The Future Fabrics Expo founder tells Graeme Moran it’s now possible to be commercial, fashionable - and sustainable.
You set up Future Fabrics Expo in 2011. Tell us about it.
For my MA dissertation on organic cotton and fashion I interviewed many designers. It transpired there was a need for a place where high-quality and commercially available sustainable fabrics were shown, where sourcing them was easy. Conventional sourcing venues didn’t deliver this. And so the Future Fabrics Expo was born as a project of The Sustainable Angle, which was set up in 2010 to support projects helping to cut the industry’s environmental impact.
What were the most interesting fabrics at this year’s show?
That’s a difficult question as there are so many to choose from, but Greenfil by Sofila, linens with silver and gold recyclable coating (Libeco-Lagae), Paper No 9, alpaca from Incalpaca, and recycled fishing nets by Hyosung. All of these are great innovations, are high-quality fabrics, fashionable and are true alternatives to more polluting conventional fabrics, especially cotton and polyester.
Why are you moving the next Future Fabrics Expo from London to Copenhagen?
This isn’t a permanent move but it’s a great opportunity. The Future Fabrics Fair will be the leading international commercial fair focusing on sustainable fabrics, and the Future Fabrics Expo will be hosted inside the fair, with the same formula as the last two years but inside a commercial fair. This means we get to show our mills within a major sales venue with thousands of visitors, and our mills will be exposed to far more visitors than the last two years in London. The time seems right to be in a commercial setting as the market is progressing fast.
What brands and designers do you admire from a sustainable perspective?
Ekyog, Kami, Lavuk, Organic by John Patrick and People Tree.
What fabric would you like to see designers use less of?
Conventional cotton and polyester above all, since they depend on vital natural but scarce resources. There are alternatives available that are less polluting and not dependent on finite natural resources.
Why do you think sustainable textiles sometimes have a bad reputation?
It’s an outdated image, and one that is encouraged by people not being fully up to date or aware of the latest textiles developments. A few years ago there was less of a choice in textiles with a lower environmental impact and the colour palette was smaller, with less of a variety of fabrics available. Great labels are those that have integrated sustainability into their entire design and production process and see it as an opportunity - it’s the future.
Where are your favourite places to shop and why?
Vintage fairs - these beautiful clothes were made to last. And Green in the City on Rue Malher in Paris - it has the best selection of fashionable sustainable labels.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Think outside the box.