I have an old half-zip turtleneck. I like the fit, the cut and the feel of it – even after 10 years. Yes, it’s a high-quality brand. I keep it because it’s my go-to shirt for outdoor chores at the lake. Bits of imbedded pine sap and random dirt stains are evidence of its years of experience, but it shows only a little wear, so I keep it. I have many more clothes in my closet that I wear a couple of times a year, or even less often. I keep them because “there’s nothing wrong with them.” But the better question to ask is, “Why did I buy them in the first place?”
I describe my relationship with my turtleneck because I think it is symbolic of a new approach to consumer products, and I think it’s useful to ask, “What if we only bought and used textile products, including clothing, that could work that hard?” The move toward more durable and functional textile products is just part of a larger effort to promote more sustainable behavior in consumers. The products have to meet the needs of the customer, and the value has to be evident and convincing, of course. But still … we like to buy things, don’t we.
I’m riffing a little bit here, but I think you see where I’m going. These days most new developments in our industry at least consider the sustainability issues, and many are highly motivated to make circularity a key selling point, and that was certainly true this year among the presenters at IFAI Expo and the Advanced Textiles Conference.
It is always uplifting for me to spend some time around scientists and entrepreneurs who are actively creating new worlds in this industry of ours. These folks know what they are talking about. I just try to keep up enough to write about it. So many times I’ve told friends and family about the amazing things I’ve learned at Expo. “The technology is there!” I explain, followed by the it-will-be-a-few-years caveat, which I understand to be the reality of a credible launch of anything new, much less turning point.
The time factor is where much discussion has lingered in recent events I’ve covered. The Smart Fabrics Summit at NC State last spring, and this month at Expo in Charlotte, N.C., from sessions to casual conversations, the challenges of scaling up manufacturing to achieve commercial viability remains a point of discussion.
That, and how to do it in the most sustainable way possible.
But these important issues are being addressed, and solutions are being found. Meanwhile, breakthroughs continue to amaze, and the ever-growing commitment to sustainability is gratifying. These two are not mutually exclusive, by the way. Starting with this issue of Textile Technology Source and over the next few weeks, I’ll be reporting on the many new products, prototypes, processes and ideas that I believe are important for me to cover and worth your while to read.
But you don’t have to take my word for it. If you didn’t make it this year, you really should go to Expo and see it all for yourself next November 1–3 in Orlando. See you there!