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As consumers grow increasingly attuned to fashion fiber innovations and sustainability benefits, they’re also growing more wary of misleading claims. The pressure is on to keep things honest.

Brands must do their due diligence to ensure they know the complete sustainability profile of all their garments—down to the fiber level—then convey that information in verifiable, science-based terms to an increasingly demanding consumer.

“Now, mills and spinners are under increased pressure not only to use fibers that were grown or sourced responsibly, but to prove their compliance through certifications,” said Ruth Farrell, general manager of textiles at Eastman, the producers of the growing Naia™ sustainable fiber portfolio, in a fireside chat with Sourcing Journal.

Today, Eastman partners with more than 50 renowned brands on Naia™, Naia™ Renew and Naia™ Renew ES (with enhanced sustainability), but attitudes have changed since the fiber’s launch in 2017. In “sustainability years,” five years can seem like a lifetime.

“Five years ago, the industry was talking about sustainable sourcing of wood pulp, and the conversation was on robust sourcing policies, making sure that we were not sourcing from ancient and endangered forests, and certifications like FSC, Canopy, etc. were front of mind,” Farrell said.

Today, things have become more holistic, with people—both industry players and consumers—wanting to know about chemical use, carbon footprint, water footprint, biodegradability, and “the big topic of the moment,” circularity.

Eastman’s recent research consumer underscores this new focus. More than 65 percent of respondents answered that sustainability would be “on their wish list” when they look to purchase loungewear. “We didn’t have that five years ago,” said Farrell.

But with consumer interest comes great responsibility, not just to present the truth transparently, but to make it comprehensible. “There’s a balance at the consumer level and indeed at the value chain level between presenting information that is understandable without overwhelming people with too much of the science and the technology,” she said.

Fashion without compromise

Consumers also need to trust that a sustainable fiber will behave the way fashionable consumers expect, without compromising on drape, hand feel, etc. “Eco-friendly yarns and fabrications have to stand up to traditional art alternatives when it comes to quality and functionality,” said Farrell.

Naia™ recently sponsored the RISE UP Sustainable Fashion Design contest in Shanghai through the R.I.S.E. Sustainable Fashion Lab. “We were so impressed what these young designers were doing with Naia™,” said Farrell. “It’s so inspiring to start seeing people use sustainable fibers in a very different way.”

To view the full fireside chat, click the image above.