Sustainability has become the catchphrase in textile production including yarn, fabrics, apparel and other materials.  Public consciousness about environment-friendly production continues to grow in the meantime. The reaction of Asian exhibitors at Frankfurt’s Heimtextil show held earlier confirmed that the Asian home textile industry is ready to seize the challenges and opportunities under this megatrend.

Sustainable production and sustainable corporate attitude are no longer considered unconventional in the home textile industry. There is a wide range of products, such as traditional woven, wall coverings and self-adhesive, decorative and functional films used for furniture, that use compostable materials and upcycled yarns
Heimtextil is one of the largest international exhibitions for home and contract textiles.
Heimtextil, one of the largest international exhibitions for home and contract textiles, was held from January 7-10, 2020 in Frankfurt, Germany. The exhibition attracted 2,952 exhibitors from 65 countries, with China having the largest exhibitor contingent at 561, followed by India (404), Turkey (304), Germany (287), Pakistan (230), Italy (178), Spain (112), etc.

At the fairground, many Asian exhibitors put up large pictorial sign boards in several languages to explain how their companies were dedicating themselves to the issue of environmental protection and sustainability in their business operations. Theycame prepared for any questions related to the issue as well.

Pakistan: Waste-water treatment an emerging trend

Pakistan exhibitors used the Frankfurt show to demonstrate their commitment to sustainability. They showcased their products under the theme “iTechStyle Green Circle” and “Sustainable Pakistan” respectively in two different halls.

Hassan Suleri, the deputy general manager (marketing) of Sadhaqat Ltd., of Faisalabad, Pakistan, which manufactures home-textiles, bed linens, curtains and the like, emphasized in an interview with CTA that sustainability was a crucial factor for the textile industry’s long-term survival.

“Pakistan faces water shortage … so it is important for us to conserve water.  We are displaying here a wide range of products that are produced with recycled water. We have waste-water treatment plant at our facility in Pakistan … 40% of the water used is recycled.  Raw materials for textile production are also being recycled,” he explained.

Kamal Ltd., headquartered in Faisalabad, which produces both home textiles and garments, was eyeing Asian buyers. “Our major markets are Europe, U.S., Latin America and the Gulf.  China and India do a lot of product development, and I am glad that Pakistan is also moving in that direction,” said Amir Ghaffar, the company’s general manager (marketing). “We want to enter Asian markets such as China, Japan and Southeast Asia,” he added.

Karachi-based Alrahim Mills, which manufactures towels and is a 100% export-oriented company, has taken special measures for water purification. “We have installed water-treatment plant to detoxify the water … 85% of the water is recycled and used.  We have received green certifications from various authorities.  Sustainability is a priority for us,” Adeel Khan, Alrahim’s deputy general manager, explained.

Malaysia: Upgrading quality to attract international buyers

Wendy Tan, managing director of Nature World Sdn. Bhd., said that the company’s linen business has been growing because the product line complies with sustainability guidelines.
While Malaysian products may be slightly more expensive than those manufactured elsewhere, the quality of Malaysian products are very much attuned to the needs of the customers backed by reliable service, according to Wendy Tan, managing director of Nature World Sdn. Bhd.

Nature World, headquartered in the Malaysian city of Shah Alam, produces uniforms, linens, etc., and contracts these to brand names. The company also has a production site in China, and receives a steady stream of potential buyers from Europe, U.S. and Asia.

Wendy Tan told CTA that the company’s linen business has been growing, particularly because the product line complies with sustainability guidelines and is manufactured with state-of-the-art technical support. 

“We are holding talks with a recycling company in Johor (near Singapore) for recycling materials from old garments. We are going to recycle yarn … we have received enquiries from U.S., Canada, Belgium, Denmark, India, Brazil, Colombia, Germany, etc.  But pricing is a challenge which we are trying to meet by offering high-quality and innovative products combined with a highly-professionalized service,” she said.

“We are expanding our Malaysia operatons, and making investments in infrastructure and building extra space for production … modernization of our production facilities is important. We are planning to go for digitalization, including the use of artificial intelligence,” Wendy Tan maintained. 

China: Heavily investing in water recycling and energy saving

Zhang Tao, the secretary general of the Sub-Council of Textile Industry (CCPIT), which is considered China’s umbrella organization for the textile industry, said that Chinesetextile companies have been paying greater attention to sustainability. 

China has invested a lot of money on water recycling, energy and conservation. China is trying to reduce coal consumption,” explained Zhang Tao.

He also said that the geopolitical global situation has been causing uncertainties,and therefore Chinese suppliers are looking at China’s attractive domestic market.Besides, the Chinese textile industry is upgrading its technology in the textile production, resorting to digitalization to improve productivity.

Turkey: Sustainability an important issue

The large Turkish exhibitor contingent at the show also fielded questions about sustainability. Pinar Tasdelen Engin, chairperson of Turkey’s Uludag Textile Exporters’ Association – popularly known by its Turkish acronym UTIB – said that Turkey was diversifying the export markets for its wide range of textile products.  She emphasized that sustainability is an important issue for the UTIB member companies.

Pinar Tasdelen Engin, chairperson of UTIB emphasized that sustainability is an important issue for the UTIB member companies.
UTIB, with some 1200 member companies, is based in Bursa, Turkey’s textile heartland.  It is the largest Turkish textile (fabric) exporters’ association, its member companies’ 2019 exports amounting to US$1.2 billion out of Turkey’s total fabric exports of US$8 billion.

“Our government is also taking initiatives on environmental protection. Sustainability is an important factor in our textile production,” Engin said in an interview at the Heimtextil show.

But she rejected the notion that sustainable production was “inferior to virgin production”.  With an increasing number of Turkish companies resorting to recycling technology, she said that recycling did not mean inferior quality.

Turkish exporters are eyeing Asia’s rising middle class, seen as an attractive consumer base with strong purchase power to buy upper-end products.  With their conventional markets in the region becoming unstable such as Syria, Iraq, Iran, etc., many Turkish suppliers are now looking at markets in North America and Asia besides already maintaining business ties with European importers.

“Some of our member companies also participate in trade shows in China and they have been getting encouraging response at these events,” Engin remarked.

M. Atilla Bulut, the general coordinator of the Turkish Home-Textile Association (TETSIAD) based in Istanbul, mentioned that Turkey’s neighbourhood had become “difficult” and the three countries, Syria, Iran and Iraq, were once a big market for Turkish products, including apparel. 

“Besides continuing our exports to Arab countries, with Saudi Arabia a good market, we are also trying to penetrate China where our member companies are selling upholstery and curtains.  China’s large and still growing middle-class base is inherent with good potential business,” Bulut said.

Asain textile chemicals market continues to grow

Asia’s textile chemicals market was projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of some 7.6% from 2014 to 2020, reaching US$11,626 million by 2020, according to a report published by Future Market Insights (FMI). 

With the key textile players across the world underscoring the significance of sustainability, there will be growing demand for eco-friendly chemicals aimed at reducing consumption of water and energy needed in various stages of textile processing and compliant with domestic and international regulations.

Sustainable textiles go side-by-side with fashion

The London Textile Fair 2020 was held at the Business Design Centre in north London from January 15-16, showcasing fashion textiles and accessories highlights from the current season and Spring/Summer 2021 pre-collections.

Together with the trendy textiles, sustainability textiles took the central stage with a dedicated forum presenting the collections from around 50 European manufacturers. A selection of sustainably produced textiles and accessories was also displayed within the “Village Green” area.

Together with the trendy textiles, sustainability textiles took the central stage The London Textile Fair 2020.

The arrangement aimed to reflect the current industry trends and inspired visitors in their sustainable sourcing.
It is clear that there is an increased public consciousness about environmental issues when it comes to fashion production and consumption. The atmosphere at the fairground asserted this megatrend trend that dominated the fashion industry.

One of the exhibitors, Isabel Cardoso, representing 6 Dias Textile International from Portugal, told CTA that more customers are looking for sustainability fabrics. She expected the trend will grow in the coming years and that the company will supply more and more of such products.

Meanwhile, Murat Özata of Turkish company, Nuryildiz, agreed that the demand for fabrics with sustainability features will continue to grow. Currently, about 15% of the company’s products are recycled fabrics and he expected the proportion will go up to 50% within the next two years.

Big chains are only interested in recycled or organic products, including the major sports brands. We expect a big change of scenario in the next five years,” said Murat Özata.

He also mentioned that the price of sustainable textiles is a bit high due to insufficient supply. However, as long as there is a big demand, the price may not come down easily even with sufficient supply.

In fact, there is no one single method being used to manufacture more sustainable textiles. Rather, manufacturers are turning to a variety of innovative technologies to make green products and save resources, hoping to produce a lower environmental impact.

Kelley Ko, a sales representative from UK textile agency, whose clients include textiles companies in Italy and Turkey, said some clients found it challenging to produce more sustainable textiles “because they have been producing the same things for many years”. She said the textile companies are investing in new technologies to keep pace with the trend.

Big clients are looking to achieve the goal of sustainable garments by 2025. It has to be the direction,” Kelley Ko said.

Sometimes recycling can be tricky as it depends on what materials are available,” she commented when asked about the relatively hard hand-feel of some of the recycled wool fabrics at the fairground. “Some of them are not 100% recycled fabrics. Often it is difficult to have the same form and performance expected from the fabrics if they are 100% recycled. Now they are mixed with new yarns, but at least we’re saving some.”

The fashion industry is indeed increasingly committed to a circular model, but it is only at the beginning of a journey to create a more ethical and sustainable future for fashion. To achieve this goal, the entire value chain must be upgraded with new technologies to keep materials and products in the loop while maintaining the highest possible value.

(By Staff Reporters)