Consumer demand for sustainability is forcing brands and retailers to position themselves differently.
Consumer demand for sustainability is forcing brands and retailers to position themselves differently.

Consumers today are pursuing more personalized and sustainable textile products. It is an opportunity for those businesses that are ready to tap into the demands, as consumers are prepared to pay more for these products.

Nowadays, the ongoing impact of the ever increasing demand from consumers for personalized textile products, that are more sustainable in their footprint, was evident in the market.

Consumers expect personalization

According to Bloomberg, Generation Z consumers want products that are tailor made for them. This confirms the findings of a Customer Review Report from Deloitte. The report shows that in some categories, more than 50% of consumers expressed interest in purchasing customized products or services. Moreover, not only would the majority of consumers be willing to pay more for a customized product or service, they would also like to be actively involved in the process.

In the future, businesses that do not incorporate an element of personalization into their offering risk losing revenue and customer loyalty. Therefore, businesses have not only developed the capabilities to measure specifically what each individual consumer wants, they are now also in a position to link their processes and resources to provide it. This has been made possible by advances in manufacturing technologies.

For example, Kornit Digital, one of the lead players in the digital printing revolution, has been providing advanced printing solutions for the garment, apparel and textile industries.

Kornit has launched Kornit Allegro, a roll-to-roll printer that fulfills today’s market demand for customization and micro-runs.

Designed for end-to-end garment manufacturers, Kornit Allegro is a single-step solution which offers one of the quickest file-to-finished goods process.

Kornit Allegro eliminates the need for pre- and post-treatment for multiple fabrics, all within a seven meters integrated production line. Besides, it eliminates the entry barrier to digital fabric printing, making it a solution of choice for businesses relying on multiple short runs and extremely short turn time.

Through its simple operation, the 1.8m wide system enables the development of new business models that cater for the strong trends of mass customization and personalization of textile in fashion and home décor. It offers amazing print quality, a vivid and wide color gamut, excellent color fastness and hand feel, a fully sustainable and safe process, and is OekoTex 100 certified and GOTS pre-approved.

Ronen Samuel, CEO of Kornit Digital, pointed out that “self-expression and personalization”, as well as “textile printing environmental impact” are among the mega trends that drive adoption of digital printing technologies.

Ronen Samuel said how consumers desire for a unique personal look is influencing purchasing decisions that enable them to show their individual expression on the garments they wear.

In addition, he said, textile printing has long been considered resource intensive and recent regulations, especially in Asia Pacific, require suppliers to meet new strict environmental regulations. These coincide with an ongoing push by many international organizations to align and support a range of environmental standards for textiles – from raw materials to finished garments or décor products.

WHOLEGARMENT knitting technology can knit an entire garment in one piece on the machine without the need for sewing.Meanwhile, 3D knitting is another tool that can eventually be used to bring personalized garments to the masses.

The on-demand production capability of WHOLEGARMENT knitting technology from SHIMA SEIKI that can knit an entire garment in one piece on the machine without the need for sewing is naturally suited to production that is customized to the individual.

At ITMA 2019, SHIMA SEIKI showcased mass-customization as it is applied with WHOLEGARMENT knitting, called MADE2FIT by WHOLEGARMENT. There was an entire area dedicated to presenting the concept, beginning with scanning a body using a smartphone app, then sending that data to a server that automatically adjusts preloaded data categories such as size, length, sleeve length, color, etc., and knitting on the MACH2XS103 WHOLEGARMENT knitting machine.

A short-needle bed version of SHIMA SEIKI's flagship WHOLEGARMENT machine, MACH2XS103 features the company's original SlideNeedle on four needle beds of 40-inch (100cm) knitting width.

High-quality WHOLEGARMENT production in all needles is possible, at high speeds thanks to quick carriage returns with the R2CARRIAGE combined with a maximum speed of 1.6m/sec for high productivity.

i-DSCS+DTC Digital Stitch Control System with Intelligence and Dynamic Tension Control allows consistent, high-quality production with a variety of yarns. Equipped with a spring-type moveable sinker system, dimensional fabrics and flechage can be knit with ease, expanding the range of knitting. It is also equipped with the Air Splicer option for supporting multi-color knitting by splicing together yarns at high-speed.

Sustainability pledge for textile products

Now consumers are becoming more conscientious shoppers and they are impressed by brands that embrace sustainability.

“I think new consumer demands for sustainability and transparency are definitely forcing brands and retailers to position themselves differently,” says PSFK’s Penn Whaling, chief strategist for the business consultancy. “As consumers become more aware of the true environmental costs of their garments and are attempting to be more deliberate with their purchases, there’s been a clear shift in the last few years. It’s been interesting to see fast fashion brands in particular emerge as leaders in sustainability.”

Consumers overwhelmingly want fashion brands to address environmental issues. Overall, 86 percent of consumers say companies should address urgent social and environmental issues, according to the Cone Generation Z CRS study. That figure significantly increases to 94 percent among Gen Z shoppers.

Additionally, most consumers (53 percent) say it’s “very/somewhat important” that apparel brands are transparent about their manufacturing practices, according to the Cotton Incorporated Lifestyle Monitor™ Survey. This rates higher among Gen X shoppers (59 percent), many of whom are in their parenting years. Further, 51 percent of consumers overall, and 58 percent of Gen X say they are “very/somewhat likely” to shop at a clothing brand that honestly communicates about its environmental and societal impacts compared to one that does not.

Many apparel companies, both big and small, are taking note and trying to do right by the environment, as well as appeal to the consumer desire to be eco-conscious while being stylish. For example, H&M is attempting to introduce sustainability in all aspects of their products’ life cycles, from using fabrics made from biodegradable materials to extending the lifespan of their garments by experimenting with resale platforms.

The textile dyeing and finishing industry is considered to be the most pollutant and energy-intensive process in the textile supply chain. To overcome these problems and meet the expectations of consumers, sustainable technologies are being developed.

Benninger Küsters DyePad is the heart of Benninger’s CPB system.Benninger, a provider of advanced, highly-developed textile finishing and tyre cord solutions for the global textile, chemical fibre, tyre and conveyor belt manufacturing markets, presented its Benninger Küsters DyePad, which is the heart of Benninger’s cold pad batch (CPB) system. The CPB dyeing process allows salt-free dyeing of woven fabrics and knitwear without the use of energy.

This process is also becoming increasingly popular in tropical and subtropical regions, which is reason enough for Benninger-Küsters to adapt the CPB systems even more effectively to the climatic conditions.

Another resource-efficient product produced by Benninger is TRIKOFLEX drum washing machine. The washing compartment is rounded off with the HYDROVAC vacuum-water extraction system. Since each reaction process is followed by a washing process in wet finishing, 70% of the energy consumption is incurred during washing. For this reason, Benninger washing compartments are insulated so that up to 50% of the radiated energy can be saved here.

According to Marcel Moser, Area Sales Director, Textile Finishing, Benninger, resources saving is a very important topic to the dyeing and finishing sector in countries like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and China. Water-saving, in particular, in China, is probably the most important point right now.

Luca Formentini, partner of Loris Bellini, also shared the same view. “Sustainability is one of the most important trends nowadays. The eco-friendly solution represents our biggest bet for the entire dyeing process today, as much as for tomorrow. At Loris Bellini, we believe technological evolution is the only true driver to move ideas towards a higher level of efficiency.”

Loris Bellini introduced its yarn dyeing system Pulsar – a result of over four years of intense research and development activity. Pulsar is a typical vertical kier system made up of that same upper quality 316L stainless steel and has the usual pneumatic opening/closing lid on the top end.

An important feature of the Pulsar machine is its sustainable advantages. It guarantees an impressive 70% electric saving, as well as reducing the consumption of water, steam and chemicals between 20% and 30%.

Addressing consumer demands with new technology

In the coming years, personalization and sustainability will continue to be strong influences in textile industry.

Personalization makes consumers feel more valued. If a company is able to engage on a deep, personal level with consumers, the brand experience is augmented. On the other hand, sustainability has been very important in the textile industry and consumers are increasing the pressure on brands to take responsibility and to create more sustainable products.

To remain competitive in the market, textile manufacturers should re-examine their processes and find ways to become more agile and remain relevant in a time of ever-changing consumer demands. They should also invest more in R&D and develop new technology to capture these business opportunities.