Let me take you on the journey of textiles

Introduction

Our environment is in great danger and it is getting worse every day. We can not ignore our environmental problems anymore. We have to deal with the problems and have to solve it. Sometimes even small acts and ideas matter and can help.

Why this project?

My project topic is a topic, which barely anybody is speaking about. I wanted to find out how important it is for our environment to have a sustainable clothing production. We buy so many clothes without questioning where they are coming from and how they are made. That is the reason why I have chosen this topic.

The start of the project

Firstly, I had a team partner who helped me to find an important and interesting topic. We did not know which topic we would like to focus. So we did a brainstorm. After some research we finally found our topic. We wanted to focus our attention on how sustainable the production and transport of cheap clothes is. We did a short video pitch, which shortly informs you about our topic and what our main idea was.

Unfortunately, my team partner has left the school a little bit later, so I had to continue this project on my own.

Collaboration with a clothing store in Switzerland

I thought it would be interesting to collaborate with a clothing store in Switzerland to find out if they are informed about the production and transport of the clothes they sell or if they do not care about it. I tried to get in contact with more than ten clothing stores but unfortunately it was not possible to collaborate with any of them. Either they did not even respond or I got a rejection.

Luckily, there was a store called “feel better than good”, which was very pleased and happy about the request. I had the pleasure to do an interview with Miss Welti, the owner of the store. So I got the interview I wanted and which I needed for my project. I recorded the whole interview to catch up all information. I got a lot of informations from the interview and Miss Welti was very kind. She was very communicative and had a lot to tell.

The interview

What is your opinion about cheap clothes?

Since the beginning it was very important for me to produce sustainable clothing. My label was founded 25 years ago and my production has been sustainable for 15 years. Sustainable production means that I am only using material, which remains beautiful and does not fall apart. This leads to the fact that you can wear your clothes longer and it gives them the potential to be your favorite pieces.
The production of cheap clothes is not well-thought-out. Tons of collections and items are produced and brought on the market, but without thinking about if the clothes will be sold or if a lot of them will only be thrown in the garbage. This problem is especially present with big brands like H&M and ZARA and I am sure we could avoid it.
I understand that people, who do not have a lot of money, are more likely to buy the products which are as cheap as possible (fast fashion), but otherwise you could save your money and buy something, which is a little bit more expensive, but you can keep it longer. I also did that when I was younger. I did not buy quickly and cheaply, but slowly and expensively. I knew it was not cheap, but otherwise I had something I really liked and I was happy about it.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of sustainable clothes in your opinion?

The products I sell are sustainable and you can wear it for a long time. That is the reason why they could be your favorite pieces of clothing and otherwise I have a constant overview of it. At the end of the day it is not the quantity I am happy about, it is the quality.
My clothes are also suitable for travelling and are easy to wash. It is very easy to care for and it is practical. This also helps to save the entire supply chain (material, production, transport).

What are the advantages and disadvantages of cheap clothes in your opinion?

With cheaper clothing, resources are getting drastically reduced. Many people think that a cotton t-shirt is ecologically justifiable (vertretbar), but that is not true. It is a disaster what it takes to produce one of these shirts.
For a cashmere sweater from H&M the animals in these areas, in which the cashmere-breedings (Kaschmir-Zuchten) are located, are very stressed and put under pressure. This is because of the increased demand for cheap cashmere sweaters. It leads to the creation of several cashmere-breedings in order to accommodate the demand (der Nachfrage nachkommen). This has the consequence that it leads to an overpopulation of cashmere-breedings. The animals in these breedings eat everything in these areas. That leads to food shortages (Nahrungsknappheit) and this causes a chain reaction, which leads to worse quality of the cashmere. Basically everything is deteriorating.
In my opinion we have to start conserving our recources because we only poinson our world. The workers behind it are also employed on very bad terms and I think that we as consumers can contribute to this (dazu beitragen).

What is the meaning of your brand?

It means that you feel better than just good, especially in the knowledge that this clothes has been produced sustainably. The clothes will not only make me happy today, also tomorrow. My clothes fit all individual characters. It does not matter what size or preference are given, every woman finds what suits her in my store.
I am very often in my store and I really like to advise my customers. We laugh a lot together and exchange much information. I really enjoy doing it.

When did you decide to create your own clothing store?

At the age of 36 I was firstly interested in loungewear and wanted something nice for being at home. Then I searched for the perfect piece in every store I knew, but I have not found anything suitable. That was how I realised, that there is a gap in the market (Marktlücke). Then I started to do some research and went to international fairs (Messen) to get inspired and see what other vendors are selling. That is how everything started.
About ten years later I noticed, that customers also liked to put on my clothes for work, because it is very comfortable to wear. That was when I realised, that feel-good fashion was highly demanded.

What do you think is the difference between your store to other clothing stores? / What is your opinion in general about the clothing stores in Switzerland?

I noticed that the small labels and boutiques are very much appreciated by the customers. After every personal consultation (persönliche Beratung) I feel great gratitude and appreciation. In my store I am not only selling a sustainable product. They also get a service from me, namely a fashion advise. This is worth much more than when they go to big stores like H&M and ZARA. There you have to look by yourself and see what suits you. There is no service.

Where do you produce the clothes from your store?

I produce in Switzerland, Germany and Italy and also the material I use comes from these three countries.

Do you know how the clothes from your store are produced?

Yes, I know all managers of the companies, which work for me, respectively are responsible for the production of my clothes. I visit them regularly and I know exactly how they work. We work very well together. I get informed about every small detail, whether if there is a technical problem or something organizational. Either they call me or we look at it together when I visit them. That is how I have the control over what the process of production looks like and I can see that the workers there are enjoying good orders and are well paid for their work.
However, if these consumers would rethink precisely, the market could change. That is how the consumers could tell the producers, that they are not interested in buying the goods they offer. When the goods are no longer selling, the labels would quickly notice, what makes them rethink. Therefore I think that the consumer is an important part of this chain.
For example, if I produce in Germany or Italy I only get one delivery per season, where my entire order is included. This means that the material was delivered to the production and afterwards the clothes to my store in Switzerland. Because of the short transports, I can easily stay behind it and support it.
These are all small but very important things, where we could make changes.

Do you know which means of transport are used to ship the produced clothes or the material to Switzerland?

Yes, I work with the transport company “Fiege” or otherwise with “DHL”. Fiege mostly delivers on road. But by the fact that these are short transport routes, I can support it. The DHL otherwise delivers by plane, but then the delivery arrives here faster. Most transports for example the supply of materials for the production is carried out mainly by lorries.

What would you recommend the clothing stores, which do not sell sustainable clothes, to change because of the environment?

The most important point is of course the production. They must start producing sustainably. The amount of clothing they produce is too large and it passes the consumers. It would protect the environment if they would reduce the production that the unsold part of the clothes is kept as small as possible.
Some stores have started with the fact that you can bring already purchased clothes into the clothing stores so that they can get sold again embellished (verschönert). This would not appeal to me (mich ansprechen) personally, but it would still be a good idea. As a young woman I liked to buy secondhand but today I do not want to wear that anymore.
I think they would have to produce less and raise the selling price a little bit. The consumers also need to understand this. Today, there is nothing for free anymore. If we do not want to have to worry about our environment, we must stop to consume ourselves to death. We have to buy only the products we really need. The price would be higher but the quality of the clothing is better and it lasts longer.

The research

The most important countries of origin for imports of clothes to Switzerland in the year 2019

In the year 2019 Switzerland imported clothes with a value of 5,89 billion Swiss francs. The following statistic shows, that the most important country of origin for importing clothes is China. Switzerland imported clothes from China with a value of more than 1,9 billion Swiss francs. This was 0,9 % more than the year before.
(in billion CHF)

Statistic of the most important countries of origin for imports of clothes to Switzerland in the year 2019
[1] Statistic 1
The import of textiles, clothes and shoes to Switzerland in the years 2000 to 2019
(Date of publication: January 2020)

The following statistic shows the value of the import of textiles and clothes to Switzerland in the years 2000 to 2019. The value of the import of textiles and clothes were in the year 2019 11,98 billion Swiss francs.
(in billion CHF)

Statistic of the import of textiles, clothes and shoes to Switzerland in the years 2000 to 2019
[2] Statistic 2
How much CO2 is caused by the production of one t-shirt?

The fashion industry is one of the largest CO2 causer in the world. Some calculations show that the industry causes between 1,2 and 2 billion tons of CO2 – that is more than the international aviation and shipping combined.

CO2 T-Shirt
[3] CO2 T-Shirt
Checklist for your purchase

There is a checklist with questions, which helps you to decide, whether you should buy certain clothes or not:

  • Do I really need it?
  • Will I wear it a lot?
  • Is the quality good enough?
  • Does it have to be new from a shop or can I borrow it from someone or somewhere?

The Survey

I thought it would be interesting to do a survey, to see what people in my surroundings are thinking about the clothing production. Firstly, I did a brainstorm to find the questions I thought would be interesting. Then I created my survey, posted it on social media and the horse website and sent it to the whole school to get as much participants as possible. Some questions were answered by more participants and some by less. The answers in the statistics are in percentage (%). Here are some results I got:

Do you think it is important to know how the clothes you wear are produced?

This was one of the most important questions of the survey in my opinion and I was really surprised by the results. Nearly 75 % of the participants find it important to know how the clothes are produced. This was a lot more than I thought.

Statistic of the survey question: Do you think it is important to know how the clothes you wear are produced?

Would you spend more money on clothes if you knew that the money will be donated to the workers, so they will get a fair salary?

This was more a personal question. I wanted to see if the customers would pay more for good quality. The statistic shows, that the majority would pay more money for the workers and good quality.

Statistic of the survey question: Would you spend more money on clothes if you knew that the money will be donated to the workers, so they will get a fair salary?

Which way of transport do you think is the most eco-friendly?

Most of the participants think that the train is the most eco-friendly way of transport. The type of train is an important factor. It depends which type of fuel for trains is used: diesel or electric. There is also a third option: hybrid trains. To travel with hybrid trains is becoming more and more prevalent around the world. On the fourth place is the plane. It means that the participants think that the plane is the least eco-friendly way of transport.

Statistic of the survey question: Which way of transport do you think is the most eco-friendly?

Do you think child labor is still used in countries abroad?

Nearly 90 % of the participants think that child labor is still used. I personally think that too and that makes me sad. But no one is doing anything to change that. In my opinion children belong to school and should get an education. They should not have to work in their young ages.

Statistic of the survey question: Do you think child labor is still used in countries abroad?

Which criteria is for you the most important when buying clothes?

Half of the participants said, that the looks is the most important criteria when they buy clothes. They care at least about the recommendations. I guess that is because everyone prefers his/her own style and opinion. Sadly, the sustainability is only on the fourth place. If we would focus more on the problems, which are caused by the non-sustainable clothes, it would be more important to people I think.

Statistic of the survey question: Which criteria is for you the most important when buying clothes?

Collaboration with countries abroad

To get more information about the topic and to compare the results I got from Switzerland, we did a collaboration with countries abroad. These countries were India and the Basque country. As soon as everyone knew their topic, we were assigned to specific groups from the countries abroad. These groups were formed according to the topics. So I did a collaboration with one group from India and two groups from the Basque country.

Collaboration with the Basque country

Unfortunately, the collaboration with the teams from the Basque country did not work very well. The communication rarely worked. In the end the teams from the Basque country finished their project on their own. They also finished schools a few weeks before our summer holidays. So, we could not do a good collaboration with any of the two teams anymore. From one Basque team I got a text with information about my topic but sadly, I could not use their text because they did not have the sources from where they got the information anymore.

Collaboration with India

The collaboration with India otherwise worked really well. Firstly, we also had small problems with the communication. But after some time, we did well in my opinion. I got great information about the topic related to India. Here you can read the Indian part:

Textile industry

Textiles in different colours
[4] Textiles 1
The textile industry is primarily concerned with the design, production and distribution of yarn, cloth and clothing. The raw material may be natural or synthetic using products of the chemical industry.

Introduction – Indian textile industry

Fabric worker
[5] Textiles 2
The Indian textile industry is one of the largest in the world with a large unmatched raw material base and manufacturing strength across the value chain. The industry includes extreme variety of both hand-spun and hand woven textile sectores and the capital-intensive sophisticated mills sector. The decentralized power looms / hosiery and knitting sector forms the largest component in the textiles sector. The formulation of policy, planningd, development export promotion and regulation of the textile industry in India is administered under ministry of textiles, government of India.

Yarn in different colours
[6] Textiles 3
The Indian textile industry is considered among one of the leading textile industries in the world. It is divided into three segments, namely cotton, synthetic and other textiles such as jute, wool and silk. Apart from providing the basic necessities in the life of Indian people, it plays a significant role in the countrys economic growth.

Either directly or indirectly, it has been estimated that one of every six households in the country depends on the Indian textile industry for its livelihood. The strong roots of production of cotton yarns and ample skilled and unskilled workers and good export potential are the major characteristics of the Indian textile industry. This is a traditional, rich and well-established industry, enjoying considerable demand in the domestic as well as global markets.

Fabric workers
[7] Textiles 4
The textiles industry in India traditionally, after agriculture, is the only industry that has generated huge employment for both skilled and unskilled labor. The textile industry continues to be the second largest employment generating sector in India. It offers direct employment to over 35 million people in the country. According to the ministry of textiles, the share of textiles in total exports during April – July 2010 were 11.04 %. During 2009-2010, the Indian textile industry was pegged at USD 55 billion, 64 % of which services domestic demand. In 2010, there were 2500 textile weaving factories and 4135 textile finishing factories in all of India.

Textiles in different colours
[8] Textiles 5
According to AT Kearneys “Retail Apparel Index”, India was ranked as the fourth most promising market for apparel retailers in 2009.

India is on the first place in global jute production and shares 63 % of the global textile and garment market. Also is India on the second place in global textile manufacturing and in silk and cotton production. 100 % FDI is allowed via automatic route in textile sector. Rieter, Trutzschler, Saurer, Soktas, Zambiati, Bilsar, Monti, CMT, E-land, Nisshinbo, Marks & Spencer, Zara, Promod, Bennetton and Levi’s are some of the foreign textile companies invested or working in India.

Sewing machine
[9] Textiles 6
The future of the Indian textile industry looks promising, buoyed by strong domestic consumption as well as export demand. With consumerism and disposable income on the rise, the retail sector has experienced a rapid growth in the past decade with the entry of several international players. High economic growth has resulted in higher disposable income. This had led to a rise in demand for products creating a huge domestic market.

Yarn in different colours
[10] Textiles 7

Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is a progress. Working together is a success!

Conclusion

Working ont this project showed me, how big the part of the environmental problems is, which is only caused by the clothing production. Nearly everyone who works in the clothing industry knows about these problems but barely anyone is doing anything about it. Many stores are trying to sell their clothes as cheap as possible and hope that many customers are buying their clothes. In order to the cheap production, they can sell their products cheaper than stores, which have a sustainable production. I think, if there were more people who would be interested in helping our environment and would be ready to change a part of their lifestyle related to buying clothes, we could make a huge change.

Otherwise the working process was very difficult for me in the beginning. Firstly, my team partner left school, so I had to continue with the project on my own. Then not even one of the ten clothing store in Switzerland I firstly asked for an interview were ready to support me with my project and last but not least two of my three collaboration teams finished their project and their school without doing any collaboration with me. But in the end, I had a great collaboration with India and I could finally finish my project.

I am looking forward to hear your opinion on my project idea. Thank you for reading.

Authors

Sandrine Kälin
Neethu.N.S.
Kashinath.U.S.
Isaac Lucious James
Sidharth.P.Nair

 

Sources:

Text:
Statistic Infos 1 (de.statista.com)
Statistic Infos 2 (de.statista.com)
CO2 T-Shirt Infos (watson.ch)
Eco-Friendly Transportation Methods (citrussleep.com)
(The Indian part has not any text sources)

Pictures:
Headpicture (selfmade)
[1] Statistic 1 (de.statista.com)
[2] Statistic 2 (de.statista.com)
[3] CO2 T-Shirt (watson.ch)
[4] Textiles 1 (faihafurnituredubai.com)
[5] Textiles 2 (tagblatt.ch)
[6] Textiles 3 (fibre2fashion.com)
[7] Textiles 4 (scroll.in)
[8] Textiles 5 (bobstech.com)
[9] Textiles 6 (deutschland.de)
[10] Textiles 7 (clariant.com)

 

Reviewer

Yanick Kälin

 

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