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Fashion and sustainability in June 2023

By Simone Preuss


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Tree Girl. Illustration: Jackie Mallon

The month of June was all about sharing information - about new materials, EU legislation and industry pioneers who are driving sustainability in the textile and apparel sector. Sustainability was also the key point on the agenda at the Global Fashion Summit.

Product and material innovations

In March, the sustainability-oriented footwear provider Allbirds announced a shoe that would be produced without generating CO2 emissions. Now the “M0.0NSHOT” was unveiled at the Global Fashion Summit in Copenhagen by Allbirds' co-founder and head of innovation Tim Brown. He provided the instructions right away, as the company has made the complete production approach available as an open-source tool.

Swiss bag label Freitag presented its first fully recyclable backpack made from just one material - polyamide 6. Now the first circular backpack that does not require any truck tarpaulin is set to go into production.

London-based Arda Biomaterials developed a leather-like material made from beer, or more precisely, barley waste, that does not require any plastic backing at all. Thanks to a recent cash injection of 1.3 million euros, founders Edward Mitchell and Brett Cotten expect to deliver a finished material within 12 months.

Spanish fashion retailer Inditex and the Spanish finishing specialist for sustainable clothing Jeanologia have been thinking about how to produce garments in a more environmentally friendly way: together they have developed the “Air Fiber Washer”, the first industrial air system that captures microfibres during the production of garments (up to 60 per cent) and thus reduces their subsequent discarding in household laundry.


In a bid to build a circular solution for creating new materials, biotech company Spiber has launched a biosphere circulation programme allowing for the upcycling of biobased and biodegradable textiles and agricultural waste. Joining the programme are Spiber’s long-term partners, sustainable apparel brand Pangaia and sportswear label Goldwin, through which the firm hopes to catalyse the transition to circular reuse models.

UPM Biochemicals, in collaboration with Central Saint Martins (CSM), University of the Arts London (UAL), has embarked on an innovative design partnership aimed at showcasing the transition to renewable and circular materials across various industries. UPM is actively developing climate-neutral materials derived from sustainably sourced hardwood, poised to replace fossil-based materials in applications ranging from fashion and footwear to automotive and furniture.

The UK Fashion & Textile Association (UKFT) has announced a series of new government-funded projects centred around textile recycling infrastructure, circular fashion and sustainable manufacturing. For support, ACT UK has brought together a consortium of recycling firms, academia, manufacturers and industry associations, among others, including project partners like Marks & Spencer, Tesco, Pangaia, New Look, Reskinned, Oxfam and Textile Recycling International.

Global Fashion Summit

According to observations by Jonathan Anderson, founder and creative director of LVMH-owned luxury label JW Anderson, the younger generation is currently driving the pace when it comes to sustainability in luxury fashion. In a presentation at the Global Fashion Summit, he elaborated on this view.

Luxury fashion brands need to work together if the industry is to bring about sustainable change, said Antoine Arnault, head of image and environment at French luxury giant LVMH. He also explained why the company decided against joining the Fashion Pact four years ago.

The consensus of the summit was that ‘less talk, more action’ is needed. To help brands and retailers along, especially in their marketing efforts, UNEP and UN Climate Change released a sustainable fashion playbook at the summit.


In an industry that thrives on constant change, a handful of fashion brands have broken away from convention and decided on timeless clothing collections instead. Their seasonless business models have proven remarkably resilient during the pandemic, when many apparel companies suffered from overstocking and supply chain issues. FashionUnited explored whether they could offer a viable alternative to overproduction and other wasteful practices in the fickle world of fashion.

Since 2017, Solidaridad Europe and the Pesticide Action Network UK (PAN UK) have published their annual cotton ranking - a look at the biggest cotton consumers among international clothing brands and retailers and their sourcing practices. The ranking analyses their public goals and strategies, the proportion of sustainable cotton they use and the transparency of their supply chain. The key finding of the 2023 Cotton Ranking: only nine fashion companies source cotton in a sustainable way.

Meanwhile, the Armani Group announced a pilot project to develop agroforestry cotton production. Danish fashion brand Ganni and California start-up Rubi, which is pioneering carbon-negative cellulosic textiles, debuted the first-ever yarn made directly from carbon emissions through a fully enzymatic process.

Breaking new ground, British slow fashion label Couture To Your Door (CTYD) is making the world of luxury accessible to all with a timeless and elegant collection that is customisable and eco-friendly. FashionUnited spoke to CTYD founder and designer Maria Loria via email about the appeal of well-designed clothing that can be customised and last a lifetime.

Fashion outlet platform Otrium, in collaboration with carbon tracking software Vaayu, published an analysis on saving CO2 emissions and textile waste through off-price business models.

Last but not least, New York City brand Anybagclaims to create fully recycled tote bags and accessories on a purely zero waste model. Through collecting plastic bags from a range of secondhand sources, founder Alex Dabagh is targeting both the city’s procurement of plastic waste and fashion’s ecological ramifications within his multi-generational, family-owned factory.

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Sustainable Fashion