From this point onwards, the Première Vision international sourcing show is aiming to be a committed player in the fashion industry’s ecological transition. The latest edition, held from July 4 to 6, 2023, at Paris’ Parc des Expositions de Villepinte, was proof of this.
There was a major facelift present at the Première Vision show for the presentation of supplies (fabrics, leather, accessories) for autumn/winter 2024-2025 and manufactures. And on first glance, there was the impression that the organisers were opting for a more pragmatic approach rather than the suggestive, even dreamlike one seen in recent years.
In Hall 6, the long Sourcing Solutions forum unfolded the major themes of the season, through fabric samples, arranged as if on a stand, and organised by product specialty (embroidery, silk, shirting, etc.) and market (casual wear, sport & outdoor, jeanswear, etc.). When you consider that the show receives more than 11,000 samples, that just goes to show the richness of the offer.
The new Eco-Innovation forum was the highlight of the show. Here, the presentation of fabrics was enhanced by large explanatory panels (orange writing on a white background, in keeping with the show's trendy theme), enabling visitors to learn more about innovations in this area of exploration. Exploring, yes, because between environmental labelling and the evolution of evaluation criteria, what seemed revolutionary yesterday may seem new today, but will probably be a ‘has-been’ tomorrow.
Nevertheless, this unprecedented forum is unique and deserves to be applauded. Selected excerpts: "Polyurethanes, polyesters, polyamides and resins can be derived from corn starch, castor oil, sugarcane residues, apples or grapes, to which various additives are added. The proportion of renewable resources can vary from one material to another, and there is no minimum threshold required to use this designation. Certifications - such as OK biobased or USDA certified biobased - attest to their content and the percentage derived from biomass."
Or again, on the subject of new-generation elastanes (most garments contain them yet it's a non-recyclable fibre): "Biodegradable elastanes, like Roica™ V550 are innovations designed to break down faster than their conventional equivalents, without leaving harmful substances in the environment."
The dead stocks stands (Smart Créations, Hall 6) sell out
Will this multi-faceted, didactic approach be enough to convince designers to turn to sustainable sourcing? Intellectually, yes. In practice, it's more complicated, as Benjamin Benmoyal, a young designer FashionUnited met at the Eco-Innovation Forum, explained: "My added value comes from exclusive weaves. This new generation of materials, which sell for between 25 euros and 70 euros a metre, doesn't allow me to make a profit. So I prefer to turn to dead stocks, like those offered by Nona Source.”
At the Nona Source stand (a company attached to LVMH), co-founder Romain Brabo agreed: “We respond to real market demand: small quantities – we sell by the roll, two, five, ten metres, etc. -, no production time and quality at prices 70 percent cheaper than market rates.”
"Houses have surpluses - 15,000 rolls of fabric, or 2,500 references, are stocked in our warehouse near Tours. This is an opportunity for young people to repurpose them and create from existing waste," he added, as his stand continued to fill up. A successful first experience for Première Vision, even if manufacturers had previously been opposed to the idea.
Woolmark: focus on wool, a natural animal material
These testimonials raised a question: what natural material is available on the market that already exists, doesn't require costly innovation and has less environmental impact? One of the answers is wool, a material championed by the Woolmark Company, an Australian-based not-for-profit, technology, research and expertise company. So we headed to the Woolmark stand.
“Our main question concerns the animal condition, and in particular the mulesing* of Merino sheep. We're very sensitive to this issue," said Damien Pommeret, Woolmark's Western Europe manager. “We try to select animals that are resistant to parasites, and vaccines are being developed to avoid this animal suffering.”
Woolmark showcases wool-based materials that are so fine they can be used for swimwear (Vilebrequin), but are nonetheless hard-wearing. The proof is in a sneaker from Circle, whose upper is 65 percent merino wool. Note that some products require chemical treatment, others little or none (Optim). It all depends on the intended purpose.
Fashion trends: Winter 2024-2025 radiates solar energy with positive-impact solutions.
With Solar Vision, the idea is to capitalise on an alternative resource: clean energy. This translates into dark warps and wefts, from which emerge luminous, golden flashes. The wall of orange fabrics of all qualities evokes this radiant intensity.
Nouvelle Élégance highlights the quality of materials that last over time and are in line with the philosophical quest to "produce less, buy more, but better". Plain fabrics bring out the sophistication of the style. It's the desire for a new discretion, contrary to the ‘bling bling’ trend.
The third theme, Dialogue between nature and digital, is evoked through the space's scenography, which brings together tree trunks from a forest, pruned so as not to deplete the soil, and installations that show how nature can be transformed by the digital tool. This juxtaposition yields embroideries, silk or mesh jacquards, moire or earth bark effects, velvet flockings, reliefs, veins, cellular movements or microscopic visions of nature's elements.
A better dissemination of information on climate and social issues in the fashion industry
To find out more about the ‘A Better Way’ programme set up by Première Vision (which is made up of 290 participating exhibitors out of 1313), you could head to Hall 3, Leather. A pictogram - two hands encircling a membership card - indicated which manufacturers have responded to a questionnaire designed to identify them as players in a sustainable industry. It has to be said that, on the spot, many of them evaded our questions on the grounds that "they're not the right people to talk to and, unfortunately, the person isn't there". This did not make our investigation any easier.
However, on the stand of Texless Ecofabrics (Spain), which meets all the criteria**, someone is willing to testify. The company makes recycled polyester from yarns sourced in Alicante, and while its supplier certifies the recycled nature of the fibre, the firm has no direct control over this information.
"We're receiving a new category of visitor: brand CSR managers," commented Gilles Lasbordes, Première Vision's general manager. “These individuals come to identify their potential suppliers. In this context, it's essential that qualified people are present on the stands and able to answer their questions. They need to explain and promote their approach, and get the message across to the sales teams. Unfortunately, we can't take the place of this training duty."
Yarns (Hall 6): clothing waste recovery, a solution for the future?
In fact, going to the source - the creation of the yarn - seems to be the royal road to having a discourse - not too technical, but nonetheless educated - on sustainable materials. The first exhibitor FashionUnited met (with the famous pictogram) was Hirasim & Simsan (Turkey). His stand displayed PES for polyester and cotton, PAN for acrylic (derived from petroleum) and PP for polypropylene (plastic). In the end, the only eco-responsible fibre here turned out to be linen, which is not a scoop.
It would take much longer than three days to go round all the exhibitors who claim to be committed, to be objective about the reality of their proposals. In reality, it will take years for the subject to become obvious to everyone. "In the same way as we do with wood, we can transform old cotton garments into pulp, to make a Tencel fibre. The problem is that most garments are blends, notably polyester/cotton," summed up Johannes Stefan, senior sales manager for Austrian giant Lenzing. “At the moment, technology doesn't allow us to identify the composition of materials (especially when consumers tear off labels)."
Moreover, it's a time-consuming process, as buttons have to be manually removed, seams cut (most threads are polyester), etc. As a result, Lenzing favours the recovery of old hotel sheets, uniforms or fabric scraps from pattern-making. The result? Producing new with old is more tedious and expensive than starting with new. "Without coercive legislation, things move slowly," said the expert.
“The European Union's ambition is relatively high, and can only be achieved by developing R&D technologies," concluded Gilles Lasbordes. The industry will need to set up high production capacities to bring prices down. This is the challenge facing the industry we support."
*Mulesing: surgical technique of removing part of the perianal skin of sheep to combat skin infestation due to the larvae of certain species of flies.
** The sustainable supply chain is estimated on these criteria: Social initiatives, Impact of production sites, Traceability, Product/process composition, and Duration and end-of-life of the finished product.
This article originally appeared on FashionUnited.FR. Translation and edit by: Rachel Douglass.