9th Future Fabrics Expo Roundup and Highlights
The 9th Edition of the Future Fabrics Expo returned to the expansive space of Victoria House in Holborn, Central London, on the 29th and 30th of January 2020.
We welcomed nearly 3000 visitors during the two-day Expo, and Press and Industry Preview event. The sheer intent, energy and engagement exceeded our expectations, with a record number of visitors attending from all over the world, representing the scope of the industry: ranging from luxury brands and high street retailers to start-ups, academics and on the final afternoon, students.
Visitors were led on a purposeful journey anchored by an adaptation of artist Sarah Lazarovic’s BUYERARCHY graphic, inspired by Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: operating on a foundation of Enjoying What You Have, Reinventing and Mending, and Engaging in the Second Hand Economy – moving towards establishing fashion systems which are Responsibly Sourced and Produced, and that work to Clean Up Oceans, Restore Soil Health, Increase Biodiversity, and action Climate Positive effects. The Buyerarchy calls for a reframing of our relationship with fashion products, and the unsustainable TAKE >MAKE > WASTE linear business model that feeds our current fashion system. Descending into the Expo space, key headlines and quotes from thought leaders summarise our current critical climate emergency, led our visitors into calls for action and urgent change in our industry’s practices at the outset.
As the largest dedicated showcase of globally sourced, commercially available, sustainably and responsibly produced fabrics and materials – the Expo aims to provide the knowledge and tools for a responsible fashion industry. We source and curate globally produced materials with a low environmental footprint, offering accessible and innovative sustainable solutions, that can be implemented NOW to have a positive impact. The materials and textiles at the Future Fabrics Expo are selected by adherence to at least one of our four key environmental criteria, originally established in consultation with the Centre for Sustainable Fashion at London College of Fashion in 2010, and newly updated in 2020. The curated showcase is contextualised with educational information to enable a holistic understanding of the provenance, processing and impacts of material sources and waste streams, communicating complex sustainability issues, in order to support brands with informed decision-making, and providing the tools for fashion that can be responsibly created.
The key themes of the 9th Expo stressed the critical message that we can all make a contribution to reducing climate impacts through our positive choices and practices:
- The importance of regenerative agricultural systems for fashion’s raw materials: restoring soil fertility and therefore sequestering atmospheric CO2 emissions. Nature-based solutions are integral to this.
- The need to reframe how we see waste, and the urgency to move to circular systems that recapture material integrity and the value locked into our waste streams, in all material categories.
- To move away from our reliance upon fossil fuels, both as a source of energy and as a raw material – currently two thirds of our global fibre demand is created from petrochemicals. Diversifying the fibre basket is a key message and objective of the Future Fabrics Expo.
- The IPCC’s Special Report lays out various pathways to stabilise global warming 1.5 degrees Celsius. These solutions all require unprecedented efforts to cut fossil-fuel use in half in the next ten years and eliminate their use almost entirely in 30 years. For fashion this means: move away from our reliance upon fossil fuels, both as a source of energy and as a raw material for synthetics in fabrics for fashion – currently two thirds of our global fibre demand is created from petrochemicals.
- Change can be supported and driven by technological, ecological, and social advances that we can all leverage, both personally and professionally.
We also provided a platform for over 40 selected exhibitors this year with their own dedicated stands, showcasing a myriad of material categories, visitors had the opportunity to discover:
- Organic cottons, agricultural waste fibres and low impact denims.
- Bast fibres- Ramie, nettle fibre, CELC European linen and hemp.
- Fibres from agricultural waste, such as banana and pineapple fibre.
- Regenerated materials such as: TENCEL™ x REFIBRA.
- Responsible produced animal fibres, and recycled qualities.
- Post consumer fish skins and vegan leather alternatives, such as cactus, including latex and leather.
- Recycled materials in all fibre categories, from agricultural, to animal fibres, and food, synthetic fibre and plastic waste streams
The Innovation Hub supported by Mirova Natural Capital presented a plethora of new approaches to reclaiming waste, capturing carbon, exploring the emerging fields of biosynthetics and biofabricated materials, all spotlighting the innovations that point to a new material landscape; one that prioritises working in harmony with nature and respecting precious planetary resources.
Our popular Seminar Series in partnership with Parley for the Oceans hosted a dozen discussions with 50 speakers to captive audiences of over 400 people. This year we also debuted a new format with a Mini Seminar “Sustainable Sourcing 101” in between the main seminar panels. The mini seminars introduced the basics of sustainable fabrics sourcing, hosted by The Sustainable Angle team, as well as a special Manufacturers edition by Faik Emir Ozturk from Orbit Consulting.
Design Journeys space featured the work of designers whose creative vision exemplifies a future thinking engagement with materials, sourcing and production practices to create positive design narratives and outcomes, with sustainability at the core of their business.
The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs) were featured in a unique digital installation featuring exhibitors and participants at the Future Fabrics Expo, communicating how fashion and its supply chain can have a positive impact on people and planet. Many exhibitors and brands were spotlighted as exemplars here, communicating how they are contributing to the UNSDGs, and which goals specifically they strive to achieve. The UNSDG digital installation was created in collaboration with Holition creative agency, with special thanks to Orbit Consulting for supporting this unique project. Bottletop introduced the UNSDG’s theme with their collectible ocean plastic bracelets #Togetherband, available in each of the seventeen UNSDG colours.
The Sustainable Angle team were humbled by the positive feedback and response to our 9th Future Fabrics Expo, from exhibitors and visitors alike – We extend a huge thank you to our inspiring partners, exhibitors, panelists, volunteers, and of course to all our visitors for taking the time to learn, discover and source materials for fashion that is responsibly and sustainably created which can have a positive impact on people and planet. The tipping point for change has arrived!
Last word goes to our Seminar Series guest speaker, Sandrine Dixson-Declève, Co-President of the Club of Rome:
“I fluctuate between despair and hope – and today I’m in a state of hope!”
Do follow along here on our blog for the next one highlighting key Innovations as well as the Seminar Series highlights coming out over the next few weeks!