April '19

For the Business of Apparel Decorating

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4 4 P R I N T W E A R A P R I L 2 0 1 9 W ith spring now in full swing and another season on the horizon, shops are starting to look at what they'll offer their clients in the coming months. One category that contin- ues to grow both at a local and global level is eco-conscious apparel. In 2018, Forbes cited a 47 percent increase in sustainable fashion searches for online shop- pers (, signaling that while these trends are growing at the retail level, there's bound to be a ripple effect on the wholesale side. As a decorator, finding a reputable supplier for these prod- ucts and knowing a few key components to share with customers can help a shop move into the eco-conscious realm in a calculated, profitable way. FABRIC CONSTRUCTION Ongoing fabric technologies are among the most significant components of eco-con- scious apparel today. With a concern for traditional resourc- es growing scarce in the coming decades, developers and manufacturers are eye- ing alternative sources and synthetic blends to create yarns. On the experimen- tal side, there are a host of raw materials that innovators are experimenting with. "It is an exciting time for eco-conscious tex- tiles," says Kriya Stevens, econscious. "Ev- erything from Lotus fiber to Stinging Net- tles fiber can be used as the raw materials for yarns." Even certain strains of mushrooms, Stevens adds, are used to make vegan 'leath- er.' Many of these materials are still in the specialty fabrics stage, however, so it may be some time before these constructions reach the mainstream manufacturing sector. When it comes to large-scale trends, parties cite recycled polyester blends as an element that continues to grow in popularity. Ra- chel Newman, Hanes, points to a five-per- cent recycled polyester blend the company has been specializing in for apparel basics. While five percent may seem like a smaller number, Newman points out that when scaled across a major manufacturing opera- tion, that five percent equates to millions of plastic bottles being repurposed for what eventually becomes a T-shirt. "It just brings in a bigger, broader story," Newman adds. Various manufacturers now carry their own version of a recycled polyester blend bring- ing it much more into the mainstream. Volume varies greatly from company to company regarding how much recycled polyester fiber is used since creating the fi- ber is its own complicated manufacturing process, and some smaller clothing compa- nies outsource this leg of the process so they can focus on product development. Outside of polyester, two other promi- nent eco-choices manufacturers point to are 100 percent organic cotton and hemp. Glen Brumer, Royal Apparel, notes the popularity of 100 percent organic cotton in everything from piqué polos to products for the infant market like onesies and blankets. Hemp meanwhile is a growing category, mostly for accessories like hats, pouches, and tote bags. Of all the eco trends, this par- ticular fiber is still primarily dependent on state and national legislation since the crop falls in more legally gray territory. Though the two aren't the same, varying marijuana legislation across the U.S. has a connection to this crop's domestic proliferation and harvesting. FINDING A SUPPLIER When a producer starts looking for an eco- conscious supplier, sources suggest the ap- proach be holistic versus just looking for eco-buzzwords and trending looks or styles. This often requires a little extra effort on the shop's side, but verifying where raw materials come from in addition to fabric construction will help ensure they're dealing with a legitimate source. "(Shops) should be asking where the cotton is coming from and where is that yarn being made," says Chris Fox, Hanes. Some manufacturers now work with domestic cotton harvesters, typically sourced in the Southeast U.S. while others use international sources. This is not neces- Calling Planet Earth A FRESH LOOK AT SELLING AND SOURCING ECO-CONSCIOUS APPAREL M I K E C L A R K Having a story to tell helps producers sell eco-conscious appar- el. (Image courtesy econscious)

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