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Fast track: are performance apparel consumers ready for mono material garments?
published in Issue 71, May 2021
As pressures to recycle textiles and clothing continue to grow, problems are being encountered because recycling plants are unable to work with complex mixtures of fibres, dyes and finishing chemicals from which many garments are manufactured. The difficulties of recycling are compounded by the rise in popularity of stretch in garments as the rise has led to the growing inclusion of elastane fibres. Consumers, as well as wanting stretch, expect garments to be comfortable, functional and stylish and to provide performance. Given the difficulties of recycling these complex mixtures, it is not surprising that 73% of clothing ends up in landfill or is incinerated at the end of its useful life and only 1% of textiles are recycled into new fabrics. To address the problem, a small number of highly influential brands are designing prototypes of mono material garments. Among these brands is the sportswear brand Adidas, which was the ISPO Award Gold Winner in the Urban Life category of the Outdoor segment in 2020 for its minimalist Futurecraft.Loop Anorak—a mono material garment. Furthermore, the company is planning a launch of mono material sports shoes for large volume markets. In Scandinavia, mono material garments have been introduced by the sportswear company Houdini, headquartered in Stockholm, Sweden. In 2020 Houdini was the ISPO Award Gold Winner in the Mid Layer category of the Outdoor segment for its Mono Air Houdi, and in 2021 it won the Outdoor Retailer Innovation Award for the same product. Other Scandinavian brands to introduce similar mono material garments include Fall Winter Spring Summer and Helly Hansen—both based in Oslo, Norway—and Tierra, based in Stockholm, Sweden. However, most of the properties which consumers want their apparel items to possess are difficult to achieve in mono material garments. Furthermore, developments in mono material garments rely solely on polyester for their performance attributes but the bulk of the world's polyester is derived from petroleum and is not therefore seen as being environmentally sustainable. Meanwhile, Sysav Industri—a company based in Malmö, Sweden, which is owned by 14 municipalities and treats waste from households and industries—has started to operate the world's first fully automated sorting plant for textiles recycling. The plant forms part of the Swedish Innovation Platform for Textile Sorting (SIPTex)—a project funded by the Swedish government which aims to develop "a sorting solution" tailored to the needs of textile recyclers and the garment industry.
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Performance apparel represents one of the fastest growing markets in the global textile and clothing industry--and market growth is being fuelled by an emergence of new fibres, fabrics and innovative materials. The market's growth prospects are also being spurred by increasing demand for performance properties in mainstream fashion.
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