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Aurora Magnil

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\7hi1e consumers are sholving an increasing awareness of what they put in their stomachs, the same cannot be said for whar they use to cover their stomachs. The ftrod they eat has bccom. rracrable in irs minimrrm ingredier-rts, whereas the labels relating to the textiles usecl in their clothing rarely tell the rvhole story. \lhen yor-r read that your pasttr or your cheese is organic, yor,r know that certain c}remicals herve not been used in growing the wheat or in pastureland used for grazing. Moreover, further aclditives in processrng have also been avoided. Yet in the case of yor.rr rvzrrdrobe, you can be fairly sure that :r hint of "eco" or "bio" on the label is more a marketing ploy than a true description of how things are élrown and made. Granted, or1;anic cotton does at least mean that the fibre derives from land that has nor been inundated rvith chemical fertilisers and pesr

icidrs. Bur whrr abour rhe spinnìng.

clyeing and finishingi Surely it's hi-qh time consLrmers knew a 1ittle more about what they are about to by, especially since tl-rey come into such close contact with it. Fortr-rnately tliings finally seem to be mov-

ing in the right dìrection, at least if t1-re quantity of advertising, conferenccs and seminars on tl-re subject of green clothìng is

anything to -go by. Grantecl, the REACH norms are finally able to impose standarcls and parameters. Yet there's more to it than that. Italian mernufacturers are realising that

natural, healthy and guaranteed clotl-ring marries so well witl-r fashion tirat it can be consiclered the ultimate added val-re: textiles, Iike wine and Parmesan, gain visibility when consllmers know nnd trust them. Not all consumers have quite latched onto the problem, however. Two years ago the consumers' associations of Lombardy in northern Italy interviewecl,1000 people to get an iclea of their awareness of labels on clothing. The outcome wasn't too encolrraging:80/o declared that they mostly read

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labels to find out the price and size. A further question concerning fibre composition revealed a preference for natural fibres over synthetic, which were deemed less healthy. This was hardly surprising, since the fash-

ion industry has invested major resor-rrces in raising the threshold ofaesthetic arvareness among consumers. Yet the u.ncomfortable fact remains that healthy has more to do with hor.v the fibres are treated and I'rocessed rhrn thcir inrrinsir origin.

ils the natural trend consumef of company driven?l There's no cut and driecl answer to this clrrestion. In Italy it is probably fair to say that the manufacturing sector has clone a lot to get the consumet thinking, whereas ìn northern Europe consumefs have been more arvare ofhardware than they have offàshion. Ittrlian manufacturers and stores have used

their focus on qr,rality élarments made with nzrtural fibres as'à means of diftèrentiating tLreir products from run-of-the-mi1l wares. This is true not only of basic materials sucl'r as cotton, but also luxury yarns such as cashmere. The approach is ftrlly in keeping with the general profile ofItnly's textile industry, whicl"r is known fcrr its skill in achieving the

finest possible results from natural fibres. \ùlhat has changecl in recent times is tire arrival on the scene ofcompanies producing goocls made from unusual natural raw materials. Often they are well establ.ished

spìnners and weavers who have realized that to maintain their place in the market they neecl to entice conslrmers rvith something a little unexpected: T-shirts made with nettle fibres, underwear made from yarns obtained from casein, and other proclucts that seem to promise originality, salubrity, respect for the environment and fair trade. The outcome is the gradual clefinition of a new class of consumers who look

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for "eco-luxury". Here are a few examples. Not so very long ago, before cotton \i,/as readily available in Europe, our ancestors spent a lot of time and energy obtaining fibres from hardy, obstinate plants sttch as hemp ancl Spanish broom, to say nothing of the nettles mentioned above. More recently select manufircturers backed by university research departments have realized thirt such raw materials might still have somethin!Ì to offer, especially if contemporary knor'-how could alleviate the physical sweat of obtaining them. This is the case of Filati Maclodio, a company based near Brescia in northern ltaly, which has addecì new proclucts to its traditional cotton-based output by adapting such fìbres to existing state-of-the-art maclrinery. One fruit of this open-minded approach is the Bioplus collection, whose focus is organic cotton in blends lvith hemp, alpaca, maize fibre (Ingeo), green wood fibre (Lenpr-rrrrr, for which Maclodio }rolds

world distribì-ttion rights with tl-re exception ofJapan) ancl Spanish broom. But the company's n-rost intriguing prodr-rct as far as the media are concerned is certainly MilKofil@, a yarn obtainecl from the casein that makes up milk solid. TI-re yarn certalnly has an rnterested history. The first patent for obtaining it dates back to 1935, during the period ofautarky that character.ized Fascism. Discovered by a chemist named Antonio Ferretti, in those days it u'as called Lanital ancl rvirs industrialized by Snia until the 1910s, when it was viewed as a re-

minder ofan ingkrrious past and abandoned in fàvour of ìmported fìbres.

In salvaging the process ofobtaining yarns from casein, Filati Macloclio has not only perfected the manufacturing system, bust also discovered that fibres obtained from mì1k are naturally emollient, moisturising and healrlry. Sr-rch clrer,rcreristics constit ttre added value of the most desirable sort

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It is in the pursuit of similar eco_objectives that a number of specialìzed traúe fairs have sprung up in recent times. Alongsicle classic evenrs such as MilanoUnica, -pìtti and Proposte, the world oftextiles now also

comprises appoinrments such as Sana in Bologna and Fà la cosa giusta in Milan.

fFair and sustainable.]

l(hen

goods grown or made in developing counttles are traded ìn a way that gives those original producers u good retuÀ for their labour, some degree of equiry appears to be resrored to the wodd. For fair ira,le not only aids small communities in distant

places, but also tends to be more respect_ ful of rhe environment because it is no't ex_

clusively profi r-driven.

Raggio Verde ìs a noreworrhy example of fair trade based in kaly. lt i, u cooperative based in the northera city of Biella, an<l I'ras recently extended its range ofproducts to include rexriles. "$le have been making fair trade T-shirts for associations s.rch ui

Lega Ambiente (ltaly's foremast pro-

enalranment organizatìon)

and the Sf\)fF,,, explains founder patrizja panzettini. "Flowever, we've recenrly startecl creating models of out own. The ìdea is to ìmpoÀ

comon yarns from developing countries

and oversee manufacture by companies in the Biella area, so that we can guarantee quality and safety throughout the production process. Our partner in this operation is Bio-re. a Swiss company rhar selects organic comon from Tanzania and Iadia. l7e're not talking about grear

qLrantiry here, bur we're feeling quite oprimisric, and we're happy to see local companies giving us their support. \Ve,d like to show rhat faìr trade products can expand beyond ethnic ornaments, coffee or

chocolate

ro include useful

uct occupies a lofty the ruxury culrurar varues uni::ri- rhe acrs of'pur"i:f:1" market. Yorl would need 14 deer to -"k" u chasing, earing. n,e;:i:: -,_ad indeed show_ swearer, and 4O lor a m, Lanincio Bottori ,f

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mestic focus' having opred to use woors focus on ,t-r. ft;gh. from sheep raised in Italy. Its point of pride than there ,.,o, .

-s:r;or 'rctims now =o :,:r:s .ì!:o. and that isthesubtletyofthenat'rarcolours&the more an.r -o.. -.-.--1.--. ur. acrivery fleeces, which are carefulry serected both for seeking our prr.i-.,:. ..:: ::- borh hearthy quality and hue' Loro Piana, on rhe orher nnd . r: :. --: :r,-:.n,rnufacturers ''euninsrr hand, adopts endangered vicufa kids, of- ,o..,.u,,,r"-. ,i,.-,... .':*.::.bv making a fering them 2000 hectares of. grazing signifìc,rni:i_:-:::: _: .. _. -i more equrground in Peru. In return, they obtain the ,Jbr. ,,- :.-, .- ::-:..: ,:l disrrib,tion '.rr. mosr glorious silky fibres to be spun ancì oi borh r:: -i-:: _-- ,_ -:=,r,*. woven in Italy. Last October the ,.Salone

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Narur.rr ,e\r'c- .ìr rerra r\ladre stow FoJd led by suprem";;.;;;;;;; Petrini, was accompanied Ly an encounref Eler- ' -:. .- .. ::-:cd rhe Slow that brought together farmers fron-r a1l or-er f c:r ': T:::. -'t1. -:. :. : . l:! some intertheworld.TerraMadre2008saivproduc- ::--:--,::-:.-i,::.: -- '.. -' : -::...*'idermeaners of Australian wool, lndian linen. Mon- r.:: - ::.:hes that to ,r ' .golian cashmere, Chinesr silk. Arcrnr jn, . .-nl.orrant ro and Egyprian ( orron meer up. ( \ _ change information tniormation and discuss ideas ide,rs rcr g_uanaco

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- . : . : ::-:::. This means establishinganetworkforpromoting n.:- : : : : -: : .-, :rasp on rhe ,:. ": : uraÌ fibresl As part . -. -.ì"ai". rr". .;; ;;;;r;';':"proach to appreciating"fnatural flbres. rh.r. -. 1 : -: . - ' -': - r..:: ì\ rre grown, . : --- -: - : :a--t. .nhat was wasanexntDttronotarangeof ln exhibirion of a range of ra\\.ntafs::_ .. I .rr ttans_ Td\ nrJ:q: rrans-

- .- -: r :. . :: :item to the :- :. als that visìtors were invited to touch. ,L:.: kìds visiting the event couid rake p,rii::. - :ì- -:' -. --.:s.eaving of classes in which they had firn learnrn::-- :: . :r - - - -: - - ::: jnasrare of. -. r. ::.: r"riery of: abour rhe origins of rhe clorhe. rhq\ \, -. wearing. Support for what l.as rrulr l . - -,,. :--: has erasecl arnaztngtlrfnoutcamefromErmenegildo

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Zegna, Schneider Croup. Coronifìe ic, . Albini and Blulino, who see rhar perrin;. :-:. demanJ lor food rhar is gooJ. clcrn anJ just" is equally applicable ro rexriies.

fThe cultural value of consumptionì

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objects such as children's clothing ancl underwear, which we try to inject with a

little more fashion

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lDeer luxury} Slhi.le it's possible thar the production of

organic comon underwear, hemp table linen

or T-shirts made from milk proteins may

increase in coming years, it is hard to imag_ ine rhat Cervelt is likeÌy ro occupy a ma1.or slot in the market. Cervelt i, un

--- :srtion of

fine 13 mìcron fibre cierived "*tr"-ely from the under clip of red deer. DougÌas **:y Creek of New Zealand has put it on the

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marker, and Lanificio Fratelli Bacci of Flo_ rence 1s rurning it into a beautiful fabric. Since each deer yields a mere 20 grams of

fibre, it is easy to understand that Àe procl_

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ments were eco-friendly, meaning that

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of noncl'ralance. Safety, for a srarr, is a concepr that varies in time. Take cl-rildren's pyjamas, for instance.

parents thus opted for synrhetic marerials. Only wl-ren they discovered that common flame-retarclants are actually carcino;4enic did they go back to corron. More recenrly, however, even garments made from such natural fibres have come ro be viewed with suspicion. For as manufacture has moved East, researci-r l-ras brought to light rhe po-

tential hazards of certain chemical subfinishing. Even the transport of the finished product can have a worryrng aura to it. So st.rnces used for dyeìng and

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in textiles;

The transfer of many texrile processes ro manllfactLuers outside Europe favours both suspicion and indeed the effective use of noxious substances. This is not necessarily a deliberate policy on rhe parr

of the "new" countries: more that processes and technologies whose poten-

tially dangerous side effects have

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rvith a ban in Europe tend ro end up in developing countries. To put this messy situation in a nutshell, the European market is currently lacking in precise laws, norms or standards per-

way.

This lacuna lear.es the door wide open for tl-re

cloom-and-gloom prone, n1'ro latch on

to every unsubstantiated piece ofjournaÌism they read about "toxic pyjamas", near rnortal "allergic reactions", or rhe confisca-

tion of "chromium clothing"... And since net ure notoriousll aLrhorr r vacLrum. private labels and guarantees spring up all over the place claiming a plethora of largely

unverified truths.

If you ask a textile mnnufacturer if his products are "safe", whatever his answer may be it is bound to contaìn elements that are subjective and arbitrary, simply because there is no agreed common framework of reference. And ifhe declares that his prodLrcts conform to the clÌrrent norms, the claìm is practically meaningless, since

nofms curfently regard only composition, maintenance, coLlntry of provenance (often lacking) and chemical risk solely in relation

to a group of azotc colouring agenrs.

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ronsumer\ thar nhar rhcy rrr prtrchr)ing is not going to lìarm their health in any

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summed up as follows: . consumers the world over are currently anxious about the possible risks relating to texrilc producrs; this is Iargely seen as a "chemical risk";

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demonstrable molehill. This diminishes in size only when well-defined norms

tent... Lift1e v/onder rhe poor British journaiist found she was

the writer's dilemma can

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taining to all texriles, wherher produced in Europe or imported, wl'ricl'r could reassure

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rvhat about pyjamas made from organic Fibresl' Wrll. enr icing as they may seem, they also require substances and processes that may be toxic ro some ex-

ried mothers wirh

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nrrcenr inn ol- rhr "r lr-m ical risk ' ren.ls to make a mountain out of the eflèctively

and parameters are established, European legislatìon on consumer products does not come up to customers' expectations; moreover, it also lalls short of the scientific hypotheses tl'rar are gradually coming ro rhe fore re5ardrng the exposrrre of consumers to the numerous

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t rLrc. ir is also er iJenr cìrar grern is a rerm cufrently used with a disconcerting degree

During the 1970s, British consumers were mostly concerned that their kicls' nightwear should not be inf-lammable. Manl'

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The Obsen'er u'eekly newspaper in the UK recently devoted an afticle to green clothìng. Now, you might think that such gar-

vironment. While

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All is not lost,

however. Other sectors of manufacturing have

had to deal with sìmilar problems in the past, and have come up with a shared framework and points of reference. And

now this is the goal of UNITEX, which has brought together various experts to define

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such parameters

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textiles.

for publication this comlng

UN|TFX

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Their efforts shor:ld be ready spfing.

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A standard ìs tool for simplify-

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ing and defining terms rhat are shared and understood by manufacturers and consumers in a given sphere of activity. A standard implies consensus among all those involved, and to be useful should respond to the current state of the market and aII

o ìt has been conceived to integrate easily

the various agents involved.

Unlike other private labels (such as Oekotex), that 1imìt their sphere of actìon to

Obviously a body has to be reliable and respected if it is to issue standards. The main actors in the process are currently:

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with other existing

norms/standards

with a view to perfecting or updating e

them; it could be used for certification.

chemical risk, the standards that are sl-rortly to be released cover all aspects associated

ISO at world Ìevel, consisting ofnational standard bureaux + EU CEN consisting ofthe standard bureaux

wìth textilelclotl-ring products, including

of the EU

particularly note$/orthy.

. UNI,

which is Italy-based and operates sector through an as-

within the textiÌe

socìated body, UNITEX.

As the world tends increasingly towards

a

system of economic systems, these bodies do their best to operate ìn a coordinated fashion, even though the degree ofintegration between standards is only partially effective, as the following diagram hopes to show.

iTechnical Standards Systeml

Ìevel, UNI must adopt the ISO standards and respect those of EN to protect the domestic market. This is fully in line with the obligations of other EU countries. This system can operate from the top downwards, or vice versa. In other words, a norm or standard may be estabiished by the internacional body and then applied to a1l the ìndividual countries, or it may be defined by an individual country, and then adopted (sometimes with slight changes) internationally.

At the national

mechanical risk and fire hazard. It is this overall approach that makes the system

Chemical risk: the potential dangers of a product derive from the presence in the fabric of substances that interact with the body rhrough direcr contacr. ingestion or inhalation, both in normal conditions and in particular conditions such as the presence ofperspiration. Plentiful research devoted to this sector in recent years has suggested that a "negative list" ìs the best way to proceed. In other words, limits are established for the presence ofcertaìn substances such as dyes, additives, fìnishing agents, surface-active agents, flame retardants, etc.). Compiling this list, along with

the

necessary control and verification methods, has been the most demanding part of the whole exercise. The various neg-

ative lists that have appeared of the past few years in both the public and the private sector have been checked and counterchecked, then coliated and corrected to act as an integral part of rhe backbone of the new standards.

It

is this second approach that Italy is currently pursuing with ics project for safety standards pertaìning to textiles. Due to see the light in spring 2009, the project embodics rhe following characreristics: r it applies to all categories of textile and clothing products, including non-woven leather items and footwear; r it applies to all stages of the production process, from producers ofthe raw mate-

Mechanical tisk. This concerns the hooks, ties, zippers and other parts of children's clothing that could present a danger ifthey got caught in something or were able to provoke suffocation. There are already welldefined norms vrithin the EU regarding such concerns, so the main effort here has

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inate the main risks, since

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conditions there is practically no textile that is intrinsically fireproof. Other countries such as the UK and the USA have defined standartls relating to short flame hazards (matches, lighters, candles, etc.). and this is the path the new standards will follow. Obvior-rsiy no standard can hope to incorporate all the data that constantly comes to

light through ongoing scientific

research.

\What is important, however, is the readiness to update terms and parameters with foresight and balance. The outcome will be a tool that benefits consumers anci manufacturers alike. The differentiation ofproducts that adhere to recognized standards constitutes precious added value. Not that all products imported from the East are necessarily toxic. Suffice it to bear in mind that Cl.rina has recentiy passed legislation regarding safety that is remarkably farreaching by European standards. Clearly safety is a concern that impÌies an investment with a tangible return. The following data make this quite clear: r the US administration has reinforced norms pertaining to consumer safety in recent months, especially as regards textiles (chemicai + fire hazard); o countries such as Holland have decided to pass laws regarding the fire-resistance ofall light textiles used for clothing; . there is a new star shining bright in the firmament of the European market whose focus is General Product Safetl'.

The REACH rules come within

its

sphere ofaction, with rhe aim ofachievìng a general evaluation of safety ìn ali fields and an appraisal of al1 substances used

in industrial

processes.

integrate them into an updated sys-

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Granted, such norms could easily mask

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Fire hazard: This is arguably the most in-

covet form of protectionism. That is clearlr the downside. But the upside is sr-rrely thai

novative aspect of the proiect. Most people a.re unaware of the fact that Itaiy has hitherto been lacking in any cogent standards concerning the flammability of textiles in the home. There are norms regarding textiles r-rsed for public venues, but not for domestic use; far less for children or adult's

consumer's demand for safety will pip thei: competitors at the post. Take a look at thi food sector, and what the various consorti: ofgrowers and producers have managed tc achieve. \fill the new product safety manager please step forwardl

rial to manufacturers, and includes distributors and contract clients; o its aim is to ensure ìnformation aimed at optimizing product managemenc and eliminating all dangers pertaining to the use ofsuch textiie and clothing prodricts; o it is envisaged as the definition of standards for product manufacture and han-

clothing. In other countries this lacuna ìs being ironed out, and it is with this ìn mind that the new standards are being defined. Clearly the essential focus is to elim-

those manufacturers who respond to tl-rt


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