Blog: Michelle RussellInnovation key focus for apparel and textile firms

Michelle Russell | 17 May 2016

Innovation was the hot topic last week as a raft of apparel and textile companies revealed new fabrics, fibres and technologies designed to shake-up the industry. These included outdoor firm Patagonia, which is working with biotechnology firm Bolt Threads to develop engineered spider silk yarns,and fibre producer Invista, which has developed two technologies under its Thermolite brand that offer new warming and insulating properties for jeans worn in colder climates.

Automation and robotics were among the key trends at the recent Texprocess Americas exhibition in Atlanta, with industry-changing technologies on show that have the potential to bridge the industry's skills gap, increase productivity in apparel manufacturing, and drive speed to market.

Continuing on the theme of technology, global textile and garment manufacturer Yeh Group revealed it is joining forces with a British university on a project to develop "truly wearable" 3D printed fashion and footwear.

Sustainability was also a key theme last week, as sporting giant Nike announced plans to double its business yet halve its environmental impact by 2020 as part of the group's 'moonshot challenge', which has three main aims: to minimise its environmental footprint, transform its manufacturing, and unleash human potential.

Another company with ambitious sustainability targets, Levi Strauss & Co, has partnered with textile technology start-up Evrnu to create what it says are the world's first jeans made entirely from discarded cotton T-shirts. The Levi's 511 prototype jeans were developed using a patent-pending recycling technology that converts consumer waste into renewable fibre, using 98% less water than virgin cotton products.

And the Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC) group says it plans to expand and deepen its engagement in Asia as it revealed its global achievements in chemical management over the last 12 months.

It also announced a new collaboration with the China National Textile and Apparel Council (CNTAC), which has launched a Chemicals Stewardship Initiative 2020 to improve chemical management across the textile value-chain.

Meanwhile, the changing role of the supply chain manager also came under the spotlight, with new responsibilities beginning before the onset of the supply chain and continuing long after its end.

According to an AT Kearney report, supply chain risk management has declined in priority, with many organisations citing lack of bandwidth and budget as the biggest roadblocks. Yet those that take a more pragmatic approach will capture the most powerful insights, authors suggest. The report looks at 12 trends that are expected to shape the global outlook and operating environment through to 2025.

First-quarterly results also continued to pour in from US apparel brands and retailers last week. In particular, those from US department stores and specialty chains suggest the sector is off to a rocky start to the year as consumers increasingly choose to spend less on clothing and more on health and leisure. Analysts have their own take on why US apparel retailers are fighting an uphill battle.

Struggling US fashion retailer Gap Inc was also downgraded to 'junk' status by Fitch Ratings just a week after warning about slumping sales in its first-quarter and steps to streamline its business.

The bad news appeared to continue into April for US apparel retailers, who battled cool, wet weather and a lacklustre economic backdrop.

In other news, M&S made changes to its management structure in order to drive "speedier decision making"; BHS is said to have received five bids for the bulk of the business; and US retailers set out their case for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal.

We're also pleased to welcome Beth Wright as just-style's new news editor. Already familiar with the site after having written for just-style last year, Beth rejoins as a permanent member of the team. I'm sure Beth will become a familiar face to many of you as she reports on the global textile and apparel industry and its developments.

Until next time...

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