The request for transparency and sustainability in the textile and fashion field is rising over and over. Consumers are more aware of the environment pollution due to manufacturing processes, of the ethical implications on labour, of energy savings. This kind of sensitivity has been recorded by the textile and apparel industry, that started to concentrate also on this aspects. This is one of the reasons that explains the increasing number of quality certifications, of which one of the most important is the GOTS, Global Organic Textile Standard.
The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) is recognised as the world’s leading processing standard for textiles made from organic fibres. It defines high-level environmental criteria along the entire organic textiles supply chain and requires compliance with social criteria as well. It has been created in 2006 and it is supported by the most important organizations that promote biological agricolture: Organic Trade Association, IVN, Japanese Organic Cotton Association and Soil Association. There are more than 3,600 facilities GOTS certified worldwide, more than 1,300 are located in India, less than a hundred in Italy.
Sustainability in the Future of Made in italy
The Lanificio Fratelli Piacenza wool mill, the historic fabric producer located in the Biella textile cluster, is the latest among the several Italian companies that obtained this certification. They received it in July, after one year of hard work needed to make all the production chain achieve the required standards. «The GOTS has been a challenge that we accepted with pleasure – Carlo Piacenza, CEO of the company, says to Technofashion World – because it is a serious certificate, that includes all the production processes starting from the harvesting of the raw material to the finished fabric. Rules are strict and we have been quite surprised to succeed in obtaining the GOTS at our first attempt. Probably it’s because we started working on sustainability a long time ago».
The Fratelli Piacenza mill in Pollone (Biella), in fact, already has an advanced water purification system, that allows most of the water used in the production process to be drained directly in rivers. In other words, «it is so pure – Carlo Piacenza explains – that you can drink it». The half of the water utilized, however, returns into the production chain, reducing the need of new liquid. The mill moreover is completely energy auto-sufficient because it has a methane fuelled system that generates electricity; and the gas coming out from the power unit is used for the heating of the wool mill.
The Global Organic Textile Standard, however, required a number of other checks, «for example on the sourcing of fibres, because the animals can’t be involved in intensive farming and the grazing lands can’t be treated with pesticides. We made a great job with our suppliers to ensure the respect of these and others rules. Compared to some years ago, now there is more openness to collaboration among the different operators of the production chain. This is due to the fact that laying the responsibility on suppliers, avoiding to face sustainability problems, is no more an option, because on the long-term it provokes the closing down of many companies. The only way to solve problems is working together in order to find the best solution and to strengthen the chain».
Carlo Piacenza is a strong supporter of the Biella textile cluster, the only one in Europe where it is possible to work animal fibres from the combing and washing up to the fabric. «I think that the request for more transparency and controls – he declares – is not a burden but the real life-line for our district. Being transparent is an added value for our yarns and fabrics, our clients are sure that what they buy is safe and that they can rely on us more than ever. At the beginning of the 2000s we were really concerned and discouraged by what was happening on the fabric market: all the attention was focused on price, it seemed a lowest bid auction. It has been a real hurricane, that left on the field a lot of companies. Now there is a coming back to other values rather than just price, and there is an increasing appreciation of “made in Italy” because its products mean high quality combined with respect for the environment and sustainability. There is more respect for all the processes that precede the garment manufacturing, because there lie these “green” values, so weavers and spinners are finding again their work dignity».
So, the request for a more responsible industry has a double positive effect: paying more attention to the environmental aspects (and so, we hope, to reduce pollution and to increase safety of the garments) and to give a new chance to the Italian textile sector to compete globally and fight against the economic crisis.
«The fabric cost is, on average, 5% of the total cost of the finished garment», Carlo Piacenza observes. «If this percentage is not just considered a cost to be reduced as much as possible, but, instead, a source of quality and a guarantee of ethics towards the people and the environment, we have the reason why the entire textile chain has to be considered capital again. And it justifies prices that are higher than other competitors abroad».
The Lanificio Fratelli Piacenza produces fabrics only with the best wools and noble fibres like cashmere, vicuña, camel, angora and baby llama. It is a production for high end fashion brands: in fact, about 60% of annual fabrics produced is exported and the remaining 40% is bought by Italian clients. Last year, the wool mill produced about 700,000 metres of fabric, and the turnover reached € 37 million. The workers involved in production are approximately 200.