EU Textiles Strategy: What it Means for the Denim Sector

The new EU Textiles Strategy is all about circular economy. How equipped is the denim sector to meet its demands? Texfash.com probes

Long Story, Cut Short
  • The EU Textiles Strategy most agree is that it’s a good starting point, and that the cascading effects are going to be felt beyond the borders of the European Union.
  • This strong strategy for sustainable textiles will also help companies meet their business goals and stay competitive in a market with scarce natural resources and increased consumer demand for eco-friendly products.
  • The fast fashion trend that has been prevailing in the market for over a decade may be hit hard as durable and recyclable fashion is going to replace conventional disposable fast fashion textile products.
As consumer awareness on sustainability & eco-friendliness grows, they’re interested in production procedures & sources for materials. This supports the positive development of the niche market of denim products that have been produced based with recycled materials, discarded clothes, organic cotton, & materials that have been not treated by hazardous chemicals. Most of these products are sold by smaller brands that distribute their products mainly online, but larger fashion brands have also started to incl
DEMANDING CONSUMER As consumer awareness on sustainability & eco-friendliness grows, they’re interested in production procedures & sources for materials. This supports the positive development of the niche market of denim products that have been produced based with recycled materials, discarded clothes, organic cotton, & materials that have been not treated by hazardous chemicals. Most of these products are sold by smaller brands that distribute their products mainly online, but larger fashion brands have also started to include “sustainable” products in their product lines. Tintes Egara

The EU Strategy for Sustainable and Circular Textiles, or EU Textiles Strategy for short, was announced on 30 March. It has been both welcomed and also criticised for alleged loopholes. What, however, most agree on is that it is a good starting point, and also that the cascading effects are going to be felt beyond the borders of the European Union (EU).

Now, what can that possibly mean for denim.

But before doing a deep blue dive, let’s quickly look at the EU only from denim angle. According to the Centre for the Promotion of Imports from developing countries (CBI), Europe is a significant importer of denim. “In 2020, the value of denim imports to Europe, including Intra-EU imports, amounted to €7.4 billion, down from €7.7 billion in 2015. This corresponds to roughly 675 million units of clothing in 2020 (down from 718 million in 2015). Over the last five years, the value of Europe’s denim imports has decreased at an average of 0.8% annually.” The EU denim import market has stabilised at €7.4 billion since the COVID-19 pandemic. Overall, it is a huge and attractive market. In 2019, the EU exported €61 billion of textiles and apparel and imported €109 billion. The EU imported over €80 billion of clothes, mainly from China, Bangladesh and Turkey.

The data of the CBI (under the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs) are from a study the findings of which were published in August 2021. It had noticed many trends, set already in motion by the pandemic. The study, carried out on behalf of CBI by M-Brain GmbH, remarked: “As the consumers’ awareness on sustainability and eco-friendliness is growing, they are more interested in production procedures and sources for materials. This supports the positive development of the (current) niche market of denim products that have been produced based with recycled materials, discarded clothes, organic cotton, and materials that have been not treated by hazardous chemicals. Most of these products are sold by smaller brands that distribute their products mainly online, but larger fashion brands have also started to include “sustainable” products in their product lines.”

This bit now gets amplified by the EU Textile Strategy, but no one is unduly worried.

Says Francesca Polato, who is with the marketing department of Berto Industria Tessile: “Since we are Italian producers and already comply with the stringent rules of our State, we are at a great advantage. In addition, it has always been very important for the company and especially for the Berto family, which has still been running the company since 1887, to produce in a sustainable way, even going beyond the rules already imposed by the Italian State.” Especially, regulations in terms of fabrics waste management. “We look for a partner to recycle waste fabrics, put them back into production, and create new fabrics in order to be more circular,” she adds.

Armand Galobart, Chief Executive of Barcelona’s Tintes Egara, quips: “I like that you ask me this. We find that the measures that have been adopted are a bit soft—we had already imposed much more restrictive measures in terms of water and energy consumption and much higher limitations in terms of the limit parameters of wastewater. We also recycle everything that is recyclable (cardboard, plastics bags, etc)”. In other words, Galobart and his company are ahead of the curve.

Even Turkish major Iskur Denim’s Chief Executive, İsmail Kurtul, feels the same. He points out: “Iskur Denim fits the needs of the EU Textile strategy. Iskur Denim has a zero-carbon footprint and zero-waste strategy together with waterless production through renewable energy that also uses our own in-house recycling facility.” All that covers the immediate requirements.

But others are setting their house in order. Says Carlo Parisatto, Chief Marketing Officer of the Cadica Group, “We are strengthening our production sites in Italy and (elsewhere in) Europe and aligning them all to the new regulations. So, we will have a coordinated Group with same process and standards.”

We are looking for a partner to recycle waste fabrics, put them back into production, and create new fabrics in order to be more circular, says Francesca Polato, marketing department, Berto Industria Tessile.
SCOUTING AROUND We are looking for a partner to recycle waste fabrics, put them back into production, and create new fabrics in order to be more circular, says Francesca Polato, marketing department, Berto Industria Tessile. Berto Industria Tessile

Gloria Crivellaro, Export Sales Manager at Ribbontex, sees it as an opportunity for clothing and textile firms to innovate and lead the way towards a sustainable Europe. “This strong strategy for sustainable textiles will contribute to meeting the EU’s climate goals, but it can also help companies meet their business goals and stay competitive in a market with scarce natural resources and increased consumer demand for eco-friendly products. I take it as something extremely positive as it aims to offer the clarity, support and policy action plan that, I hope, will push fashion towards a strong and sustainable recovery.”

And, what is Ribbontex doing? “Our company is promoting information transparency. I am thinking about measures like digital product passports and tagging as well as stronger protection of consumers against false green claims. Each product is made up of raw materials, processing and finishing. Each of these elements is carefully selected by us taking into consideration the impact it can have on the environment at the end of a product's lifecycle.

“Our certifications and the ones of third parties are an important guarantee for classifying products according to their environmental impact. Ribbontex believes in these values and is Oeko Tex standard 100 certified for yarns, Oeko Leather for leather; we are highly verticalised (100% Made in Italy) and we use most of the energy necessary for production processes with solar energy.

Ribbontex also uses materials from renewable sources, yarns from recycled PET, recycled cotton (pre and post-consumer), 100% GOTS organic cotton, hemp. “Even the leather we offer can be sustainable. Recall that today the leather goods industry processes leather that are often by-product of slaughter. If the leather were not tanned it should be eliminated in other more impactful ways. Therefore, each of our leather products extends its lifecycle and further promotes its value.”

The round-up comes from Safdar Shah, General Manager for R&D and Sustainability at Karachi’s Rajby Textiles. He explains: “The new EU Textiles Strategy is all about a circular economy. This is something more directed towards the EU brands and whether to decide to start promoting the sustainable fabrics or recycled fabrics (post-consumer waste). As denim producers, we are already equipped with the needed developments. It seems that there will be a requirement in some part of the compositions to have the recycled/durable materials as some EU brands have already started.

“The fast fashion trend that has been prevailing in the market for over a decade may get hard hit as durable and recyclable fashion is going to replace conventional disposable fast fashion textile products. We at Rajby are already prepared for that having introduced flexible collections where we can interchange the raw materials between conventional and sustainable without compromising on fabric aesthetics and other physicals. In addition to that we have been working on inclusivity like seasonless collections and unisex fabrics and some revolutionary stretch developments wherein one garment can fit multiple sizes. These initiatives save a lot of garments that end up in landfills.”

It is evident that the well-known names in the denim sector either already have things in place, or only need to make minimal course corrections. It would be interesting to find out what the unorganised denim sector is or will be doing. That’s perhaps a story in itself.

 
 
  • Dated posted May 19, 2022
  • Last modified May 19, 2022