The Sustainable Angle; transforming the fashion system
Textiles are an essential aspect of sustainable fashion. The Sustainable Angle is a not for profit organisation which initiates and supports projects which contribute to minimizing the environmental impact of industry and society. We caught up with Charlotte Turner from The Sustainable Angle to discuss their project, the Future Fabrics Expo, and how they source, showcase and promote innovative and commercially viable fabrics that embody a range of sustainable principles and new technologies, sourced from suppliers and mills committed to lowering environmental impact across the textile supply chain. By offering sustainable fabric sourcing and consulting to customers, The Sustainable Angle seeks to transform the fashion system and design practice.
1. What motivated you to start The Sustainable Angle?
The Sustainable Angle was initiated by Nina Marenzi in 2010 with the aim to support different projects helping to reduce the negative environmental impact caused by industry, most notably addressing the fashion and textiles industries’ impacts. After a series of interviews with big and small fashion brands for her MSc dissertation on organic cotton and the fashion industry, it transpired that there was a need for a place where fashion appropriate, high quality and commercially available sustainable fabrics were showcased, and where sourcing sustainably and learning about sustainable materials was made easy. And so the Future Fabrics Expo was born as a project of The Sustainable Angle, which is our biggest project – we are currently planning the 3rd expo which will take place in London at the end of 2013.
2. The Sustainable Angle works exclusively with sustainable textiles. Why is that important?
Our project the Future Fabrics Expo is focused on sustainable textiles and materials for clothing and accessories. Textiles are the main focus, as they are often the first step in a designer’s journey and therefore can have great impact on the overall design and function of a product. Ethical issues in garment manufacture have received a lot of press and many great organisations work to improve the way people are treated in the fashion industry, but because textiles production isn’t so ‘consumer facing’, the environmental impacts of this part of the supply chain haven’t been on people’s radars, not to mention the fact that designers and textiles buyers often do not have access to full supply chain traceability. The Future Fabrics Expo aims to highlight these impacts and issues, and to showcase good alternatives to conventional textiles.
3. What’s the one thing you wish your work would eradicate?
There have been long-standing misconceptions about the realities of the textiles industry, and sustainable materials in particular, that we hope our work and the Future Fabrics Expo especially will help eradicate. The fact is that there are a wide range of fibres, processes and textiles with a reduced environmental impact which are of the highest quality, have great function, and are truly beautiful – the increasing number of luxury brands we are seeing introducing these into their collections is testament to that. Through the Future Fabrics Expo we are able to communicate the facts about these sustainable materials, explaining the provenance and processing of each individual fabric and therefore illustrating what makes these fabrics a better choice for the environment, and a valuable choice for the brand. The textiles supply chain is long and complicated, and many people just aren’t provided with the necessary information to know how to make the best choices.
4. Are there any common misconceptions about sustainable textiles that you would like to address?
As we have seen, the misconception about the quality and how appropriate these sustainable textiles are for the luxury, high end and high street market. Additionally, there is a lot of conflicting information out there about just how sustainable certain fibres and processes are. Bamboo is a perfect example – when cultivation isn’t properly managed, and when the fibres are turned into fabric using a standard viscose process, then this material will still have many negative impacts. However, if the material is created using SKAL for example to certify sustainably grown bamboo, and processed in a closed loop system to ensure chemicals and effluent aren’t released into the environment, then we can see the environmental benefits.