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Chemicals Markets

Spotlight on bio-based textiles: Detoxing the fashion industry… for dummies!

A fascinating new book, both tracing the history of chemicals in the fashion industry, whilst also pointing to new solutions has been published and is available to download, for free! The book aims to empower fashion brands both big and small to get the insights and information they need to detox their supply chains. And to enable customers to differentiate a ‘greenwash from a stonewash’ when it comes to their textile choices.

Its author, Frank Michel, Executive Director of The Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC) Foundation, felt that accessible, clear and independent information on the subject was hard to come by – the word that we keep returning to in our discussion is ‘demystifying’.

And so Frank not only wrote the book, but also decided to make it freely available to the industry, students and the wider public to inspire and educate a wider audience to join the movement.

He gives us a little insight into the goals of the book: “This book opens the door to a safe future for humanity and for our planet. Written for fashion lovers as well as industry professionals, it is intended to expose the harmful impact of clothing production on people and the environment, and share best practices to turn everyone into true believers and activists of this fashion revolution.”

The ZDHC Foundation (@ZeroDHC) formed in 2015 has more than 160 contributors – brands, manufacturers and chemical suppliers – all collaborating to clean up their supply chains to drive more sustainable chemistry. Their vision is widespread implementation of sustainable chemistry, driving innovations and best practices to protect consumers, workers and the environment.

The book Detoxing The Fashion Industry for Dummies, answers questions such as: ‘Why are there chemicals in my clothing? Are they dangerous? Are they necessary? And what is being done to improve things?’, as well as simplifying the complex realities of the global value chain.

With the world of fashion and textiles being a complex one, it can be a challenge for those wishing to make more sustainable products in a genuine way. I ask Frank for his advice to companies looking to work in this area; “I’d recommend manufacturers analyse the product value chain, evaluate the expertise of their partners ability to handle chemistry with care and manage production processes that protect people and the environment. If you are a small brand, and this isn’t kind of assessment isn’t necessarily possible, I’d advise them to look at the supply chains of larger ones that are credible and use their suppliers if they can.”

The benefits of changing the way that we produce our clothes are huge adds Frank: “If transformed, this is a sector with so much potential to improve people’s lives – but the relationship between chemistry and fashion is still not commonly understood. We want to raise broad awareness to accelerate change and drive impact in production regions for cleaner water and less air pollution in textile and leather manufacturing.”

I finish my chat with Frank, by asking about the impact of COVID-19; “Well, firstly, it’s been devastating to production regions like Bangladesh, China and Myanmar so we have to consider that human aspect. And then coming out of it, we have to mindful of the potential lowering of standards which we could easily see promoted in an effort to restart the economy. What I’d really like to see in a post-COVID world, is a strengthening of the business case of sustainability – better chemistry does not ultimately come at an overall higher cost – and a greater deal of collaboration – a change like this can’t be made alone.”

Detoxing the Fashion Industry for Dummies is free to download so click here to get your copy.

If you like this focus on fashion, then you may also be interested in…

Read: Sustainable innovation – don’t be blinkered by large brands

Read: Expert view: Will ‘greenwashing’ work out to be good for textiles?

Read: Spotlight on bio-based textiles: How to make sure modern slavery is not embedded in your sustainable cotton products

Read: Deputy editor’s view: Cleaning out one’s closet 

Read: Spotlight on bio-based textiles: Regenerative materials sourced from plants, not petroleum-based synthetic plastics

Read:  Introducing bio-based and sustainable components to long-standing supply chains.

Download:  Standardisation and certification developments in the bioeconomy


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