What should be the preferred cotton fabrics of large fashion companies?

What should be the preferred cotton fabrics of large fashion companies?

Research based upon: Comparative Study of the environmental l impact of recycled cotton yarns vs. conventional cotton yarns. An Aitex study

Sustainability, sustainable product design, Eco awareness and green thinking seem to be some of the hottest buzz word of a modern consumer today. Fashion and Ecology are a paradox in itself, where the demand for fast-fashion life cycle clashes with the Sustainable production traditional need for a slower production cycle. Consumers expect answers on complex questions, how and who will face those questions? Large companies are facing an advanced and aware new consumer. We are seeing enormous power behind a mega trend of an Eco aware new consumer who more requires and ask not only what the product contains, but also a series of questions that require a product life-cycle answer.Where it is going, how much can be recycled, how shall I use the product to reduce damage to the environment. Is the quality good enough? If I choose to pay a bit more what kind of impact, will it have on the environment? Will it lower my electricity bill? Is there any program or refund when I deliver it back to recycling? These questions require a new set of answers.

The big fashion brands have the gurus to write Q & A on sustainability

The large fashion brands and retail concepts such as Levi Strauss, H&M, and Nike have over the last few years proclaimed their effort to make sustainable product design and to make changes to the way they produce their products. This message is of no longer any PR, but seems to become a marketing tool with the focus of telling the consumer a story based on their effort, often supported by figures, numbers and calculations. These figures are in many cases mislead or giving the consumer a wrong picture of the situation.

A fundamental change is necessary to solve common global problems

I guess 99% of companies producing retail products are in fact trying to solve a problem that cannot be solved, unless they are willing to take steps and review what they do, want to be, and where to go in the future. A global environmental problem cannot be solved by small repairs and cover up of cracks. We must turn everything upside down. The problem cannot be solved when the major owners, investors keeps asking for a larger return of their investments every year. If you read in the different major brands company’s mission, brand values, shareholder information and business strategies the next 2-5 years you will find that they have one thing in common, expanding and growth of business.

The big brands sustainability reports

The report from H&M Conscious actions Sustainability report got the edge of H&M fashionable language, style and content. A report very well presented and made, and you should not expect less. There are highly skilled people in all these organizations that do a good performance and are setting things in actions. But it’s naïve to believe that everything is as shiny as in the reports they are presenting.

The business model of the future are nature driven, not market driven

Take such as H&M; almost 2,600 stores spread across 44 markets. The expansion strategy and the growth target are to increase the number of stores by 10–15 percent per year with continued high profitability and at the same time increase sales in comparable units. Planned for 2012 are 275 new stores. However, the CEO posts in Conscious Actions Sustainability report a mixed message of sustainability with business growth rate. Is he trying to defend the growth rate with sustainability? He says; further emphasis on quality, sustainability and continued high profitability. Everybody knows that sustainable design, organic fabrics and bigger investment in Eco responsibility increase product price. It seems to be mismatch and false promises.

Regarding nature driven economy, on the blog next week; The paradigm shift from market to nature driven economy, how will it influence the tools of marketing? Price – place –product – promotion, which are the variables that all marketing based upon. Read more from the post, Founder of the Deep Ecology movement and true renaissance man Arne Næss

How will H&M solve their commitment to use 100% cotton from more sustainable source before 2020?

When you look in their commitment to provide fashion for conscious consumers they use 7,62% of more sustainable cotton 2011 (what is exactly more sustainable?) and in their commitment tell state by 2020 at the latest H&M will use 100% cotton from more sustainable sources. Please help me out with the term more sustainable. I dislike this kind of promises, but as I am nearly without any founding’s to make my business I guess it’s not wise criticize. I know their intention is good but it’s no need to make things shinier than it is.

A change for better environment can only happen by reduce and consume fashion differently

The environmental problems can only be changed when we admit to reduce, cut and change the way we buy and use products in the future. Instead of buying 4 pairs of jeans we buy two, maybe we start renting that trendy outfit we cannot afford, Swap clothes party on Fridays, use creativity to add fashion statements by recycle, up cycle, remake or reuse garments.

People simply buy too much stuff

As long back as in 1996 a survey revealed that in the US each woman owned 7 Jeans and 9 other items made of denim. Within the price segment $21-30 the market exploded in terms of quantity, cheaper low quality jeans has the biggest negative impact on the environment. In 2006 in the UK alone 81 Million Jeans sold. Companies might have to change business strategy

Levi Strauss 501 Cradle to the grave study

The Levi’s study 501 Cradle to the grave study who explains how Levis will are reducing or minimizing environmental damage. Levi’s have always been a good example regarding company ethics etc. but I can assure you that Levi’s is not a nice company when things are not going as planned. In the end of the 90’s when the 501 dropped dramatically in sales people got sacked a mass. American companies are extremely focused on ROI, mostly short-term thinking because they have high obligations to their owners and shareholders. This is of course a good thing for the company earnings but not necessarily a good thing for the environment.

Sustainable product design, key findings research done in 2000

I presented the mega trends research report as the head of trend research Levi Strauss Europe, Middle East & Africa in 2000. The term sustainable fashion was a future design direction and key recommendation. Based upon a reality check in 2000 gave indications about a shift in mindset towards a more aware and responsible future consumer. A reaction on big brands exploitation of common global resources will happen, and as a result we must find a new way of to make jeans in the future.

Heavily influenced by PhD Stuart Walkers work

The solution was sustainable product design. The first sign of this paradigm shift came as Ad Busters became voice of anti consumerism, Naomi Klein published the classic book about consumerism No logo. I was heavily influenced by PhD Stuart Walker work from 1999 “The manifesto of meaning” and “Attraction of opposites”. This was the main reason to recommend shift in design direction. Mark Farrow and Levi Strauss Co I was so lucky to work with thegraphic designer Mark Farrow in 2000, the brief given to Mark was to clean up and redo the total label system for Levi Strauss Co. We got the idea to use the denim fabric left over on the floor in factories and make denim paper of it. The result was amazing and told the image of a true denim brand.

Nike Corporate Responsibility

Nike Corporate Responsibility report have over the last years taken work on sustainability very serious and the report is not only an example of good work, but of qualified, commitments achieved targets and progress of work in others. But also remember Nike introduced the concept sweat shops when they started as the clothing manufacturer company to outsource all their production, regardless where as long as the cost per shoe was the lowest.

What will be the preferred cotton fabrics of large fashion companies?

What will be the large brands preferred cotton fabric? Will it be recycled cotton, conventional or organic cotton? As the recycled cotton alternative is far above the most environmental friendly, should it also be the chosen or? Most certain be a combination due to factors as price, delivery, but I guess the consumer acceptance will be the main reason. Therefore marketing the organic solution seems the best alternative for those with ownership in cotton growing and producing companies. There are many allies in fashion business that may not have the same view about sustainable product design.

Cotton business is a dirty business

Cotton is the most pesticide-dependent crop in the world, accounting for 25% of all pesticide use. The consumers are increasingly interested is use of organic textile products manufactured with greatest care taken to protect the environment. They hunt for sustainable brand, eco fashion and green products.Cotton is not only a fantastic natural fabric with a high quality but also a demanding fabric. In all different kind manufacture of textile garments, cotton as a raw material is one of the most sought after textiles for fabric manufacture.

Organic cotton is getting acceptance

Therefore the use of organic cotton that has no use of chemicals in the processes of making is to be preferred. The markets have gradually accepted to use organic cotton and it’s winning both farm and consumers. However, a look at the size of the clothing market globally it is that to switch this over from pure conventional cotton to organic cotton is mission impossible.m Big fashion brands offered organic cotton by Kuyichi back in 2000 but said no
The funny thing is that one of the brands I admire, the Dutch fashion company Kuyichi around 2000 already offered major big clothing and denim brand to use their organically grown cotton suppliers. But they all turned it down and Kuyichi was born as a brand because of this. Ready my post Kuyichi a brand to admire.

Recycled cotton is the most environmentally friendly alternative

In research and studies done, the use of recycled cotton yarn has the advantages of consuming less water and chemical products. There are fewer stages in the production life-cycles; it does not contaminate the subsoil, water, or air.Most of all the recycled fabrics or garment would otherwise become waste, provides economic benefits to developing countries, which been seriously damaged in recent years because of excessive mass production of cotton. The overall consume of energy is the lowest and the fact is that the production costs are lower than when using conventional or fully certified organic cotton.
The difference is a combination of many factors most of all the different life cycle between conventional cotton yarns and recyclable cotton yarns. The research taken to illustrate and explain why recycle is better from an environmental point of view

Less stages in the recyclable cotton jeans life cycle

When comparing the life-cycle of 100% conventional cotton yarns and recycled the Process for obtaining conventional cotton yarn must pass several stages, which are not necessary in the case of recycled cotton. Therefore the environmental parameters in the life cycle of production differentiate in the favor of recycled cotton. The process to make recycled cotton is simple, easy without use of chemicals or less water than conventional cotton yarn. Based on 100% conventional cotton yarn and the recyclable cotton yarn: 80% cotton, 20% polyester.

The life cycle of conventional cotton yarn

  1. The growth stage. Chemical products consumed in the life-cycle of conventional cotton vs. recycled cotton in the growth stage
  2. The dyeing stage. Chemical products consumed in the life-cycle of conventional cotton vs. recycled cotton in the dyeing stage
  3. Emission. Emission to the atmosphere in life cycle of conventional cotton vs. recycled cotton
  4. Waste. Waste in the life-cycle of conventional cotton yarns vs. recycled cotton yarn
  5. Amount of water consumed in the life-cycle of conventional cotton vs. recycled cotton yarn in the dyeing process
  6. Waste Water. Water waste effluent in the life-cycle of conventional cotton vs. recycled cotton yarn in the dyeing process
  7. Energy consumption total compared. Energy consumption in the life-cycle of conventional cotton yarn vs. recycled cotton yarn


Life cycle Organic Cotton Yarn, certified according to the pertinent certification systems ECO Sustainable Textile, Global Organic Textile Standard Certification Organic Exchange are the same as in Life cycle of Conventional Cotton Yarns. Parameter in cycles is in the chemical products used of conventional cotton growing as fertilizers and pesticides are different from Organic cotton. Organic cotton uses no chemicals. Organic cotton has standards along with guidelines regarding the environment

 Recycled cotton yarn advantage

  • Saving in chemical products
  • Saving in water consumption
  • Savings the amount of land used for cultivation
  • Energy saving is over 17%
  • Recycled Cotton Yarn is used (80% cotton, 20% polyester) gives less effects on environment compared to Organic Cotton Yarn

Essential reading

%d bloggers like this: