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‘Ready-to-wear’ garments are a key staple in fashion. At every fashion show, brands unveil their latest ready-to-wear collections. It is at these unique events that new fashion trends are defined. That being said, in recent years, the negative environmental impact of the fashion industry has been particularly highlighted worldwide, especially in the ‘ready-to-wear’ field. As the production of this type of apparel tends to be more material and labour intensive, it prompts modern manufacturers to cut expenses by using less sustainable fibers and moving production facilities to regions with lower costs – negatively impacting all areas of sustainability.
As part of the “TENCEL™ Insights” series, we talked to Hale Saraçoğlu, Head of Global Business Development, Fashion Ready to Wear at Lenzing Group, to get her thoughts on the latest ready-to-wear trends and discuss ways the industry can navigate through the challenges it is currently facing.
Q: How do you define ‘ready-to-wear’ at Lenzing?
Hale: At Lenzing, ‘ready-to-wear’ essentially refers to tailored woven clothing that is suitable for everyday use. This could include dresses, blouses, skirts, trousers, shirts, cardigans, jackets and coats, that aren’t denim, jersey wear (underwear and home wear) or functional wear.
Q: What are the key raw materials often used in ‘ready-to-wear’ clothing?
Hale: When we look at the global fiber demand data for 2019, around 63% of the fibers are synthetic, followed by 25% being cotton and 7% being man-made cellulosic fibers (source: ICAC February 3rd, 2020, The Fiber Year Consulting, Lenzing data). The consumption of raw materials in the ‘ready-to-wear’ segment is expected to be similar. Currently, with the field dominated by non-biodegradable synthetic fibers such as polyester, nylon and acrylic, which are often linked to pollution, it is important for the industry to consider sustainable alternatives. To this end, there is ample room for natural raw materials and cellulosic fibers – such as cotton, linen, wool and silk and hemp – to replace synthetics as natural blending partners with lyocell, modal or viscose.
Q: Amid COVID-19, what are the consumer trends or industry challenges you have observed over the past few months in the fashion industry?
Hale: Given the current ‘work from home’ situation imposed on many during COVID-19, the textile industry has observed an increased interest from designers, retailers and consumers alike on the functional benefits of different fibers and fabrics (or of their color dying/finishing processes), particularly in comfort and durability. As the world looks towards the much anticipated ‘new normal’ which may see an increase in flexible working arrangements, many are looking for high-quality clothing that is suitable for both indoor and outdoor use. These highly sought-after garments have the added benefit of being long-lasting, an important consideration for many amid the global economic uncertainty fueled by COVID-19.
Besides comfort and durability, another major topic that has come to light during COVID-19 is climate change and the impact ‘business as usual’ had on the planet. Many discussions are being had across the world on the ‘silver lining’ of the pandemic – environmental recovery. Awareness among consumers on sustainability-related issues such as micro-plastics and overflowing landfills was already increasing prior to the pandemic. The recent events have only heightened this and highlighted the importance of comfortable and sustainable ‘ready-to-wear’ clothing to help mitigate the detrimental impact of ‘fast fashion’. Consumers must continue to drive this demand for greater supply chain transparency as it creates change within the fashion industry, encouraging brands, designers and manufacturers to make more sustainable decisions, rather than opting for synthetic fabrics in the name of competitive pricing. This drive will help address the pressing waste problem as 73% of garments end up in landfills (source: The Ellen MacArthur Foundation) and more than half of these garments made from synthetic materials may not biodegrade for hundreds of years.
Q: How can the ‘ready-to-wear’ industry address these trends or challenges post COVID-19?
Hale: As brands look ahead, they should take this time to consider how best to improve sustainability across their entire product supply chain and increase transparency to gain consumer trust. At Lenzing, we are eager to help the ‘ready-to-wear’ industry move towards greater sustainability with our TENCEL™ branded fiber offerings. These wood-based fibers are not only biodegradable, they also come with a range of features and functions such as being gentle on the skin, moisture management, long-lasting softness, color vibrancy, drape and enhanced breathability.
Blending with these highly versatile fibers can transform fabrics to enhance sustainability and define a new standard of natural comfort for consumers. Meanwhile, these fibers also provide a wide range of functions that are essential for ‘ready-to-wear’ products. For example, TENCEL™ branded fibers are ideal for women’s tops and dresses as they contain a luxurious sheen and are highly comfortable with moisture management and unmatched smoothness. On the same note, the fibers are also ideal for blending with cotton, a material often used in men’s shirts and chinos.