Application of Sustainability in Fashion and Textile Industry



Debjit Biswas, Gautam Bar

National Institute of Fashion Technology, Bhubaneswar, India.



The fashion and textile industry go through several processes, starting from conversion of fiber to yarn, yarn to fabric and fabric to garment. During these processes, there are ample opportunities in the fashion and textile producers to give attention to sustainable practices. With the rising awareness about sustainability, fashion and textile industries have taken initiatives to implement some sustainable solutions in their production process. In order to meet the sustainability criteria, there are a range of approaches taken by stakeholders, from fiber production to garment manufacturing and supply chain management. Fashion goods made using sustainable practices contributes socially and economically towards a green earth.  This analysis presents the findings gathered from the related ‘Review and Research Papers’ on sustainable fashion and textile manufacturing. This paper examines recent developments in sustainable fashion and textile production at different stages of the production of fiber, yarn, fabric and clothing. In addition, the responsibilities played by different regulatory bodies, suppliers and retailers, including customers, are also addressed in the development of “sustainable fashion and textiles.”



Issues related to sustainability are rising in several manufacturing sectors including textiles due to increased consumer awareness and strict global legislations [1-3]. Several fashion manufacturers are taking advantage of and lowering environmental awareness in developing countries to achieve low production costs [4]. Various fashion and textile are struggling in production, with varying degrees of environmental and social problems [5]. The production of the industry largely impacts the environment due to the excessive amount of energy and water consumption. It also results in greenhouse gas emission, waste generation and discharge of toxic effluent containing dyes, finishes and other chemicals to the ecosystem [6,7]. The social impacts of the development of fashion include the use of child labor, precarious working conditions, long working hours, low wages and threats to health and safety [8].

The definition of fast fashion is appealing to many customers who want fast fashion. To constantly alter their fashion style, thereby sacrificing Sustainable manufacturing. Businesses such as Zara, Uniqlo and H&M is based on fast fashion to meet the desires of customer’s demands. While many customers today are aware of the Sustainability, the constant rise in demand from a young age The product of newer quick fashion is a mass market that produces Waste-cloth piles. Slow fashion, though (a method using Methods of sustainable development and greener technologies) Meets social transparency and environmental expectations Sustainable. The trend to achieve fashion that is sustainable is the method is very sluggish, as there are complexities involving many Producers and a great deal of idealism [9].

Textile and apparel processing have a serious impact on the environment. Natural and synthetic fibers are used along with a considerable amount of water and energy for the production. Secondly, the use of Chemicals, auxiliaries, energy and water during fabric chemical processing, have a negative impact.  Thirdly, a considerable amount of water and energy is consumed. For the treatment and preservation of clothes during their use.[10] There are many steps that can be taken to achieve sustainable development of fashion and textiles, starting from choosing the raw materials to the EOL of a commodity.

Sustainable Development of Fashion incorporates Eco-friendly and non-depleting content range includes; Eco-friendly methods of production; green supply chain, retail and distribution; and ethical customers [11,12]. Chemical processing of cotton, with the highest environmental efficiency by implementing newer technologies, the effect can be made greener by for example, the use of enzymatic processing; applications for plasma; and usage of specialized and auxiliary chemicals. Besides, in addition to the Fashion industries need to meet environmental protection, to attain the other foundations, social and economic sustainability, Full development of sustainable fashion, which is discussed in this analysis, in depth.


Sustainability Requirement

Because of the intrinsic existence of fashion and its fast-pace, many fashion producers in the industry have used unsustainable practices in the past to meet rising demands and growing profits. As there is an increased worldwide awareness about sustainable fashion, several new brands are incorporating sustainable activities [13,14]. Social responsibility in fashion and garment manufacturing, the economic and economic aspects of many nations, which is a global issue. The fashion items produced by sustainable practices were thought to be in addition to ecological and social stresses, it may alleviate offering sustainable-conscious consumers an ethical alternative sustainable product transaction [15]


Fashion Consumption and Consumer Attitude

Consumers from all over the world discard fashion items more often, even though the items can be used in future [16]. This process is named as “throwaway culture”, which has been developed as a result of easy availability of low-priced clothing and the success of the major brand retailers. The garment is discarded if they are out of fashion or lose their dimensional stability as well as durability [17]. These garments comply with landfill or bondawaste generation if not reused, depending on the degree of wear, physical condition, form of garment and composition of fibre. The economic viability of recycling and reuse is based on the recycling facilities and technologies available.

The market ethics to counter the “throwaway culture” has played an important role in the recent years [18]. Responsible consumers consider the impact of consumption of a product on the environment and its adverse effect on humans and animals [19]. The consumers are focusing on sustainable ideology and practices, but some recent study reveals that many consumers are yet to adopt these sustainable practices in their day to day life for certain products [20]. Also, when fast fashion is considered, the consumer awareness of sustainability techniques is low. Therefore, the concept of sustainable fashion is termed ‘unfashionable’ which led to an increase in disposal of fashion products after a limited use [16].


1.Yarn and Fabric Manufacturing

Yarn and fabric include a large amount of energy and they generate waste, dust and noise [20]. The energy consumption in a textile industry can be calculated and split accordingly as 34% in spinning, 23% in weaving, 38% in chemical processing. Research reveals that the energy consumed during the maintenance of a cloth is almost four times as compared to the energy consumed for the production [21]. The worldwide focus on sustainability has led to the creation of machines for the processing of yarn and fabric that use less energy, operate more effectively and produce less dust and noise. As a result, spinning (such as open-end rotor and air jet spinning), weaving (rapier, bullet, air jet, multi-phase and waterjet looms) and knitting (high-speed circular knitting, computerised flatbed machine, seamless knitting) have produced several new techniques.

In the Yarn manufacturing process, the ring spinning, rotor spinning and air jet spinning requires a lot of energy [22]. The ring spinning uses maximum amount of energy therefore it releases maximum amount of energy onto the environment. Increasing the spindle speed, lightweight bobbins, advanced ring and efficient driving system is helpful to reduce the impact on the environment. Rotor spinning has a comparatively lower impact on the environment compared to ring spinning. The recent spinning technology of air jet spinning can rapidly produce. However, the energy consumption is higher. The other advantages of air jet spinning is the lower space needed for the setup. Thus, less climatic control is needed hence, air jet spinning has the lowest impact on the environment.

Similar to yarn manufacturing, the fabric production also requires a lot of energy. The total electrical energy consumption estimated as per linear metre of fabric is 0.45-0.55kWh and the thermal energy is approx. per linear metre of fabric is 18.8-23 MJ [22]. Thus, it is evident that energy is one of the core factors influencing the cost. Therefore, energy efficient technologies can incorporate to help in sustainable production. Recent weaving technologies such as air jet, waterjet, projectile, rapier and multi-phase looms consume less amount of energy and gives good efficiency as compared to the conventional weaving technologies. It also generates less waste. In the process of fabric production, if weaving and knitting is compared, the former has the higher impact on the environment than the latter. The additional processes such as sizing, desizing, and warp preparation for weaving, is not required in knitting. The sizing and subsequent desizing requires a large amount of water along with the energy. The material used in traditional sizing is highly polluting, which is being replaced with polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) [23]. The use of seamless manufacturing of garments contributes in lowering the impact on the environment [24]. In seamless technology the 3D outfit is produced by avoiding the steps of fabric manufacturing i.e. weaving or knitting, cutting and sewing. Hence, the process consumes approx. 30-40% less time and saves a huge amount of energy as compared to the traditional process. Also, seamless technology reduces labor cost and eliminates the waste involved in cutting of pattern pieces.


2.Fabric Chemical Processing

Fabric chemical processing also known as wet processing is the most environmentally harmful process among all the textile processes. It uses a huge consumption of water, energy and toxic chemicals. According to Marcucci et al. the production of 1kg of processed fabric includes the consumption of 200- 400L of water. In many developing countries, water pollution produced by the textile industries is a reason of major concern [25]. In addition to the pollution, there is an increase in demand for water usage in textile and clothing production. Also, the direct discharge of the chemical infested water into the water systems is resulting in scarcity of clean water. Some of the Chemicals used are listed in Table I.


Table 1 Some commonly used toxic chemicals in chemical processing [12].

Name of toxic chemical Used as/in
Tributyltin oxide (TBTO) Used on hosiery
Non-ionic surfactants Detergents in used dyeing
Cationic surfactants Textile dyeing and finishing
Sodium chloride Dyeing of cotton textiles
Sodium sulphate Dyeing of cotton textiles
Cyanide Anti-caking agent in salt


According to Khatri et al., a research revealed development in the dyeing of cotton fabrics using reactive dyes to reduce water pollution. It focused on the solution of increased use of alternative dyeing techniques for substantially reducing the effluent. As effluent treatment requires extra investment and maintenance, textile industry should focus on incorporating recent technologiesApproaches such as the use of innovative processes with new dyestuffs and modern equipment for dyeing will help minimise environmental issues. Some of the processes includes low liquor-to-material ratio dyeing, low volumes of padding troughs, pad dyeing technology, urea and salt-free dyeing, micelle dyeing, dye fixation polymerization techniques and use of biodegradable organic compounds as dye liquor. Khatri et al.  have also shown that the integrated desizing, bleaching and reactive dyeing method can lead to lower costs due to decreased use of chemicals and resources.


3.Garment Manufacturing

Garment manufacturing process requires a huge amount of energy and there is a wide scope of sustainable practices in areas of garment manufacturing to reduce the energy usage [26]. This emphasize on the energy efficient tools, machinery for cutting, sewing, pressing and packaging, and the use of ecofriendly processes is required to improve the production of sustainable fashion [9]. The waste generated during the production process such as paper, plastic, fabric remaining, cardboards and wire coat hangers should be recycled and should not be discarded. Also, other strategies should be incorporated to save energy and water. For example, installing water efficient fixtures, training sessions for the staffs/ labor on energy efficiency skillsets, energy efficient heating/cooling devices, lighting systems, and rain-water harvesting setup for nondrinking purposes and other uses, can also help in achieving sustainable fashion.

The production process followed in an apparel/ garment industry[25]. Choosing suitable raw materials with a lower ecological footprint i.e. renewable, biodegradable and non-degradable, and processes that are energy efficient will help reduce the impact on the environment. Use of green energy, saving energy wherever possible, reducing air emissions, recycling hard waste and paying attention to social responsibility will lead to the achievement of fashion sustainability.


Figure 1 The material and process flow chart and sustainable factors

incorporated in garment manufacturing.


By embracing the philosophy of Lean Manufacturing, which focuses on reducing process waste, increasing efficiency, empowering workers with greater contact, and turning the enterprise into a learning organization, the operating costs in garment manufacturing can be reduced [22]. By avoiding over output, excessive motion, inappropriate inventory management, and over processing, process waste can be minimized. The core concept of lean manufacturing is continuous improvement (generally known as the Japanese term ‘Kaizen’). ‘Kaizen’ encourages constant and required improvements to achieve the desired objective.



As discussed above, fast fashion items are disposed more rapidly, and this has become a keen area for the researchers [23,25]. Consumers should conscious about of the principle of reuse or recycle while discarding fast fashion items. Consumers should be encouraged by manufacturers and retailers to buy environmentally friendly goods and recycle waste. Three key factors include: intrinsic factors (related to the style of the product, age, condition, value, cost and durability); psychological factors (related to decision-making), including mood, personality and social awareness; and situational factors (extrinsically related to the product, such as changes in fashion, finances and storage space) that explain the “disposal” actions of the con. A research analyzed the reactions of consumers to discarding a product and found that young consumers pay no attention to reuse or recycle when disposing of a product.

Figure 2 Sustainability factors associated with full life of a fashion product


After a certain timeframe, fashion products become unusable, resulting in an EOL product. In the past, EOL items were disposed of to get rid of them, or used for second-hand garments, wiping fabrics, or reclamation of fibre. As sustainability is becoming increasingly relevant, sustainable solutions, such as recycling or reuse, are required to minimise adverse environmental impacts and minimise the use of resources. This will also aid in reducing the rate of emissions and energy consumption.



An eco-label is described by the Global Eco-labelling Network as “a label that identifies a product’s overall environmental preference within a product category based on consideration of the life cycle”[106]. Eco-labels provide customers with knowledge about eco-friendly goods that can help reduce the environmental effect on their everyday activities. Consumers are able to compare different goods made using eco-friendly technologies, so that they are aware of the harmful effects of use and disposal. In the production of sustainable fashion goods internationally, eco-labelling plays an important role and distinguishes retail markets for ‘go green’ consumers.[27]



Due to the global demand for sustainable goods, and increased consumer awareness of sustainability, sustainable fashion production is gaining significant importance. Some apparel manufacturers in developing countries are taking advantage of lenient legislation and low environmental awareness in order to reduce production costs. However, in their manufacturing, supply chain, and retail management, many prominent fashion brands such as H&M, Adidas and Uniqlo incorporate sustainable practises. The sustainability focus of these brands helps to achieve improved labour standards that produce socially acceptable goods and services and a safer climate. Several international organisations and private corporations are working to track the efficiency of apparel producers and retailers, assist and assess them. These organisations work on aspects of sustainability, such as licencing, permitting and compliance requirements for waste, energy and water management. In addition, several standards to include recommendations promoting the three pillars of sustainability have already been established. Consumers play a significant role in sustainable fashion, in addition to fashion designers, retailers and international organisations. Consumers can choose or reject a product if it is not produced under socially acceptable conditions, with adequate labour and resource consumption. Although some customers are prepared to pay higher prices for sustainable fashion products, due to budget constraints, preference and attitude, many of them may not be ready. Sustainable fashion would not become a possibility in the future if there is no market for sustainable goods and services in fashion. Successful consumer adoptability of sustainable fashion depends on consumer awareness on reducing waste and various impact on the environment. The current sustainable practises by industries, manufacturers and retailers in the fashion and textile industry will demonstrate how well society is ethically doing, the environment is protected, and the workforce can benefit, together with the uptake of sustainable approaches for fashion product’s aftercare and disposal.


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