World Fabric Forum Discusses GreenTextiles

January 17, 2003

BRUSSELS - The World Fabric Forum at Decosit/DecoContract 2002, hosted by F&FI, addressed the greening of the textile industry. The speakers were: Albin Kalin, CEO of Rohner Textil AG (Switzerland); Susan Lyons (editor's note: shortly after Decosit, Lyons vacated her position as vice president of design at DesignTex); Vicki Bousman, fibers marketing brand manager, Cargill Dow (Charlotte, N.C.); Debbie Purcell, CEO, Integra Fabrics (Myrtle Beach, S.C.); and Paul Bennotti, director of marketing strategy, Interface Fabrics Group (Boston, Mass.). Panelists briefly discussed the evolution of green textiles, their applications to the hospitality industry and the meaning of sustainability.

Lyons described the cooperative effort that resulted in Climatex, the sustainable, wool-based upholstery fabric. She said a meeting with an architect whose work in Poland she'd read about in the Wall Street Journal, was a turning point. Lyons said William McDonough told her, ''I have three words for you: 'Waste equals food.'

''So he said, 'Wouldn't it be great if you could actually make textiles like an apple tree would make them?''

It meant, Lyons said, starting ''to develop products in cycles so they always go back to becoming food for other products. All of a sudden the issue of waste, raw materials and extraction start to go away and you have a clear, closed-loop cycle in which your products reside.'' From there, DesignTex and Rohner Textil began a close collaboration.

Kalin explained that for Rohner, the sustainability movement began inside the mill. ''We are close to the river Rhine, south of the lake of Costance, two miles from the border of Austria and 10 miles south of Germany,'' Kalin said. ''We have our own way of dyeing and weaving and if something happens at the mill in a couple of minutes it's in another country so we better watch out what we are doing.

''That means bringing ecology, economy and social aspects into balance as a company,'' he said. ''So far at this time since 1993 the water going out of the dye house is as clean as the water coming in and that is revolution. We have no waste and we've used clean energy of alternative energy systems to save resources.''

Bennotti explained that Interface Fabrics Group has put sustainability principles into its manufacturing process. Using a set metrics, the companies in the group measure energy, water and material savings, for example. F&FI

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