FashionSustainBerlin Alexandra Cousteau

It’s all about fleece

During Berlin Fashion Week in mid-January, Messe Frankfurt launched ‘FashionSustain’, a new conference format on the theme of sustainable textiles. The purpose of the event, which will take place twice a year in future, is to stimulate a critical discourse on the future of the fashion industry.

“I was able to swim before I could walk” was what environmental activist Alexandra Cousteau, granddaughter of the famous marine explorer Jacques-Yves Cousteau, said at the Berlin events venue Kraftwerk, adding that many places in her (underwater) childhood had disappeared since she was a child. On the FashionSustain stage, in front of hundreds of trade visitors in the international textiles and fashion industry, she spoke about a pressing issue which has concerned the sector for some time now: microplastics in the ocean. She told the audience that fashion had a global impact on the environment, so people needed to understand the consequences of their wearing behaviour: “The future is shaped by our actions today”, she said.

Fleece made from organic fibres

The activities she was referring to include the wearing of fleece jackets, among other things. There is information currently that the material content of 100,000 fleece jackets is approximately equivalent to nearly 12,000 plastic bags. The problem: while the popular outdoor fabric is good at keeping the wearer’s body heat in when there are windy and bad weather conditions, the fleece definitely gives more out in the washing machine, where the fabric releases microplastics in the form of the tiniest plastic fibres during every wash cycle. They are so small that no filter can stop them on their way into groundwater and the world’s oceans. “Sustainable fleece is a real challenge for the industry”, said sales representative David Stauß on Vaude the outdoor outfitters’ stand at the Ethical Fashion Show Berlin. This was also taking place in the Kraftwerk venue and it is where fashion labels were showcasing sustainable and fairly produced clothing, jewellery and accessories.

Masterstroke in respect of cooperation: For their Green Shape Core Collection Vaude collaborated with DSM, Lenzing, Primaloft and Q-Milk / Photo: Thomas Niedermüller / Getty Images

Masterstroke in respect of cooperation: For their Green Shape Core Collection Vaude collaborated with DSM, Lenzing, Primaloft and Q-Milk / Photo: Thomas Niedermüller / Getty Images

For this reason, the company from Tettnang on the Bodensee has developed a fleece jacket made from a fibre derived from wood, made by the Austrian fibre manufacturer Lenzing. Even though micro particles are also released from this organic fleece jacket when it is washed, they disintegrate extremely quickly in contrast to plastic – a typical feature of organic products. The Vaude brand’s ecological foresight secured them the German Sustainability Prize in 2015. And they are already aiming for their next target: “We want to become the most sustainable outdoor brand in Europe”, said Stauß.

Another sustainable fashion innovation: Sebastian (l.) and Matthias Thies present their sneakers made from stone and rubber boots made from sweet corn

Another sustainable fashion innovation: Sebastian (left) and Matthias Thies presented sneakers made from stone (left with white sole) and rubber boots made from sweet corn in Berlin

Ronny Eckert

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