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Could the Next Generation of Man-Made Fibres Fast-Track the Transition to Circular Fashion?

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Marguerite Le Rolland Bio

As Global Fashion Agenda’s (GFA) Global Fashion Summit is about to take place in Copenhagen on 27-28 June, Euromonitor International looks at today’s key market pressures that are driving positive change in the fashion industry and, in particular, discusses the next generation of sustainable man-made fibres and how they hold the potential to change the way fashion is produced, marketed, and consumed.

Green commitments step up as pressure from regulators and consumers grows

Consumers are now more aware of environmental issues, as the global pandemic highlighted the plight of textile workers around the globe and the adverse impact of human activity on the planet.

Today, 65% global respondents are worried about climate change and 57% think they can make a difference through their everyday choices and actions

Source: Euromonitor International Voice of the Consumer, Lifestyle Survey 2023

Not only is sustainability now at the front of consumers’ minds, but regulation holding fashion brands accountable for their environmental impact and social practices is also coming, led by the EU and other governments, including in the US, with New York’s Fashion Sustainability and Social Accountability Act, for example.

This signals a significant regulatory shift when it comes to corporate social and environmental impact. The EU’s upcoming Strategy for Sustainable Textiles includes an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) clause, which would make manufacturers pay for the waste they generate. The EU’s strategy also plans to make reporting ESG criteria mandatory for a wide range of qualifying companies, to further clamp down on greenwashing.

Inflation and supply-chain bottlenecks drive sustainable material innovation

As lockdowns and factory closures resulting from COVID-19 unfolded, followed by high inflation and rising costs of materials and energy, it is fair to say that supply chains in the fashion industry are at an inflection point.

Over the past 12 months, prices of raw materials and their lack of availability have become top factors impacting business decisions. The growing scarcity of natural resources and the new environmental and social regulations that are shaping up are pushing the next generation of man-made fibres, especially recycled and plant-based materials, which could help companies significantly reduce their environmental footprint as well as eventually help cut costs, as conventional raw materials see their prices soar.Next Generation of Man-Made Fibres Chart 1.svg

From CO2-capturing cotton to bio-derived renewables

While vegan and recycled fibres are not new in the fashion industry, the pace of innovation has accelerated significantly over the past two years. So has the shift away from plastic-based alternatives towards biomaterials, as illustrated by the flurry of vegan leather alternatives, such as Golden Goose x Coronet Made in Italy bio-based Yatay sneakers, Hermès x MyCoworks mushroom leather bags, or Mexican start-up Desserto making cactus-derived leather.

46% of global respondents working in the apparel and footwear industry state that their company plans to introduce products with vegan and vegetarian claims in the next five years, and 15% of them plan to launch products with biodynamic or regenerative farming/agriculture claims

Source: Euromonitor International Voice of the Industry Survey 2023

Other interesting examples of sustainable man-made materials launched since late 2022 include the H&M Foundation, which has developed a new type of CO2-capturing cotton garment due to its partnership with the Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel (HKRITA). It is open to sharing proof of concept with the rest of the industry. In addition, The Lycra Company has announced that it is going to produce 70% of its elastane fibre content from Qira by Cargill, a generation 1.4-butanediol (BDO) derived from annually-renewable corn feedstock, to replace the equivalent fossil-based polymer, starting from 2024.

As ESG goals and circularity are set to become mandatory by law in the near future, there are likely to be further material innovations in the next couple of years. Also, there are hopes that large-scale commercial production of such sustainable man-made materials will begin, and make a significant impact on the industry’s emission and waste footprints.


About Global Fashion Summit: Global Fashion Summit is the leading international forum for sustainability in fashion and is presented by Global Fashion Agenda (GFA) - a non-profit organisation that is accelerating the transition to a net positive fashion industry. GFA accelerates impact by mobilising, inspiring, influencing and educating all stakeholders. Convening major decision makers from across the world, the forum was first launched in 2009 as a COP15 side event and has become the nexus for agenda-setting discussions and presentations on the most critical environmental, social and ethical issues facing our industry and planet, all intended to spark urgent action and accelerate impact in the industry. Learn more and secure your ticket for the summit, by visiting here.  

About the author: Marguerite Le Rolland is the Apparel and Footwear Industry Manager at Euromonitor International, a leading independent provider of strategic market research based in London, UK. In her role, Marguerite oversees the industry research and is responsible for strategic analysis on corporate strategies, market and consumer trends, competitive intelligence, retail performance and opportunity analysis in the fashion industry. Her comments and analysis are regularly quoted in the press from Business of Fashion to Le Monde, AFP, Vogue Business, The Guardian, Telegraph or WWD. To learn more, please check: https://www.euromonitor.com/

Please read our reports, Competitor Strategies in Apparel and Footwear, and Transforming Fashion Supply Chains in A High-Inflation Environment, for further analysis on sustainable material innovations and post-pandemic supply chains shifts.

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