Consumers aren’t the only ones going green. The manufacturers of high-quality materials used in shoes are, too, as sustainability standards continue to rise around the globe. To meet the environmentally conscious demands of footwear and apparel brands, market-leading textile producers are seeking new ways to generate eco-friendly fabrics without compromising on performance.
At textile and thread manufacturer A&E, for instance, sustainable threads are available in four variations, each utilizing Repreve, an entirely recycled polyester fiber made from plastic bottles. The firm’s premium thread for apparel, Perma Core using Repreve, provides strong colorfastness and sewability, while the newest addition to the range, Anefil Poly using Repreve, is a multifilament thread popular for footwear applications.
“As cause-driven issues have moved to the forefront for today’s consumers, people like to wear what they believe in and support,” said Jacob Blackburn, global marketing at A&E. “Working closely with Unifi, the maker of Repreve fiber, we have developed a comprehensive line of recycled polyester sewing threads.”
At Coats, an industrial thread firm, the use of recycled materials extends to its range of bobbins. The new Ecobobs Y2 bobbin is performance-focused, promising to improve productivity by 10 percent due to precision winding and increased capacity. Developed specifically for footwear and accessory production, the bobbin also reduces thread waste by 20 percent.
“The environmentally friendly design means Coats can rewind Ecobobs bobbins up to 20 times, then recycle the plastic cores into other products,” said Andrew Morgan, head of sustainability at Coats.
While recycled materials are a popular way to achieve eco-friendly status, production practices are also being updated. A recent focus for fabric manufacturer Faytex has been the mass introduction of waterless dyeing across several products. Originally used at limited scale to reduce color bleeding, Faytex has expanded it across the Dri-Lex Eco Line to promote water conservation.
“We hope in the future that most of our line will be dyed this way — rather than through traditional dyeing practices — because of the benefits of using less water, less harmful chemicals, less energy and lower CO2 emissions, as well as achieving better color matching and colorfastness results,” said Katie Stangl, marketing and sales coordinator at Faytex.
Production practices are increasingly under scrutiny but also easier to track with the emergence of sustainability monitoring tools such as the Higg Index, a collection of resources developed by the Sustainable Apparel Coalition. This drive for transparency has led many companies to produce reports on their individual performance in a bid to strengthen their positioning as environmentally focused brands.
“Coats identified target areas by first considering the values and ethics that are most important to our employees, customers and investors, as well as the end consumer,” said Morgan. “These key groups are making increasingly influential demands for action on sustainability across all markets and industries.”
Coats’ 2018 Sustainability Report lays out the company’s commitments for 2022, including a reduction of water usage by 40 percent compared with its 2018 baseline. Meanwhile, in its own 2017-’18 Sustainability Report, A&E noted that it has reduced its carbon footprint per kilogram of thread by 11 percent since 2006.
“A&E has a long-held mantra: ‘It’s simply the right thing to do,’” said Jimmy Summers, VP of environmental health and safety. “A&E’s Eco-Driven initiatives are a concise way in which these sustainable business practices are summed up and communicated.”
A common challenge across the textile industry has been developing new technologies while managing cost and minimums. However, the growing demand from consumers for ethical and sustainable offerings has helped to push the popularity of these materials at the product development level. Claims like “100% recycled” and “sustainably manufactured” are actively promoted as customers seek to be better informed of their purchases’ origins. Moreover, sustainability has become an important component of brand identity for many manufacturers.
“We have teamed up with many other well-known companies that have these eco-friendly offerings,” said Stangl. “This way, we know we can trust the product we are utilizing in our line, while giving our customers the brand names that their consumers know and trust.”
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