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The Next Economy
Fashion, Scuba Giants the Latest to Close the Loop on Textiles

The concept of the circular economy — a more thoughtful approach to how we process materials and manufacture products — continues to gain traction, especially in the textile and fashion industry. In the last few weeks, some of the industry’s biggest players have upped their involvement in the market shift.

For example, the Cradle to Cradle Product Innovation Institute recently launched its Fashion Positive initiative with industry leaders including Stella McCartney, G-Star Raw, Loomstate, Bionic Yarn and the manufacturer Saitex, with ambitions to accelerate material, product and process innovations in the industry with good intentions for both people and the planet.

Funded by Schmidt Philanthropies and DOEN Foundation, the program aims to help textile brands, designers and suppliers endlessly improve how their clothes are manufactured, by helping them assess fabrics against the Institute’s five key sustainability criteria: material health, material reuse, renewable energy, water stewardship and social fairness.

“We are excited to partner with these industry leaders who are on the cutting edge of fashion design and manufacturing,” said Cradle to Cradle’s Lewis Perkins, SVP of Fashion Positive. “Together, we are expanding a vision within the industry that is abundant rather than resource-constrained. We are creating beautiful, must-have clothes made in such a way that everything and everyone along the supply chain has been optimized for a better future.”

The textile industry is widely regarded as one of the most environmentally and socially detrimental, key issues being the air- and water-quality impacts of production and often unsafe conditions for workers — issues which are predominantly outsourced to manufacturing hubs in developing countries without strict regulations in place. Increased awareness of the industry’s negative impacts has increased pressure from stakeholders for investment in more sustainable and responsible products. Fashion Positive aims to provide designers, brands and suppliers with a platform to bridge challenges such as materials sourcing, manufacturing processes and ensuring safe working conditions through industry collaboration to meet the desire for more sustainable clothing lines.

“I am honored to be partnering and working with the Cradle to Cradle Certified™ team on Fashion Positive as we share the belief that what will carry fashion forward is rethinking the way we make clothing and accessories,” said Amber Valletta, actress, fashion icon and social entrepreneur. “We have a shared passion that what we will create now can truly change the future through beauty, innovation and common sense.”

The brands signed on to Fashion Positive are now collaborating to create materials and optimize their manufacturing processes to meet Cradle to Cradle Certified GOLD-level standards by the start of 2016. These certified materials will then be stored in Fashion Positive’s Materials Library to make them available for other industry stakeholders to use. The participating brands will utilize the Fashion Positive Innovation Fund to source and invest in key suppliers who will make these high-quality materials available for implementation across the fashion industry.

The program’s partners have also agreed to benchmark the environmental and social impacts of their materials and products pre- and post-certification. Additional names joining Fashion Positive include new sustainable lifestyle brands Under the Canopy and Portico, which are set to launch next year.

Meanwhile in the UK, Fourth Element — market leader in thermal scuba gear — last week launched its new “Ocean Positive” line, made from recycled marine waste materials, such as fishing nets, collected by divers from reefs and wrecks to create swimwear and wetsuits for use by the divers themselves.

The company says reusing waste marine material presents a multiple-win scenario, with benefits to production as well as environmental clean-up. Abandoned fishing nets often snag on reefs and wrecks and ‘continue to fish’ (a phenomenon known as “ghost fishing”), a major hazard for marine wildlife and divers. Up to 640,000 tons of fishing equipment is trapped in the ocean; these nets are now being retrieved by divers through programs such as the Healthy Seas Initiative and the Ghost Fishing Project, with a feed-in from the latter for reuse in Fourth Element’s Ocean Positive Line.

Fourth Element is just the latest in a string of companies upcycling marine waste into new products: Bionic Yarn and G-Star Raw have collaborated on a line of denim made from recycled marine plastic; carpet giants Interface and Desso both are incorporating yarn made from discarded fishing nets into their carpets; and a Chilean startup called Bureo is turning the nets into skateboards.


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