Virtual Texworld and Apparel Sourcing shows afforded opportunities for industry insiders to forge connections online and learn about pressing issues during panels such as “Addressing Climate Change From the Start,” (top left), which included—clockwise from top left—Kelly Drennan of Fashion Takes Action, Walter Bridgham of Lenzing Fibers, Diana Rosenberg of Gap Inc., Inc. and Ashley Gill of Textile Exchange.
With its first big show of 2021 occurring virtually Jan. 12–14, Messe Frankfurt Fashion and Apparel Show Director, Jennifer Bacon said, “We were extremely pleased with both the exhibitor and attendee participation. It was very similar to our premier edition this past July. We are excited to continue serving the textile-sourcing community through our virtual platform as we look forward to returning to face-to-face events.”
Without financial and time constraints, exhibitors and attendees from enterprises of varying sizes were able to participate in the show. Not only has this accessibility benefited Messe Frankfurt, it has also benefited exhibitors such as Holli Gibson, a partner in Direct to Source, a manufacturer focused on sustainable practices with offices in Denver, Colo., and production near Guatemala City.
“Time off and time at home has spurred people to start new businesses. We started noticing that in the fall, and we are seeing that carry throughout this show as well. Seeing more startups and small quantities that people are looking for—more so than I would expect to see at the show,” Gibson said. “It’s interesting, but the big guys are here, too.”
Sharing this sentiment, Angela Bakas, who manages business development and sourcing for Los Angeles–headquartered Bernet International Trading, felt that the desire for designers, brands and manufacturers to speak through their work could not be subdued by the ongoing challenges of last year. With global interest from attendees based in India, New Zealand and throughout the United States, Bakas was looking forward to a fresh start after engaging with show visitors who were ready to begin anew.
“The industry is still moving. We’ve spent the last year with a lot of people living with their lives on hold, and I was really excited with the idea that they have persevered throughout the last year,” Bakas said. “People are still creating, designing, making and looking to solve problems in our world.”
As consumers’ purchasing habits have shifted to include greater product research, brands throughout the industry have been engaging in greater self-reflection regarding their sourcing, supply chains and business practices. For Gibson, who founded her company with partner Tulio Hernandez, their 15-year ethical-and-sustainable-apparel journey is arriving at a point where everyone seems to be catching up, as her clients currently comprise 85 to 95 percent sustainable compared with 50 percent when DTS launched.
“Now that the shows are starting to ask those questions, ‘Are you sustainable?’ ‘What do you do for sustainability?’ even brands that haven’t necessarily been building a sustainable brand have realized maybe I could do this and make this part of my DNA even if it’s not the whole ethos for my brand,” Gibson explained.
During a panel on “Addressing Climate Change From the Start,” moderated by Kelly Drennan, founding executive director of Fashion Takes Action, a discussion regarding circularity led Gap Inc. Product Sustainability Manager Diana Rosenberg to suggest government participation in closing the loop would be necessary to reach climate targets.
“To collect textiles at the scale necessary to develop into our supply chain, we can’t do that alone as brands, we can’t necessarily do that as an industry,” Rosenberg said. “We will need policy and municipal participation to make this a scalable effort as well as getting more raw materials into the supply chain.”
As a component of Rosenberg’s suggested government engagement, Walter Bridgham, Lenzing Fibers, Inc.’s senior business development manager, proposed the government work with the apparel industry in terms of duty rates on imports in order to afford greater accessibility to more-responsible sourcing options around the globe.
“There are so many innovations on sustainable fibers and regenerated, recycled polyester. There are opportunities to give incentives via the government to shift what our choices are,” Bridgham said. “The government needs to take a deep dive.”
Additionally, Ashley Gill, director of standards for Textile Exchange, would like to see a shift from the apparel industry sourcing the waste of other industries, such as plastic bottles to create rPET, to focus on textile-to-textile recycling.
“We’re going to need to start looking at the waste stream that is available within our own sector,” Gill explained. “There are opportunities and innovation, but the scale is not where it needs to be.”
While these virtual editions of Texworld and Apparel Sourcing are successful, and the opportunity to produce an event online has afforded growth, show producers are looking forward to returning to the show floor. Plans for a summer 2021 return to on-site events are being mapped out for shows at their New York City home at the Javits Center July 20–22.
Photos courtesy of Messe Frankfurt.