Fashion 4.0, No. 5: Supply Chain Circularity & Shocking Pink Printers

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"Circular" is a word on everyone's lips these days, and with good reason. Why add new things into the fashion supply chain when there's already so much going to waste or sitting in a landfill? Our last blog recapped the XPrize "Future of Waste" challenge, which will seek ways to harvest usable materials from landfills. We're always on the lookout for innovators in the raw materials space, so the Sourcing Journal report on Swedish technology recycling blended fabrics into new fibers caught our eye this month.

We know it's not sustainable to only use new fibers in our supply chain, but it's also not easy to find recycled yarns, because the process to break down finished textiles and remake them into yarn again is both difficult and expensive. While textile companies like Unifi have found ways to salvage manmade materials such as plastic bottles and nylon carpets from landfills, it's been much harder to do the same with used clothing, in large part because much of it is made from blended fabrics.

The Swedish wood pulp manufacturer Södra has found a way to separate cotton and polyester, then take the pure cotton fibers and combine them with its wood-derived textile pulp to make new textiles. Its goal is to also find uses for the separated polyester. 

“Only a negligible proportion of the global production of clothing and textiles is recycled today,” Lars Idermark, president and CEO of Södra, said. “Virtually everything is sent to landfill or incineration. But…innovation and a willingness to help mitigate climate change can now influence the game at a global level.”

While its first go at the project used 20 tons of white end-of-life sheets, towels, tablecloths and bathrobes from hospitals and hotels, Södra also hopes to find a way to remove color from used fabrics and to accommodate viscose and Lycocell, both commonly used for clothing, and so that more textiles can be recycled. In effect, it's a call-out to sustainability-minded apparel companies to partner with them in delivering textiles to the program.  

In other exciting news, direct-to-garment (DTG) printing is about to get a whole lot brighter with the unveiling of Epson's fluorescent-dye digital printer, the SureColor F9470H, available in January 2020. It's Long Beach, Calif.-based Epson America's first dye-sublimation textile printing solution with fluorescent ink – pink and yellow, to be exact. Epson said the new 64-inch printers are suitable for roll-to-roll textiles, home décor, promotional product and soft signage markets and offer production-level print speeds. The printer has an MSRP of $31,995 and is currently available for pre-order. 

"We predict the digital textile market will continue to expand for years to come,” Tim Check, senior product manager for professional imaging at Epson America, said. If that's true, then color us happy. 

At Variant, we believe that technology can help us find a way forward in creating mindful fashion, with less waste and more customization. We can't wait to share what we're up to, and we hope that you'll join us on the Fashion 4.0 journey.   

With Gratitude,

The Variant Team

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