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The fashion industry has always been strongly influenced by consumer habits and attitudes. And the most recent demand? Sustainability.

65% of us believe the UK government should be prioritisingsustainability, and reducing the impact that the fashion industry has on the environment. Given that Made Smarter focuses on the North, which has such a stronghold in this market, we think it’s never been more important to discuss the issues enveloping the sector. And the answer could lie in digital technologies.

Here, we highlight the environmental and social impact of textile manufacturing. We also go on to explore the role that digital transformation plays in tackling it – as well as its beneficial impact on the bottom line and other areas of business.

Made Smarter Textile Manufacturing Guide
How digital transformation is securing a sustainable future
  • The environmental impact of waste

    The fashion industry contributes 10% of all global carbon emissions. Additionally, 300,000 tonnes of clothing are thrown away each year – with 20% going to landfill, and 80% being burnt. Pre-2020, the amount of clothing sent to landfill in the UK equated to a value of around £40 million. What’s more, textile printing has traditionally been incredibly harmful to the environment due to the use of chemicals and dyes, along with the amount of waste generated and garments thrown away during the process. The word ‘traditionally’ is key here. This doesn’t have to be the case. Businesses could establish more environmentally friendly practices – and, indeed, many organisations already are.

  • Unsold waste: Possible legislative solutions

    Industry giants are already working to combat the negativity around fast fashion and the effect on the supply chain through stricter manufacturing processes, less waste and better transparency. Some are also reviewing the environmental footprint of their clothing production. An idea on a broader scale is for the UK to follow in France’s footsteps and ban the disposal of any unsold stock. This anti-waste law requires specific businesses to reuse, redistribute and recycle instead. For any unavoidable waste, businesses must honour the ‘polluters pay’ part of the bill and fund the destruction of waste produced. By being discouraged from overproduction which results in deadstock, manufacturers reduce their orders from suppliers and cut waste further along the chain.

  • The role of digital technologies

    Technology has started to alleviate the problem. Digital textile printing, for example, produces less
    waste, requires little set-up and equipment, and uses fewer resources like water. In fact, FESPA revealed that this technique saved 40 billion litres of water on a global scale in 2018. Besides protecting against future droughts for the surrounding community, reducing water use also helps reduce the pollution of our waterways. Wastewater from the fashion industry has been known to contain toxic chemicals and microplastics.

  • Real-world use cases

    Stockport-based clothing manufacturer Creative Apparel drew on Made Smarter’s support to invest in full factory digitalisation. This involved a central IT system to drive and measure smart machinery, linking production all the way to their customers and supply chain.

    Stead McAlpin, a maker of luxury furnishing fabrics, invested in digital printing capabilities to complement their existing conventional printing capacity. Digitising their designs would also achieve more responsive turnarounds, and improve quality and service.

    Private White V.C.’s speciality is luxury handmade menswear. They already have a strong focus on sustainability (90% of their materials are sourced from within 60km of their Salford factory), and their suppliers share their commitment. Their synthetic fibres are eco-friendly and 100% sustainable.

    British lifestyle brand Derek Rose specialises in clothing for people’s free time. The Rose family first started out in clothing in the 1920s and they recently turned to Made Smarter to help modernise their silk garment production.

  • Boosting sustainability with our support

    These makers are working hard to reduce the global environmental impact of textile manufacturing whilst accelerating their own growth. Keen to play your part and future-proof your business? Digital tools and skills really are key in transforming textile organisations. And if you need any support with this, you don’t have to look any further than Made Smarter. We have a team of dedicated advisers who can guide you and help implement technologies seamlessly within your business. You can get our assistance on the likes of funding, digital transformation workshops, leadership training, internships and bespoke advice.