In the world of textiles, sustainability is a concept that can be hard to grasp. It's not just about using materials that are environmentally friendly and ethical; it's also about making sure the products are made to last. So what does it mean for a textile line to be sustainable? We'll look at some examples from our textile lines over the past decade and discuss what we can expect from sustainable textiles in 2023. Because protecting our environment is never out of style.
Being Mindful of Waste
The use of oil-based pigments is well-known for its harmful effects on the environment. These pigments are highly toxic and improper disposal can cause them to leak into watersheds, polluting waterways and groundwater. When Rapture and Wright sought to find a solution to this issue, they discovered that switching to natural dyes and pigments was not feasible because they could not achieve the desired vibrancy needed for their collection. Instead, they decided to focus on improving the way they dispose of their pigments. This led to the development of an innovative ecological print waste treatment system, which is the first of its kind in the UK and possibly the world. The system is designed to break down print waste in a natural environment, using a series of living ponds. "In nature, one organism's waste becomes another organism's food supply," explains Peter Thwaites, co-founder of Rapture and Wright. "This process creates habitats for 'ink-eating nematodes' and a whole new food chain, making it more sustainable as the food chain becomes more complex." The ponded print waste system also creates new habitats for various indigenous wildlife species to thrive, making for a truly holistic approach to waste disposal.
The Future of Fibers
In 2023, it's crucial to avoid any synthetic, petroleum-based fabrics and instead embrace sustainable materials such as flax, wool, and hemp. Vanessa Arbuthnott is one of our many lines committed to using eco-friendly fabrics, and they have noted how non-organic cotton is one of the world’s dirtiest crops to grow due to heavy reliance on pesticides and herbicides, which is not something anyone would want in their homes. By using flax linen or organic cotton, they are helping to reduce toxins in our everyday lives.
Rose Uniacke, who has always prioritized sustainability, recently launched a collection of elevated hemp fabrics to continue her celebration of natural materials. Hemp requires less water than other fabrics, making it more friendly for the environment. Additionally, Rose Uniacke's new Sheer Linen Abaca Blend is made using the Abaca plant, a natural leaf fiber that comes from a relative of the banana tree family. The bark of the tree is stripped in vertical pieces, which are extremely strong and fibrous. Abaca is considered a sustainable and environmentally friendly fiber that can empower communities, and it has been identified by the United Nations as a "Future Fiber." These examples demonstrate how sustainable materials are evolving.
By localizing your supply chain, you can make a valuable contribution to environmental sustainability. This approach reduces shipping and storage requirements, resulting in lower emissions and energy usage. Additionally, sourcing materials locally this supports eco-friendly manufacturing practices, and when brands opt for local sourcing this can give them more control over the manufacturing process. For example, back in 2006 Rapture and Wright established a network of UK weavers and finishers, ensuring the highest environmental and ethical standards. By working with nearby manufacturers, they can easily oversee and refine their production methods to ensure it meets their standards.
A Sustainable Work Environment
As sustainability becomes a greater focus for brands in 2023, there is a growing emphasis on balancing the needs of the planet and people. One key aspect of this is creating a sustainable and equitable work environment, ensuring that the workspace is clean, healthy, and safe. Filling Spaces, a textile line founded by Deepali Kalia and her sister Nanu Khanna, manufactures their products in-house based in Delhi, India, where they are committed to achieving this balance. "We strongly believe in paying the artisan fairly and acknowledging the incredible skill, patience, and creativity that goes into their craft," says Filling Spaces. "We continuously strive to make a difference in our artisans' lives by supporting their children's education, medical needs, and emergency expenses. We also provide regular employment and training opportunities for women in vulnerable situations." Additionally, Filling Spaces practices printing-to-order to eliminate overproduction and reduce wasted stock, contributing to a more sustainable approach to production.
One Man's Trash...
While many people associate up-cycling with poorly executed DIY projects, there is a new wave of a design-forward thinking demonstrating how up-cycling can achieve more of a statement. For instance, Rose Uniacke introduced a project that combines sustainability, design, and craft by producing cushions that are handwoven in the UK using remnants of her own fabrics. The Remnant Weave Cushions not only showcase a unique and beautiful design, but all profits also go towards supporting and promoting traditional crafts in the UK, many of which are now endangered. Which perfectly illustrates how up-cycling can be done in a creative, meaningful, and sustainable way.