By Anne Reagan, Porch.com
At the recent Heimtextil trade show in Frankfurt, Germany, 2,866 textile manufacturers, designers and suppliers met at Messe Frankfurt to showcase the best bed and table linens, wallcoverings, bedding, rugs, hospital linens, and woven products. Walking among the 69,000 trade visitors from around the world, and speaking with business owners, craftspeople and fellow journalists, two interesting trends emerged. First, the vast array of eco-friendly and sustainable vetting organizations that are now available to the trade. Second, the number of high-tech products on the market that are changing the way we think about and work and live with textiles.
Sustainability and Green Textile Manufacturing
When it comes to finding the ideal textiles for a project, there are many factors and considerations that determine the brand or manufacturer you choose. If you have clients that specify sustainable, green or eco-conscious products, you know that it’s not always easy to understand what part of the product is actually “green.” Just like the food industry, there is plenty of green washing when it comes to eco-conscious or sustainable home furnishings, making it even more important to understand how to read the labels and which questions to ask. Manufacturers often use vetting or certification agencies to stay competitive in the marketplace and to help create an apples-to-apples comparison between products. Despite the often added expense of buying green products, companies are interested in operating a sustainable business in order to stand apart from the competition. Below are just a few sustainable vetting agencies to get familiar with:
CO2 Logic consults with manufacturers to help them reduce their carbon footprint. Additionally, they offer donation programs that help offset any carbon that cannot currently be reduced.
Cradle to Cradle helps manufacturers realize the potential for their goods or raw materials to be reused and recycled when the product has reached the end of its use. It aims to ensure that the products being made do not add strain to our society.
Fair Trade USA protects the lives of cotton farmers all over the world by focusing on fixed minimum prices for cotton and helping improve the living and working conditions of the farmers.
Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) helps create responsible forest management, which includes environmental and conservation issues.
GoodWeave aims to end the practice of child slave labor in the rug and weaving industry in India, Nepal and Afghanistan. They rescue children enslaved in this industry and give them opportunities to continue their education. Another organization doing something similar is RugMarkIndia. Look for rugs with these certifications to know that the rug you are purchasing wasn’t made using child labor.
Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certifies organic fibers for the textile industry and focuses on setting environmental and social standards. It prohibits the use of genetically modified organisms and highly dangerous chemicals and the employment of children. It mandates strict wastewater treatment requirements as well.
Oeko-Tex uses an independent vetting process to ensure that a particular textile has met their strict sustainable requirements. Their scoring is based on laboratory tests that ensure the fabric is free from harmful, toxic products (harmful neither for the employees making the product nor for the end user). Their labels have tracking indicators to help the consumer understand the certification levels.
Responsible Down Standard (RDS) certifies both individual farms and industrial farms in the feather down industry and ensures humane conditions for the animals.
Digital Technology in Textiles
In addition to the vast amount of eco-conscious products featured at Heimtextil, there were numerous manufacturers showcasing future-forward technology. Commercial digital printing, for example, occupied a large section to accommodate not only the increase in exhibitors (Heimtextil predicts an annual increase of 25% in digital printer exhibitors), but also the massive machines. Some of these printers could create large-scale repeats in widths of nearly 118 inches, with color replication features. Brands like HP, Epson and Kornit Digital Europe showcased new devices and demonstrated the scalability of printing custom designs in custom quantities. This is exactly the type of technology that makes it easier for designers and artists to get their designs printed and in front of a wider audience at a lower cost point and with quicker turnaround.
Another new tech-centric product was SmartSleeve, a mattress and pillow cover that uses microcapsule technology to create a better sleep. The embedded microcapsules can help ward off mosquitos, for example, using natural eucalyptus. For relaxation, they offer a lavender microcapsule cover; for dust mites, there is a probiotic technology; and for incontinence, they offer a much more comfortable waterproof technology. You can view the entire collection on the SmartSleeve website.
Schlossberg Switzerland featured Celeste, a whimsical LED-infused fabric that really stole the show. Celeste was born of a venture between Schlossberg and the embroidery firm Forster Rohner. They developed a method of embroidering the conductors into the material before the LED lights are attached. The lights, which last for 12 hours before needing to be recharged, can be turned off with a switch. Despite the hardware, the ultra-soft bedding can be laundered in the washing machine. Certainly a fun and innovative design for the residential and hospitality industries.
Going on its 48th year, Heimtextil is produced in conjunction with Messe Frankfurt and hosts over 40 events worldwide every year. It is the biggest international trade fair for home and contract textiles. In 2016, there were 2,867 exhibitors from 69 countries, and 69,000 visitors from 137 countries. Learn more.