sf2.jpgThe concept of sustainable development in textile and apparel industry can have many interpretations. However, its core meaning is development that satisfies the present needs without compromising the environmental standards, to ensure that the future generation can have a sustainable living. As long as unsustainable methods are used in textile and apparel industries, the consequences are going to be more severe. Therefore, it is imperative to develop methods which will result into sustainable environment and living.

There is a common notion that making any sustainable product, one needs to compromise on the quality. To prove this point untrue, recently an Italian label showcased its Spring-summer 2014 collection, which had garments made from special high-tech yarn. This fiber was created by recycling used plastic bottles into polymer. The fiber can be used for clothing, home furnishings, interiors and outdoor design applications.

The fibre is manufactured in a very innovative method, which is completely mechanical and helps to lessen the carbon footprint. Moreover, this new fiber will give customers high level of satisfaction with its comfort and quality along with committed sustainability.

Local Bangladeshi women are given an opportunity to earn fair living by 'Hand & Cloth', a social organization that help these women to make beautiful quilts from reclaimed fabrics. Quilts are made using a traditional embroidery technique called 'kantha'. The reclaimed fabrics are hand stitched and redesigned by the Bangladeshi women who create original designs on each blanket, which reflects the rich culture and tradition of the artisans. These poor and helpless women have found a way to work in a dignified manner through handmade textiles.

Textile dyeing is one of the most polluting processes in the garment industry. It not only consumes large quantity of water and chemicals, but the toxic effluent released from the processes need to be extensively treated before it is thrown out in the environment. Scientists have found out a sustainable way, which can tackle this huge environmental problem.

From their research, they discovered that by feeding silkworm larvae with spray-dyed mulberry leaves, one can obtain naturally colored cocoons. A diet of dyed leaves can save large amount of water and chemicals that is normally used in traditional dyeing process. However, the scientists are still working on different aspects of this innovation as all colorants will not work in the same way.


Hand-woven Cambodian textile has been popularized by a French designer. The textile is known as Lotus fabric, which is derived from the waste stems of lotus plant also known as 'Nelumbo nucifera'. The fabric feels like a mix of linen and raw silk and is breathable, waterproof, wrinkle free and stain resistant. It is a natural, waste-free alternative to waterproof synthetic fabrics.

In olden days this textile was used to make robes of Buddhist monks. Today, it is a sustainable fabric which is natural and practically has zero waste. The leftover pieces are used in making lotus tea and flour.

A breakthrough method for making textiles has been introduced by Scandinavian art and science students in collaboration with a university. Ioncell is world's first fiber produced from cellulose based ionic solvents. This fiber is manufactured using a sticky material made from mixture of plant material and ionic liquid, which is alchemized into high quality textile through a process involving many steps.

This fabric is an eco-friendly alternative to rayon and cotton as it does not need water, cultivation land, harmful chemicals for production unlike cotton. This innovation is another great step in the development of sustainable fibers and textiles.

Polyester is widely used synthetic fiber in the apparel industry. However, one cannot ignore the environmental impacts it brings along, due to the use of petrochemicals. Scientist in Japan have developed worlds first renewable, bio-based polyester fiber by using bio-based paraxylene derived from distilling bio-fuel instead of crude oil. It is reported that approximately 40 million tons of polyester fiber is produced in the world every year.

Studies also show that conventional polyester is readily absorbed by the skin and is known to disturb the growth and performance of reproductive organs. Moreover, the use of polyester is not limited to clothing, as it is used in furniture, pillow stuffing, shower curtain and many other non-wearable fabric items.

This bio-based fiber behaves in the same manner as the conventional polyester fiber other than being non-toxic. This discovery is a noteworthy step towards the development of sustainable fibers. If all goes fine, polyester fiber can be produced from fully renewable bio-based raw materials alone.

Designers have come up with a natural, lightweight, cool fabric made from Australian merino sheep wool. This fabric is perfect for summer, as this wool can manage body temperature better than cotton, nylon or polyester. The wool is processed using advanced technology. Some designers have showcased their garments made from this cool fabric in their Spring/Summer 2014 collection in London fashion week. Besides, it is also a step to create awareness about this biodegradable and renewable textile in the fashion world.

Textile dyes and other polluting elements from the textile industry destroy the water sources. The dyes are harmful and discolor the water in such a manner that plants and algae do not get enough sunlight. Water resources near the textile factories in South America, India and China are facing high risk as the waste from the industries are dumped into the water, killing the plant and animal life and making the water undrinkable.

Researchers in Columbia are developing a low cost and natural technique to clean the polluted water using plant fibers. Their studies show that if Colombian fique plant fibers are treated using a simple technique, by filling their tiny cellulose cavities with manganese oxide molecules, it can absorb up to 99% of the dye in the water. This fiber is placed into the polluted waters where the fibers soak up the dyes. Moreover, the plant fibers can be reused many times.

The technique is still in the testing phase trying other materials to develop a low cost method to treat polluted water. Such developments play a significant role in creating a sustainable environment. In the past, textile development used to focus on one particular need without thinking about the future impacts. Today, widespread awareness has completely changed the scenario. The researchers, scientist and designers are leaving no stones unturned to develop sustainable fibers and fabrics.


1.      Sd-commission.org.uk

2.      Ecouterre.com

Image Courtesy:

1.      Ecouterre.com

2.      Wellbeing.com.au