This week Charlotte Turner ventured to Paris to attend the Premiere Vision textile fair. Here’s what she found there.
This week I visited the world’s leading textile fair, Premiere Vision (PV) in Paris, for the ninth year running, and as always it was a feast for the eyes. Premiere Vision is the ultimate in textile trade fairs, a place to discover upcoming trends and to meet with textile mills from around the world – historically focused on Europe, but now also extending much further afield.
Whilst PV has slowly increased attention on sustainability over the last few years (far more slowly than several other leading textile fairs), the February edition still does not have an area dedicated to sustainability, unlike the September editions, which introduced the SMART creation zone in September 2015. One could argue that we shouldn’t be singling out ‘sustainable’ materials, and that ‘sustainability should be the norm’, but the fact is it isn’t yet. Not having this dedicated area means that searching for more sustainable materials, and the essential accompanying information such as certifications and production background, is still like looking for a needle in a haystack. For those of you looking for a sustainable fabric fix at the beginning of the year, the Future Fabrics Expo in London is therefore the most highly recommended place to find thousands of sustainable materials in one place, most importantly with contextual and technical information to help us understand why they are more sustainable, tracing the supply chain all the way from fibre to finished product.
There were however still some sustainability highlights at PV, primarily shown in small SMART creation areas of some of the trend zones. We’ve pulled together a few key takeaways to show where the wider textiles industry is focusing – some of these focus areas such as organic and recycled materials have been around for a few years and were comparably widespread, whilst others were perhaps only seen once or twice amongst the thousands of exhibitors.
- Recycling is a key focus. With the fashion industry talking about moving to a circular economy (ie. a system aimed at minimising waste and making the most of resources), we are seeing increasing numbers of recycled and recyclable materials. Whilst not the only, or perhaps best, solution to our textile problems, it is still promising to see more and more companies look to waste as a raw material, giving it a new purpose and economic value.
- Organic materials are still one of the most widely-know sustainability options, important to reduce our global use of harmful chemicals in agriculture – cotton being the worst offender. However, organic cotton production has actually being going down in recent years, as alternative options are explored.
- Materials found in nature cropped up, particularly for components such as buttons, where shells and other natural materials have been processed and turned into high quality fashion-appropriate products. This choice of raw material does come with its own sustainability considerations, for example ensuring that shells are not illegally collected from areas where they form an essential part of ecosystems – a good option here is to seek products made from food industry waste.
- By-product materials from food and other industries were also found – a particularly interesting example was found using by-product materials such as horn, leather, and wood to create hard materials, and combining with bio-polymers to change properties such as flexibility. These materials could be used for items from moulded glasses frames to shop fittings.
- ‘Eco-friendly’ finishings were talked about a lot – this could mean Oeko-Tex 100 certified products that are focused on consumer health, ensuring that products have been tested for harmful residual chemicals, of which many are used to create our textiles and clothing.
- Denim is a small focus at PV as there is a dedicated Denim Premiere Vision trade show (read our takeaways from the last edition), but at the few exhibitors addressing sustainability we are still seeing a focus on low impact dyeing and finishing processes (for example using less water or chemicals), as well as using organic, recycled and cellulosic fibres. However, for the most part mills are not visibly communicating about this.
- Microplastics are a huge area of concern at the moment, being talked about by industry and consumers alike. However, there was limited visible focus on the topic at PV (the most visible reference being made by a cotton association) – perhaps unsurprisingly. This issue is not going away however, and we do expect to see increased attention on the topic moving forwards.
- Packaging made from bio-based polymers was on show in one of the SMART Creation displays, one of a growing number of companies offering a potential solution to the systemic problem of plastic over-use and waste in the fashion industry. These materials are theoretically biodegradable in specific conditions, but must not be recycled.
It was good to see a fairly diverse range of potential solutions at PV, although not at a huge scale, but we look forward to returning to hopefully find even more sustainable materials next time.