdrive to meet demand from consumers, and retailers promise to deliver the latest trends at a fraction of the cost. As a result, the quick turnaround and high margins for these products hurt the environment. We wanted to see what efforts some of the biggest fashion companies are taking to help curb the unsustainable practices of the textile industry. Fast fashion giants have a poor reputation regarding sustainability, however certain brands are making great efforts to change this opinion.
Zara has taken great strides to become more sustainable, incorporating new programs to promote circular fashion and striving to use more recycled fabrics. Zara still has work to do but is going in the right direction. Shein, on the other side, has not invested in the same types of sustainable manufacturing processes. There is little information about the practices Shein uses to manufacture their products, and the company hasn't made an effort to use sustainable materials. Examples of companies promoting and leading the way regarding sustainability are Patagonia, Veja, and Balenciaga. All of these companies use environmentally friendly methods and practices when producing their garments. Understanding the environmental impact of certain textile manufacturing practices may explain consumer interest in the industry.
Waste in the textile industry has been one of the factors driving the growth behind the increase in the conversation of the industry. 84% of clothing ends up in landfills or incinerators, and it is estimated that only 15% of textile waste is recycled in the United States. Over the past two years, the impact score for “Textile Waste” has increased by 644%, and the future estimate predicts growth from the current score. During the same period, the impact score for “Reducing Textile Waste” has increased by 9771%, and the future estimate forecasts continued growth throughout the following year.
Despite the environmental harm caused by current practices, new innovative production methods have made sustainability in the textile industry more attainable. Closed loop clothing production, or a closed loop system, strives to combat waste by keeping fashion pieces in circulation for as long as possible. This system comes from the idea of circular fashion, which aims to enable regenerative systems to circulate garments for as long as possible, promoting sustainability. Closed loop systems and circular fashion are just part of the equation for more sustainable textiles. The next step is to create and use the most eco-friendly materials for clothing production.
Cotton has always been king when it comes to clothing production, and the material is one of the main reasons the industry is unsustainable. The amount of water needed to grow cotton plants is massive compared to other similar materials. There is a new material that was launched in 2018 by the Swiss brand QWSTION, called Bananatex®. Bananatex® is the world's first durable fabric made completely from banana plants, requiring no pesticides, fertilizers, or extra water. This makes it a competitive alternative to cotton and is more sustainable and better for the environment. Over the past two years, the impact score for "Bananatex" has increased by 2072%. During the same period, the impact score for "Recycled Cotton" has increased by 286%. Above, you can see that sustainable materials are outpacing the most popular materials used by major fashion brands, polyester and cotton. Another takeaway is that only 11.3% of the narrative driving the conversation behind “Polyester” is social, potentially signifying that consumers are not conversing about the material.
The textile industry is making efforts to become more sustainable but has a long way to go. Through innovative practices and the implementation of new, more sustainable materials, it is possible for the textile industry to become more sustainable. The current state of fast fashion is not sustainable, but with future innovations in the industry it may be possible to meet consumer demand for the latest styles.
We hope you enjoyed learning more about the textile industry and the impact it has on the environment. We will be releasing our first ever Inflection Point video this week, where we will show you our methodology when writing these articles. Stay tuned, and have a great week.
NWO.ai's predictive platform enables leading Fortune 500 companies and government agencies to anticipate and track global cultural shifts by aggregating, analyzing, and producing actionable reports on human-generated data. We are leveraging petabytes of external, noisy, and unstructured data from various sources –including search, social media, blogs, news, patent databases, and SEC filings and we are continuously adding more sources. Our mission is to answer the what, when, and most importantly, 'why' behind a consumer trend and enable our customers to detect these shifts as early as possible.
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