Updated: Nov 22, 2021
First introduced as a concept in 2013, traceability has evolved rapidly since then, demanding a focus on transparency and social accountability. Since 2018, FIBRETRACE® has been providing brands with technology capable of coding (and labeling) a fabric at every stage of production, enabling a completely transparent supply chain.
The Outdatedness of “Sustainability”
The concept of sustainability has long ceased to evoke its original purpose. Instead, the word became all-encompassing; a generalized term similar to protecting our planet or going green. On the surface, we know what this means, but the majority fail to understand the serious significance it carries at its core.
Not long after sustainability evolved from a hashtag and a new idea that was debated among a few people dedicated to a trending movement, the greenwash emerged. Brands embraced a semi-eco-conscious change and suddenly thought they had earned the right to market themselves as “sustainable.” By rarely questioning the authenticity of a brand, consumers actually bought into a hype.
But once again things started to change. After the pandemic exposed the shocking realities plaguing the textile industry, coupled with environmental issues that are becoming increasingly difficult to ignore, consumers have realized that there are levels of sustainability previously unexplained to them. Words like upcycling, regeneration, circularity, and transparency suddenly started popping up. As consumers put these together, they saw a much more complete picture of what it truly means to be sustainable.
Now, as we enter a new decade, vague attempts to imitate eco-consciousness are no longer acceptable. Consumers want more transparency and care to know if their investment in above-average priced, supposedly sustainable parts is truly sustainable.
What Exactly Is Traceability?
The pandemic has completely changed not only how we shop, but also why we shop. With the economy and our jobs suddenly in jeopardy, our priorities have changed. Instead, we focused on shopping carefully, rather than blindly hoarding more. A recent study even revealed that the fast fashion market has dropped from $35.8 billion to $31.4 billion from 2019 to 2020. As customers question their products – who, what, where and how did their textiles come about? - fast fashion will lose its appeal.
The concept of traceability first came to the fore after the 2013 Rana Plaza Collapse, which occurred due to a structural failure in the building. With 1,134 dead and 2,500 injured, people around the world demanded a focus on social responsibility and transparency of supply chains. And so, traceability over time emerged.
The textile industry, known for its ability to monitor the entire life cycle of a product—from the raw material stage to the point of purchase and even disposal, if any—continues to suffer adverse effects.
While in the game, both brands and consumers can hold themselves accountable for what they produce and/or buy. Currently Head of Research and Development at FIBRETRACE®, Stenning is a scientist who has developed anti-counterfeiting technology previously used in paper money. However, when Statham contacted him, he shifted his focus to the textile industry after being hired by the International Cotton Association to combine his technology with fibers to withstand all the complex processes in garment making.
How is it working?
Stenning's technology is similar to the concept he used to mark counterfeit money. FIBRETRACE® infuses bioluminescent pigments (made of ceramic) into the fibers. Since ceramic is durable and can only melt at 1700 degrees Celsius, the pigment can last through the entire production process, including recycling.
According to Stenning, the pigments are safe and sustainable, with no hidden harm to the planet or humans. They are harvested in an evaporation process similar to salt extraction and are classified as edible products, making them completely safe against one's skin. Also, there is no mining or earth digging required. Extraction is fairly simple and doesn't require much: "A cotton bale only needs to contain 0.01-0.05% of the pigment for fiber trace technology to work."
Using blockchain technology, each pigment can be linked to a specific company or lot, making it easy to track where your yarn comes from, where it's produced, and all the complex steps in between.
Every Fiber Tells a Story.. What does yours tell?