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AN INSIDE LOOK AT WATER CONSERVATION IN THE FASHION INDUSTRY, THROUGH STAIY’S PARTNERS

hydrofinity.com

November, 13th 2020

There is substantial evidence highlighting the negative impact of the textile industry on water supplies and conservation. With extensive production chains, the fashion industry is the third largest consumer of water globally. At Staiy, our partner brands are committed to altering this reality and offer quality insights as to how water can be better conserved and safeguarded through innovative thinking.

 

Words By Elisa Felici

The complex production process of one single white cotton shirt is starkly contrasted by the visual simplicity of the piece. In the fashion and textile industry, water is the most used, polluted and wasted natural resource in a very long, energy intensive chain of production. Producing one cotton shirt requires approximately three thousand litres of water. Overall, the fashion industry currently uses 79 billion cubic meters of water per year, which is more than one-tenth of all the water used across all industries.

Why is the textile industry so water intensive? What can we do to reduce this?

To put it simply, water consumption needs to be reduced by being made more efficient. Therefore, the challenge for the fashion and textile industry is while demand and apparel consumption continues to rise, they must find novel ways to produce more, with less water.

GROWING AND PRODUCING

Fabrics are produced from a range of natural and synthetic fibres. Natural fibres, such as cotton, silk and wool are grown in fields, where agricultural production can be intensive. To ensure high demands and quality expectations are met, intensive irrigation mechanisms, paired with pesticides and fertilisers to protect the crops, result in the high consumption of water, as well as consequential contamination of natural water sources.

Once the raw materials are treated, spun and woven or knitted, to create the fabric, water is used extensively in the dyeing and other finishing stages of production. Bleaching, printing, dyeing and coating give the textiles their visual, physical and aesthetic properties. While value here is added, water conservation is undermined. Chemicals and solvents are often added during the manufacturing process, known as ‘wet-finishing treatments’, where large volumes of water are used in textile baths. Wastewater from these processes are often left untreated and subsequently dispersed into the environment, becoming a major pollution source in a variety of waterways.

finderzkeeperz.co.za

LEARNING FROM THE INSIDE

At Staiy, we are committed to valuing water, and it frames one of our 5 sustainability pillars assessing whether brands may ascend to the platform. To challenge harmful practice and champion solutions, rather than simply creating negative images of fashion production in its entirety, we make sure water is critically preserved, conserved and valued across the entire supply chain by the brands we partner with.

REGULATION AND QUALITY CONTROL

Standards and certifications help our work in assessing the brand commitment to water conservation. Among others, the Global Organic Textile Standards (GOTS) certifies the organic production of textiles which refrains from using GMO (genetically modified organism), pesticides and chlorine in production. The OEKO-TEX Standards instead label the use of non harmful dyes to both the environment and human health. 

Olly, our French-based partner designing lingerie, works with organic and ethically produced cotton certified by GOTS and EOKO-TEX. An interesting component of Olly’s work is the use of recycled lace. The fibre comes from collected waste material which is then reassembled to form a new yarn. While quality material is saved from a pointless waste, Olly’s recycled lace saves 90% of water and 80% of electricity, in comparison to a conventional lace fabric. Olly’s designs teach us that water can be safeguarded in textile production chains. By engaging in ethical production where careful consideration is given to the raw materials, finishing and end-of-life phases of textiles, it demonstrates how water can be radically used more efficiently in the industry.

@globalorganictextilestandard

USING NATURAL DYES 

To sustain means to ‘maintain’ and ‘uphold’. A sustainable brand that is aware of the environmental impacts its production can have, particularly on water, recognises the need to reinvent or innovate. It is important here that these brands learn lessons from the past. 

Silvia Giovanardi, an outstanding artist creating pieces which can be literally buried in the ground without causing any harm to the environment, has scaled back her designs by using more traditional, natural dyes. Gardenia berry, campeche wood, turmeric and many other natural materials give character and meaning to Giovanardi’s clothes. The leather she uses comes from food processing waste, which is then naturally tanned. With creativity, craftsmanship and conscious knowledge, Giovanardi’s work combines water with natural colors in a circle of production effectively invented by nature.

silviagiovanardi.com

IT IS NOT ONLY ABOUT WATER

If water is crucial in the production of textiles, we may not need to use it less, but to combine or dilute it with something new. This is what Fili Pari does by developing ‘synergies’ among different sectors. In Fili Pari’s work high quality textiles are produced by combining water and stones.

Marble has never traditionally been used in textile production. Heavy and cold, it seems safe to say that before Fili Pari, marble was thought of as a suitable material purely for the creation of infrastructure. Through research and technological innovation, our Italian partner uses products and by-products from the Italian stone industries to develop a microfilm made out of marble powder. Through the MARM MORE technology, stone is transformed into a coating material which gives texture to the fabric while safeguarding clean water being blended with chemicals in the dyeing and coating phase. The use of water is here reinvented, and creatively combined with a new natural resource.

filipari.com

At Staiy, our partners not only inform us and the wider fashion industry with new, implementable solutions. Brands such as Olly, Silvia Giovanardi and Fili Pari inspire us to think about how different models of production and water use is possible and that we can make effective use of what nature provides us with. Through innovation and in depth research, their work inspires others to look at more circular production.