En 2023, the textile industry no longer has a choice: it must, since January, display the geographical origin of each of its products, and specify the sites where each stage of their manufacture took place. The labels must also specify the proportion of recycled materials, the presence of plastic microfibers, and that of hazardous materials.
The rest of the year promises to be busy for the sector: manufacturers will soon have to display the eco-score of each product, and will be subject to a bonus-malus system depending on the degree of pollution generated by their activity. How will this eco-score be calculated? This is what textile companies and public authorities are currently debating. Each fashion player tries, logically, to make their voice heard within these working groups, and the negotiations prove to be laborious. Small ethical fashion brands find themselves up against the heavyweights of fast fashion or luxury, and defend often divergent interests.
Main point of controversy: what exactly should be measured? Evaluating the environmental cost of a garment by taking into account all the stages of its production seems logical. But, if it stops there, this approach can give surprising results: a product made in France, made of sustainable materials, can display a less favorable carbon footprint than a part produced at the other end of the world, in fibers synthetics. For what ? In particular, because a good quality garment is generally heavier than a cheap garment, because it is made of stronger fibers. Result: its manufacture and transport require more energy, which weighs on its “eco-classification”.
Make testing mandatory
This is why the calculation methodology must imperatively take into account this essential criterion of the durability, and therefore of the quality, of the clothing. Clothes that can be worn for a long time without deforming, pilling or wearing out, will not need to be quickly replaced by their owners. They can also be recycled or sold second-hand. Today, more than 40% of clothes donated by Westerners end up in wild dumps in Africa because they are of such poor quality that no one will buy them second-hand.
Calculating the durability of a garment requires the use of resistance tests, carried out by specialized laboratories. These tests are expensive, sometimes too much for small companies in the sector. Making them compulsory for the entire sector would make them more democratic, and above all provide consumers with essential information: how long can they wear their clothes?
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