From ancient nomadic wool yurts to contemporary knitted medical devices, textiles have a rich global material culture and history. However, the textile industry today is a major contributor to global pollution with its fossil fuel driven models of “take, make, waste.” Through our research and collaboration with textile experts and organizations, we have developed guides that identify the issues and innovations of current textile industries.
In order to make design decisions that have positive planetary impacts, it’s important to bring focus to where transformation can happen across six major categories of impact. These categories include:
Health: Learn about interventions to counter pollutants through transparency initiatives, naturally occurring properties of organic fibers, and alternatives to toxic additives.
Climate: It’s time to end energy-intensive, fossil-fuel powered processes and embrace diverse natural fibers and local carbon processes.
Circularity: Renewable, cyclic systems are critical to eliminating waste, championing resource reuse, and honoring regenerative natural resources for the new generation of textile production.
Water: Find out how designers and manufacturers can support healthier water systems by avoiding water polluting chemicals used in textiles and utilizing safer treatment alternatives.
Waste: Massive amounts of natural resources are lost each year to the fashion industry’s practices of linear production, low-use rates, and poor waste management using incineration and landfill. Design can disrupt these wasteful practices by sourcing from recycled feedstocks and finding new methods of material reuse.
Social Equity: As an incredibly labor intensive industry, textiles have a historically harmful track record with equity. Essential social progress includes the improvement of working conditions, transparent accountability practices, and beneficial community impact.
"More than half of fast fashion is disposed of within one year of production through incineration, landfills, or displacement to outside communities.” -McKinsey
These guides are intended to be introductory and assist design practices to contribute to the future of healthier textiles. Read through each subject to get a picture of the overall systems where transformation is needed. Overlapping perspectives, themes and approaches are shared between categories. Product considerations and precedents are highlighted to guide design processes.
Linked resources and reports provide a deeper dive into healthier practices for textile design and production.
"It takes only four days for a top textile CEO to earn the equivalent of what a Bangladeshi woman garment worker earns in her whole lifetime."- Oxfam
1 McKinsey, Style that’s sustainable: A new fast-fashion formula (2016)
2 Oxfam International Report (2018)
July 28, 2022
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