From Leg to Soil—Wolford Goes Cradle2Cradle.
If we could go barefoot & -legged all year long, of course we would! But unfortunately not all of us are blessed with non-stop sunshine. Wearing tights is the go to option for the cold winter months. And even when the sun shines we love our tights, because they make our legs look perfect, tune the shape of our bodies and let us play with crazy colors or sexy patterns. The only downpoint? Because of being incredibly fragile they end up in the bin fast. But now comes a true game changer: Wolford is launching environmental friendly tights that can be thrown onto the biowaste compost after they lived their (hopefully long) life in our wardrobe...
We asked Andreas Röhrich, Director of product development / textile sourcing what’s behind the newest and most eco friendly addition of the luxury hosiery fashion house, the Cradle to Cradle Collection, but also the company's general approach regarding sustainability.
Mr. Röhrich, it says on your website that Wolford "is always opposed to fast fashion in all actions and decisions". Could you explain what is meant by this statement?
We believe in the Slow Fashion movement. The moment you care more about the quality and durability of your products more than profit and you produce in Europe in compliance with social and environmental requirements, you are a slow fashion brand. Quality is our top priority. If the quality is right, a product can last forever. This promotes the Slow Fashion idea. In the spirit of "Buy less choose well", products are bought more consciously. If you pay attention to high quality, you are doing yourself and the environment something good. The products will not be replaced again after one month. This creates a more conscious consumer society.
It is certainly difficult to produce 100% sustainable over the entire textile chain. Is this the case at Wolford? How can you guarantee it and what are your criteria?
Producing 100% sustainably is certainly a challenge for any business, but it is a necessity. There is still a long way to go to change the global economy, but someone once said that every long journey begins with the first step. And that's exactly what we do, we start with the first step and have chosen the Cradle to Cradle approach. Some of our products are quite simple, for example some of our legwear consists of only two components—spandex and polyamide. Now, thanks to the efforts of many individuals in the textile industry, we have the opportunity to create more sustainable products.
Wolford always stood for innovation. Is sustainability just a trend that is being served by one line now, or is it a complete rethinking and gradual changeover? If so, what does your plan look like?
Sustainability is by no means just a trend for us, it should not be just a trend for anyone. We do not follow a trend, we start with one collection because the challenges are still very high, but development is accelerating today, also thanks to the consumers who are more interested in the topic today and who are more and more aware of sustainability. The suppliers we work with belong to the best in their field and also meet high sustainability standards, such as Lenzing AG, from which we source our modal. A fiber that is made of cellulose and produced by Lenzing at the same location as the modal fiber itself, which makes it possible to reduce energy and resources.
Your materials are bluesign® certified. Could you give us a quick explanation of what this means exactly and if it applies to all of your products?
We are the first hosiery manufacturer in the world to be a partner of the bluesign system. Each step and every component used is precisely checked, analyzed and, if necessary, replaced or optimized. Since February 2016, all of our self-knitted and dyed legwear items are "bluesign approved" on cotton and polyamide basis. This means that these products are produced according to the highest standards in the textile industry and are therefore produced sustainably and gently for people and the environment.
We are particularly interested in your stocking collection, which is produced according to the Cradle to Cradle principle and will be launched next year. How long did it take to develop it?
It took almost 4 years to develop the first prototypes. But we did not do it on our own, in-house, we worked hand in hand with a consortium of 14 Vorarlberg companies, as well as the FH Vorarlberg and the University of Innsbruck.
What were the difficulties in the implementation?
In the implementation, we were always faced with new challenges. We had to rethink the entire development process. In particular, the adaptation of the dyeing process was difficult. There was no possibility in our house to dye the fibers accordingly.
Can I really throw my tights onto my biowaste compost now?
The polymer in the pantyhose needs over 60 °C to decompose, a conventional compost reaches a maximum of 40 °C. After wearing, the tights can be returned to our own stores. We then take care of professional composting using certain enzymes and an elevated temperature. Moreover, it would be a shame to simply throw away the tights, as they can be converted into energy or humus with professional compost works and thus be recycled.
What are the criteria for a Cradle to Cradle certificate?
Every single ingredient must be Cradle to Cradle certified. Only components that do not release toxic substances can be considered for C2C.
Which materials are particularly suitable for Cradle to Cradle and why?
Raw materials that are not mixed, can in any case easier returned to the cycle than yarns or garments that combine X different raw materials in itself.
Are you planning to apply Cradle to Cradle on your other products?
Yes, we are planning more Cradle to Cradle products, but we can not give more details at the moment.
What about the packaging? Is it also compostable?
Matching the products, we are currently working on biodegradable packaging that will also be Cradle to Cradle certified and can be returned together with tights to our stores. We will gradually change all packaging, but this process takes time, a lot of time.
Do you think that it is possible to change a whole fast fashion textile industry?
It is possible! Some global companies are working on it right now. The movement has massively increased in recent years, things are changing faster than ever. We are very positive that it will continue in the next few years.
What is your vision for the future of the textile industry?
We believe that the textile industry can and will change, making it a catalyst for other industries.