Swim x Sport x Innovation

Photos by Romeo Lacandola

Interfilière New York brings tech to environmentalism

If anyone had doubts that environmentalism is the most relevant frontier of fashion technology, they had only to attend the seventh annual Interfilière New York. The swimwear, athleisure and lingerie show tackled this and some of the biggest challenges in the industry through discussion and innovation.

The conference, which showcased developing fabric technologies, directed its innovation towards sustainability and emerging technologies. Quick-drying fabrics, isothermal innovations and sustainable materials were all topics of discussion throughout the event.

Eco-friendliness stole the spotlight of two panels during the event. The Innovation Panel was prompted by questions from the audience to discuss the growth of recycled materials as a solution for fabric mills that rely on plastics, as well as the viability of natural fibers, biomimicry, and efforts to change consumer mentality. The panel, which featured representatives from Brooks Running and Lululemon, also discussed the importance of long-lasting and multi-use pieces.

“Be able to address durability, and be very upfront around what your expectations of the product should be, how you need to care for it as the consumer, and then end-of-life options,” suggested Laura Madden, director of apparel and bra development at Brooks Running.

Another panel, comprised of LIM College students, presented research on the six areas where brands can target change in environmental practices: sourcing, transportation, packaging, social responsibility, costing and marketing.

“70% of a garment’s environmental impact is determined between the design and sourcing phases alone,” said presenter Ashley Mosley.

The LIM College panelists moved through details about every phase of design and production, emphasizing the urgent need for change in the industry.

“You have to make sure you’ve established all your measurements, your energy uses, how much CO2 you’re putting out with your shipments, how much you’re emitting per garment — you really have to understand that baseline first. And then you can reduce,” said presenter Austin Sierra.

The constant discussion about environmentalism even affected some of the companies and officials of the conference. Solstiss, a major French lace manufacturer for Givenchy, Alexander McQueen, Dolce & Gabba, Valentino and others, pledged to launch a 100% organic cotton collection.

“It was my first time showing at Interfiliere NY, and I was impressed by the quality and the mix of the exhibitors, the amazing space with magnificent views to the Hudson River,” said François Damide, president of Solstiss. “Thanks to this show, we discovered some new contacts, from startups to established companies, along with great press.”

“As consumer demand continues to reflect growing environmental concerns, we expect the interest and experimentation with natural and plant-based fibers will continue to expand,” said Raphael Camp, CEO of Eurovet Americas.

Innovators of other kinds of fashion technology also attended. Chris Moore, owner of Digital Print Solutions Group and panelist on The Innovation Panel, explained that digital fabric printing allows designers to make samples using standard color codes, and Moore’s model scales the process down dramatically.

“[Digital fabric printing is] still the same chemistry, still the same process, but now, in less than half a day, you can make your samples, have them sewn up, put them on a model and say ‘I love it’ or ‘I hate it,’ sell from it, whatever — you don’t have to wait for the service bureau,” Moore said. “You don’t have to wait for a production mill oversees or even, you know, across the river. It’s still going to take them time to cut screens, strike it off, send it back — is the color correct, is it not? We can do it all immediately.”

Moore said that he designed his printer with both environmentalism and cost-cutting in mind.

“As a designer, do you want to handle 10 yards of fabric for one print, one color? No,” Moore argued. “So you’ll utilize that service bureau. And if they’re running that same configuration you have in your office, then again, you don’t have to send them a package, you just have to email them the file. They’ll run the 10 yards and you’ll have it the next day. Then when you go to production, because everything is based on production dye recipes and production chemistry, if you’re going industrial digital printing, you can bring them into the conversation as well.”

But between odor-control technology, cross-over garments and new style predictions, one thing remained clear: green thinking is king.

“What we’ve found is that innovation in lingerie, swimwear and active-wear, as well as in the fashion industry at large, is becoming synonymous with sustainability,” Camp said. “Apparel brands are considering and taking major steps to decrease their environmental impact, and the collective interest demonstrated by our exhibiting mills, attendees and key industry decision makers in the room shows that our industry could lead the way.”

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