• Sarah Hudson

Fair fashion from the DACH zone at the Future Fabrics Expo

From algae to grass cuttings – sustainable fashion in the DACH region is greener than ever.

Innovative and creative companies from Germany, Austria and Switzerland were out in force at the Future Fashion Expo in London, which I was fortunate to visit on 29 and 30 January 2020. I was amazed by the many futuristic solutions that harness the latest in manufacturing and chemical engineering technologies and the many other products which are drawing inspiration from skills and materials of the past. This roundup of companies at the expo demonstrates that the DACH zone continues to be at the forefront of the green revolution in fashion.

Go bananas for QWISTION bags

QWSTION bags owe their stylish looks to modernist Swiss design and their sustainability credentials to the use of organic and sustainably produced materials. The team behind the name has been using organic materials since the company was founded in 2008, but has taken sustainability one step further by developing an innovative fabric made from banana plant fibre called Banantex®.

The standout feature of Banantex® is its biodegradability. A QWISTION bag made from this material only takes eleven months to completely break down (excluding the zip which needs to be removed).

No harmful chemicals are used in its production and it has very low water requirements. The production of Banantex® also promotes the reforestation of areas once devastated by palm plantations and supports the prosperity of the local farmers. Stylish, environmentally-friendly, socially-conscious and fully biodegradable bags – what’s not to love?

Traditional craftsmanship from Modespitze Plauen

Visitors were drawn like bees to a honey pot to the samples of lace and embroidered fabrics at the Modespitze Plauen stand. Many designers and retailers are turning towards traditional handicrafts so that they can offer their customers sustainably produced products with a high-quality finish. The company offer a huge range of pretty fabrics or designers can have their own designs produced to order.

Modespitze Plauen fabrics are produced from GOTS-certified cotton which is considered to be the Rolls Royce of all the textile standards. Design inspiration for their collections is drawn from a wide range of sources, from traditional floral motifs through to more contemporary-looking Bauhaus-inspired designs.

Modespitze Plauen has its roots in a centuries-old tradition of lacemaking in and around the city of Plauen in Saxony in the east of Germany. Plauen used to be the lace capital of the world until cheaper foreign imports led to the industry’s decline. The company was founded in 1890 and has been producing high-quality lace in Plauen ever since.

Cortec proves that the grass is greener

Pioneering German manufacturer Cortec is the first company in the world to produce coat hangers made from locally grown grass cuttings. Once harvested, the grass fibre is granulated and combined with recycled plastic to create a highly sustainable material. The grass residue is even used to generate biogas to power the factory.

Cortec hangers are considered to be more sustainable than their wooden counterparts as they avoid the need to use diminishing wood supplies or harmful chemicals such as phenols and dioxins. It also makes good sense to recycle the massive volumes of discarded plastic currently in circulation.

Since the company started producing its eco-friendly coat hangers in 2014, it has turned 36.5% of its production over to these lines. Increasing numbers of clothing retailers are turning to these kinds of solutions to reduce the amount of harmful plastics that are used in all areas of their businesses. It’s therefore likely that Cortec will see demand for their attractive and sustainable hangers continue to rise.

The world’s first ecologically-sound elastic by CharLe

Premium haberdashery supplier CharLe has gone from strength to strength since it was founded in 2010. The Berlin-based company produces environmentally-friendly elastic made from natural rubber and organic cotton that is both biodegradable and recyclable. The elastic is manufactured in Austria and is used by fashion labels, toy and automotive manufacturers who need high-performance, certified-organic, elastic materials.

Organic cotton from Cotonea

Cotonea is a sustainable cotton fabric produced by the Elmer & Zweifel weaving mill in Bempflingen in southern Germany. They use Fair Trade cotton grown in Uganda and Kyrgyzstan. The yarn is made into fabric in the Czech Republic and finished in Germany and Switzerland.

Sustainable fluffy fabrics from Steiff Schulte of teddy bear fame

Steiff Schulte Webmanufaktur GmbH, based in Duisburg, Germany, has been supplying mohair fabrics to the famous Steiff bear company for over one hundred years. Their faux fur fabrics are also in high demand from fashion labels who use them to produce luxurious winter coats and accessories.

Since their fabrics are used to make children’s toys, safety has always been the top priority in the manufacturing, dyeing and finishing processes. They use a range of natural materials including, certified mohair, alpaca wool fibres, wool, hemp, bamboo and linen. Any acrylic constituents are certified to the Öeko-Tex 100 standard.

Algae-based finishing technologies from Beyond Surface Technologies

Conventional sportswear and outdoor wear garments are usually treated with toxic fluorine-based chemicals to make them waterproof and to wick moisture away from the body. Beyond Surface Technologies, based in Switzerland, have developed a range of non-toxic alternatives which are already being used by some of the world’s biggest clothing brands. Beyond Surface Technologies use genetically engineered oil algal to produce finishing solutions that make synthetic and natural fabrics waterproof, quick drying and moisture absorbent.

Lebenskleidung – supplying a rainbow of sustainable fabrics

Lebenskleidung is a wholesale supplier of sustainable fabric based in Berlin. They supply the fair fashion industry with a wide variety of fabrics, including Tencel, Refibra, organic jersey, fleece, twill and poplin. Lebesnkleidung have recently added luxurious jersey jacquard and piquet fabrics to their product portfolio.

From Turkey to Thailand, companies from all over the world presented their products at the Future Fabrics Expo. It is true to say that there was a particularly high proportion of pioneering companies at the expo from the DACH region, which was no real surprise to me given that sustainability has been driving innovation in these countries for many years now. I can't wait to visit the next expo to find out how these companies are continuing to make fashion that much greener.