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As global markets look towards recovery following the COVID-19 pandemic, industries must now consider how to go about adapting to the ‘new normal’. A big consideration in the resumption of business operations, particularly in the fashion industry, is sustainability.
A key sector that we have previously discussed in our “TENCEL™ Insights” series is the ‘ready-to-wear’ sector which provides tailored woven clothing for everyday use. However, the sector is currently overrun with synthetic fibers used to create cheap ‘fast fashion’ garments and needs sustainable solutions. Hale Saraçoğlu, Head of Global Business Development, Fashion Ready to Wear at Lenzing Group, joins us once again to discuss the ways the ‘ready-to-wear’ industry can navigate through some of the sustainability challenges it is faced with and how Lenzing is pushing for progress in the sector.
Q: With 63% of the fibers currently used in ‘ready-to-wear’ garments being synthetic, what are some key changes that the fashion industry needs in order to enhance sustainability?
Hale: During our lockdown times due to COVID-19, we should all remember that we are on the same boat in facing the pandemic. We live in one world and even with a few months of lockdown, the air pollution had dropped significantly in some areas and the ozone layer in the atmosphere had fixed itself. This is a reminder for everyone that what we do, every action of ours will directly impact the world and our surroundings. A key change for the fashion industry is that everyone should also view things from such perspective, and remember that all of our choices, either as a consumer, a designer or a buyer, will have consequences. We can change our actions and make more conscious choices in every step of the value chain of this industry.
In addition to this, I believe the fashion industry need to work hand in hand with supply chain partners to sustain and evolve their businesses in the face of changing consumer demands. Long terms partnerships will help enhance long term businesses.
Enhance transparency is also important for a business to become more sustainable. For example, brands can evaluate and identify the current raw materials used in their products and then prepare a roadmap for reaching their sustainability goals. Currently, many global brands have already announced their near future sustainability goals. This does not simply include sourcing sustainable raw materials, biodegradability is also a key factor to consider when it comes to fiber selection as it directly affects the end-of-life cycle of the products. Furthermore, the evaluation of the production process is also crucial for improving sustainability, brands and the value chain should make sure each stage can minimize the environmental impact as much as possible.
Q: As more fashion brands want to uphold sustainability, how is Lenzing supporting the industry to change?
Hale: At Lenzing, we support brands in lowering their environmental footprint with our branded fiber offerings such as TENCEL™ Lyocell, TENCEL™ Modal, and LENZING™ ECOVERO™ Viscose. The impact of Lenzing fibers are much lower than that of the generic man-made cellulosic fibers, between 50% and 80% depending on the fiber. We understand that sustainability starts from the origin. This is why we source our wood and pulp from FSC® and PEFC™ certified forests only. All of our production processes are optimised to allow us to recycle and reuse the water and solvents. Furthermore, our TENCEL™ Lyocell fibers adopt the pioneering REFIBRA™ technology to drive the circular economy by featuring up to 30% of pulp made from upcycled pre- and post-consumer cotton scraps in a closed-loop production process.
Ultimately, I believe the fashion industry need make a collective effort to drive sustainability and educate consumers so that sustainability can become the new normal, potentially make the price-point on sustainable products more consumer-friendly and minimize landfill waste. Instead of promoting a lifestyle surrounded by fast fashion, the industry should find ways to replace that with a more sustainable take on fashion.
Q: How do you incorporate sustainability into your day-to-day activities?
Hale: Sustainability is a different concept to fast fashion, as it involves lifestyle and habit changes. As a consumer, I tend to wear clothing that I like holistically, not just clothes that I like the style of. I generally look for clothing produced using natural materials. If I like a garment’s fabric, feel, style and fit, I am usually willing to pay a bit more than my average budget. I am likely to wear it more often as it may also be more durable. While I clean out my closet each season, I donate or recycle my unused items instead of throwing them away. Furthermore, on a daily basis, I switch from single-use cups to reusable mugs and try my best to use glass containers instead of plastic ones for preserving food.