For many years, the fashion industry observed the profound impact of climate change on the world’s environment. Now, as consumer preferences shift toward sustainability, 2021 will be a pivotal year for the fashion industry as emerging technologies lay the foundation for a more sustainable future.
During this crucial time, Florian Heubrandner, Vice President Global Textiles Business at Lenzing, reveals the top three sustainability trends impacting the fashion landscape in 2021.
- Debunking myths and assuming responsibility
Consumers continue to seek ways to become better informed and make eco-conscious purchases. As a result, eco-friendly brands are creating products that consumers can feel comfortable in purchasing. In addition, brands are also publishing their environmental credentials and eco-friendly initiatives to help consumers keep them accountable for their progress toward sustainability. Eco-conscious brands are actively driving sustainable changes as compared to some fast fashion and luxury brands who are lagging behind or still distancing themselves from the conversation.
The 2021 Fossil Fashion Report revealed many consumers remain unaware that cheap fibers like polyester are found in over half of all textiles and account for 530 million tonnes of carbon emissions, indicating brands must continue raising awareness, and decreasing their reliance on cheap synthetics.
- Recycling initiatives lacking, but slow fashion on the rise
The rise of fast fashion has correlated with the widespread availability of cut-price fossil-fuel-based fibers like polyester. Polyester is incredibly energy-exhaustive to produce – equating to six times the carbon emissions of cotton, according to the 2021 Fossil Fashion Report.
The report also revealed polyester production alone in 2015 was responsible for over 700 million tons of carbon emissions and efforts to recycle these items remain lacking. Currently, just 1% of clothing is recycled and even when using recycled polyester, raw materials used are often plastic bottles, not textiles.
These are worrying figures; however, the global health crisis has pressed reset on the world’s appetite for fast fashion. Many conscious consumers are opting out of fast fashion in favour of ‘slow fashion’ where fewer clothes are consumed and are expected to last far longer.
- Innovation will drive the industry’s carbon-zero vision
An urgent need to rethink the industry’s carbon output has encouraged brands to double down on efforts to innovate, increasing demand for alternatives to synthetics, like sustainable plant-based fibers which provide comfort and durability alongside sustainability guarantees.
These innovations also include the development of ground-breaking circularity-minded processes to reuse water and solvents during production. While some emissions remain unavoidable at present, these innovations will also assist with a largescale push away from impactful production practices in the years to come.
By reducing the environmental impact of garments at the production stage, carbon emissions will be drastically reduced throughout its lifestyle and costly investments in recycling technology can occur in a phased approach that is workable for the entire industry.
The industry’s call to arms
To make a carbon-free future a reality, brands must increase awareness about the environmental burden that fibers like polyester place on the environment. Additionally, brands must urgently implement alternatives to cheap synthetics and further promote and support sustainable production processes. The changes brands make now will pave the way for a brighter future.
The TENCEL™ brand remains committed to sustainability-oriented innovation. With the introduction of next-generation carbon-zero TENCEL™ branded lyocell and modal fibers and Lenzing’s ambitious carbon-zero vision for 2050. This core focus will see new industry leading innovations announced throughout 2021 to support the fashion and textiles industry throughout its journey toward complete sustainability.