Spotlight On: Digital is closing the loop in fashion’s sustainability drive

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The circular fashion economy is sparking into life, and it’s wonderful to see CFS+ driving momentum with its
informative and ambitious programme of speakers this October. Industrial scale recycling, sustainable fabrics, digital product IDs, responsible dyeing – it’s clear the industry is rethinking the meaning and value of apparel, and presenting practical solutions for a greener future.

Perhaps most importantly, brands, manufacturers and consumers are recognising how products must be valued based on their entire lifecycle, from the materials used, to their full recyclability. As the CFS+ agenda reflects, a big focus will be adopting the latest technology to limit waste, and smoothly extend the life of clothing and footwear for the good of the planet.

Supply chain visibility has landed

At Avery Dennison, fashion circularity excites us greatly, because we’re confident our innovations can play a pivotal part in completing the loop. Our technologies offer the digital triggers, data management and applications to enable a level of supply chain visibility never seen before. Tracing raw materials and inventory allows businesses to create more efficient production decisions and track any unavoidable waste so that it can be embedded back in the system – fostering a truly circular economy.

Investment in textile recycling plants is happening, but we need integrated data to support the journey to circularity. Today, sorters have to manually separate materials into hundreds of categories or use infrared technologies to make assumptions on garments compositions. Putting a digital trigger such as an RFID label or QR code on a garment to hold standardised data, allows reverse logistic partners to automate the sorting
process.

Telling the garment’s story to consumers

Another big challenge we’re helping the industry overcome is inspiring consumers to play their part in prolonging a garment’s lifecycle. With innovations such as care labels with QR codes for digital identification, it’s possible to increase the percentage of items that are actually converted back into a new garment, which today is less than 1%.

As Sarah Swenson, Global Senior Sustainability Manager, Avery Dennison puts it: “By adopting a digital trigger on the garment linked to its digital identity, you can guide each of the relevant stakeholders in the garment’s life towards environmental decision-making, increasing the likelihood of the garment having a second life.”

Avery Denison recently launched a pilot project with LA-based recycler Ambercycle, which creates virgin quality yarn from old polyester clothes. The partnership is the first in a series of innovation-based collaborations, and involves Avery Dennison’s Digital Care Labels being attached to Ambercycle’s garments – in this case, a range of recycled T-shirts. Each label has a QR code that links to an app offering a digital ‘post purchase experience’ run by Avery Dennison’s atma.io connected product cloud. This Digital Care Label details how that specific garment was produced and how it should be looked after, and recycled. The project’s ambition is that 100% of the clothes made get recycled into new garments at the end of their life.

Designing without creating waste

Meanwhile, fashion designers are addressing waste in the design process, particularly in the area of oversampling, which has been a serious problem in the industry. Designers can undergo excessive rounds of physical sampling, resulting in textile waste, unnecessary carbon emissions and lost time. For this reason, many are seeking digital solutions as an alternative.

In July this year, Avery Dennison and pioneering 3D fashion solution Browzwear joined forces to address the need for virtual design solutions at the labelling stage. The collaboration allows designers to choose from a library of Avery Dennison’s materials and fabrics to provide accurate visuals of its label solutions, believed to be an industry first. Designers can develop, preview and test label prototypes on garments through dynamic visualisations, produced in the Browzwear platform – a far greener way to manage the process.

The partnership highlights a shared vision of fashion driven by demand, not surplus, that the world’s most innovative brands are looking to unlock.

Collaborate now for future wins

As our work and the CFS+ agenda confirms, collaborations across the industry are fostering change. Designers and brands need to team with manufacturers, textile suppliers, recyclers and tech specialists to keep the journey towards fashion circularity on track. “Our hope is that, as supply chain partners build new commercialised systems, the circular recycling process will become competitive with the linear consumption system, especially as risks to raw materials occur ever more frequently in supply chains these days,” notes Sarah Swenson.

With compliance and ESG pressures ramping up, we need serious levels of transparency and practical processes in place to truly deliver on our climate action pledges. If brands can access data and have an oversight into what happens post-sale, the ‘golden thread’ of apparel product information is never broken, and amazing things can be achieved.

 

THIS ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN BY AVERY DENNISON – PRINCIPAL SPONSOR OF COPENHAGEN FASHION SUMMIT

1 https://www.globalfashionagenda.com/cfs/programme/

2 https://rbis.averydennison.com/en/home/digital-care-label.html

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