Two industries meet: A Fashion Talk about sustainability

With an expanding industry and a big impact on the world's resources, the fashion industry is in desperate need for more sustainable materials. Can the forests resources be a key to the solution?

On February 5th the Swedish Forest Industries Federation and the Swedish fashion council arranged a Fashion Talk in conjunction with Fashion Week Stockholm. The topic of the discussion was collaboration between the fashion and the forest industry.

Two industries in one panel

Johanna Nilsson, blogger and co-founder of Klimatklubben was moderating the talk with a panel consisting of Elin Larsson, Elco, earlier sustainability manager at Filippa K, Fredrika Klarén, sustainability manager at Kappahl, Johan Graffner, CEO and founder, Dedicated, Pauline Ström Gunnér, sustainable affairs, Swedish Fashion Council, Ulrika Lilja, communication director, Stora Enso och Sigrid Barnekow, consultant, sustainable fashion.

Today 88 % of the production of clothes consist in fossil raw materials or cotton which have much more negative environmental effects than wood-based materials. Johanna Nilsson presented the topic and stated that the increasing consumption of new clothes have made the fashion industry one of the largest players within dealing with the world's resources. 

Fabric from wood: viscose, modal and lyocell

Materials like viscose, modal and lyocell are all made out of wood and have a far better recyclability than polyester which is made out of oil. So why haven't these materials been used in a greater extent? What challenges and opportunities do we face with these materials?

Ulrika Lilja, started by presenting the advantages for the environment only by growing trees.

- Wood is amazing as a raw material, for every tree we harvest we plant two or three new ones, when trees are growing they absorb carbon dioxide, so they fight climate changing also by growing.

Elin Larsson argued that there are some problems with making fabric out of wood today. For example in the viscose-making process, some of the producers abroad use heavy chemicals. This makes the final product not so environmental friendly after all.

Pauline Ström Gunnér interjects that the main problem of the fashion industry today is that consumers have lost their respect for garments.

- We need to talk more about the value of the product, about materials and where it comes from.

Ulrika Lilja filled in with that consumers don't know what they are wearing and where it comes from, so the issue is also the lack of knowledge of the product and materials.

The issue of secondhand-clothing was mentioned as a solution but accordingly to the Environmental Protection Agencys (Naturskyddsföreningen) report, an average consumer buys 3,8 kg clothes every year but only leave 0.8 kg for recycling. This is something Johan Graffner have noticed.

- Second hand isn't really working, we need to make quality products that lasts. Lyocell can be a big part of the solution, and that its exploding on the market right now.

Ulrika thinks that sustainable forestry is the key to the solution on the issue of a more environmental friendly fashion industry.

- We believe that in the future we don't want to ask if its degradable but renewable. Looking at the Swedish forest industry that also can solve the viscose-making problem.

Pauline Ström Gunnér wrapped the discussion up with a straight answer.

- We need more cooperation between forest and fashion industry and we need more investment to make this happen.