The 50th edition of Heimtextil provided strong stimulus for the new furnishings season. 63,000 visitors came to get information on the major issues for the international sector from 2,952 exhibitors at the world’s leading trade fair for home and contract textiles. And among them, sustainability was the all-pervading major theme, outshining all others.
Sustainability was a central thread that ran through the entire event at Heimtextil 2020. Extensive activities and informative displays demonstrated how material processes are changing all over the world, with a view to improving the environment, and how social responsibility in respect of the people employed in the industry is growing. Even if the figures still do not add up, and preparedness of consumers to spend more money for environmentally friendly textiles is still in its infancy, supply and demand at the world’s largest trade fair for home and contract textiles were larger than ever before. Durability and a second life are beginning to manifest themselves in products.
“The re-think is really only just beginning,” says Martin Auerbach, General Manager of the Association of the German Home Textile Industry (Verband der Deutschen Heimtextilien-Industrie e.V.), “because to actually get to the circular economy, we must think and act with the entire value creation chain in mind. And moreover: up to now the product was the most important thing in the development phase. To achieve the transition to the circular economy, we need to formulate things the other way around. So, the questions become: What would the product that is optimised for economic circularity look like? How can we then achieve the required functionalities? And finally: How will manufacturers be able to differentiate themselves from the competition in the marketplace with their products?”
Long-term thinking has a future
As far as the visitors were concerned, the considerable interest in sustainable concepts was also in evidence in the newly instituted ‘Future Materials Library’ in the ‘Trend Space’ in Hall 3.0. The Library offered some exciting insights into innovations in sustainably produced textiles. The section on ‘Natural Assets’ drew attention to some hitherto unused natural treasures in the form of algae and stinging nettles, as did ‘Living Materials’ to cultured materials from a mesh of growing fungal fibres and ‘Biological Byproducts’ to agricultural resources in the form of orange peel and agave leaves. Then again ‘Remade’ demonstrated the potential for re-use inherent in textile waste material.
The new consumers are what make the difference Companies are increasingly coming to see the sustainability issue as an opportunity. Even the number of the companies attending Heimtextil 2020 with sustainable operations was, at 259, higher than ever before. All these exhibitors had signed up for the Green Directory and its certification. Sustainable production and sustainable company behaviours are becoming a constant and reveal themselves in numerous areas at Heimtextil: self-adhesive decorative and functional films, designed to give furniture and walls a ‘second life’ (Konrad Hornschuch), the use of compostable materials (Alonso Mercader), traditional wovens from upcycled yarn (The Aviary Studio), one hundred percent recyclable wallcoverings, coupled with decorative and FSC-certificated ones with gleaming digital prints (Komar Products). The Spanish firm of Antex launched its sustainable products as long ago as 2007, but demand has increased in the last two to three years: “The new consumer is what is making the difference.”
Throws made from recycled jeans by Biederlack.
Sustainable approaches are also unmistakable in the home textiles sector: throws made from recycled jeans, recycled cotton and PET bottles (HERMANN BIEDERLACK GmbH + Co. KG), sustainable bathrobes and bath linen made from GOTS-certified materials with printed floral patterns (ESSENZA HOME), eco pillows made from recycled PET bottles (Trendsetter International), limited editions of colourfully striped towels made from residual products (Cawö Textil GmbH & Co. KG, zoeppritz since 1828), bed linen with an energy-saving, environmentally-friendly finish (Estamparia Textil Adalberto Pinto da Silva), GOTS-certified bed linen with a vintage appeal (M.G. Ekkelboom B.V.), GOTS-certified bed linen with fresh patterns and colours (Bierbaum Wohnen GmbH & Co. KG, Irisette GmbH & Co. KG), throws made from organic cotton and recycled polyester (zoeppritz since 1828). Packaging, too, has been impacted by the trend for sustainability: bed-linen is sold in printed FSC-certified cardboard, with one percent of the profits given to charity (Covers & Co. by ESSENZA HOME), the profile of fitted bedsheets is raised through the use of completely compostable cardboard, made from waste paper (Adam Matheis GmbH & Co. KG), bed linen is, in future, to be manufactured from recycled yarns; baby linen made from organic cotton is to be packaged in fabric, instead of polythene bags (Kayteks), bed covers are being rebranded and sold in cotton/linen bags (f.a.n. Frankenstolz Schlafkomfort H. Neumeyer GmbH & Co. KG). “Organic fitted sheets are very much in demand,” explains Aylin Karaca von Kayteks. “We are seeing increasing interest in our organic cotton baby brand. And we want, in future, to offer bed linen made from recycled yarns. We are also shifting to fabric packaging materials.” And Barbara Matheis-Klassen confirms: “We want to give the product a higher profile, address the issue of sustainability and make everything from organic cotton in future.”
Ecological production The future of the textile industry, which has a huge impact on the environment, was also abundantly in evidence in the ‘Textile Technology’ section. That sustainability can be combined with further development is clear in the early, technical stages. Alongside automation, it is digitalisation, above all, that offers so many new possibilities. That includes printing machines, which not only reduce consumption of energy and water, but are also quicker and work with water-based inks containing eco-certified pigments (KIIAN Digital/JK Group). Super-soluble, intensely pigmented dyes for digital printing save up to 35 percent energy per kilo of fabric and up to 30 litres of water, because washing and steaming processes are omitted (Itaca Textile). A new paper for transfer printing that, because of a special coating, requires no preparation or secondary treatment, makes for both speed and improved print quality (Neenah Coldenhove).
Headerphoto: Textile Future by Trevira CS