Lenzing AG, one of the largest wood-based fibre manufacturers of the world, has been promoting sustainable fashion in India for over a decade with its products TENCEL™ and LENZING™ ECOVERO™, all sustainable and environmentally responsible fibres.
India is a young consumer market with almost 65% below the age of 35 who understand value propositions, can easily compare prices and are concerned about the environment. This combination has been the driver for fast acceptance of Lenzing Group’s products.
High-end apparel brands have welcomed Lenzing AG products into their collections including ace Indian designers like Ritu Kumar, The House of Anita Dongre and Abraham & Thakore as have premium retailer brands with strong sustainability goals such as Zara, Monsoon, Esprit, Marks and Spencer, Global Desi. Even budget brands such as MAX and FBB have incorporated LENZING™ viscose fibres into their collections.
In a tête-à-tête with IMAGES Business of Fashion, Avinash Mane, Commercial Head, South Asia, Lenzing Group talks about how Lenzing has quickly transitioned into a serious challenger for existing sustainability brands in India. He also shares his insights into the Indian textile industry, the role of sustainability as well as the brand’s response to the new connected and discerning consumer.
Excerpts from the interview…
What is your assessment of the impact of COVID-19 on the Indian textile industry?
2020 has impacted every aspect of our lives. As we continue to battle the pandemic, the textiles and apparel industry within India as well as the world experienced unprecedented disruptions. The pandemic has thrown light upon the urgent need for consumers as well as organizations to focus on sustainable choices, products and processes. And to that effect, sustainable fashion has accelerated to centre stage within the industry. The global ethical fashion market was earlier estimated to grow at 6.8% CAGR, from US$6.35 billion in 2019 to $8.25 billion in 2023. The sustainable fashion trends of the future are heavily influenced by the events of today, which could never have been predicted. As we look towards 2021 and gradually recover, we believe that the changing consumer attitude will continue to encourage the industry to embrace sustainability at all levels.
How well is the industry recovering now? What challenges face the textile sector still?
With the COVID-19 pandemic, more changes have been brought to the already transforming fashion and textile industries. E-commerce platforms fueled sales for apparel brands during the pandemic. As the country rolls out a nation-wide vaccination plan demand looks up and the future looks bright for the Indian textile industry.
What are some of the major changes in this industry that were triggered by the pandemic?
As shared earlier, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the urgent need for sustainable choices, products and processes. At Lenzing AG, we have been at the forefront of advocating these.
One of the important steps towards this is supply chain traceability that has become a top priority for fashion and textile brands. To address both consumer demand and compliance risks increasingly faced by brand partners, Lenzing introduced a brand-new blockchain-enabled supply chain traceability platform powered by TextileGenesis™. It offers excellent real time tracing from fibre to garment stages and is helpful for retailers and brands. It is accessible by all brands using TENCEL™ and LENZING™ ECOVERO™ branded fibres, and supply chain partners globally across Asia, Europe and the Americas.
Which of these changes are expected to be permanent?
We believe, sustainability, along with traceability and transparency will become a key focus for consumers as well as brands going forward. Increasing number of international and domestic brands are adopting sustainable production and sourcing goals as part of their larger organizational goals.
Coronavirus has forced the fashion industry to a sustainable future with consumers all over the world demanding social, environmental and economic changes. Tell us about the role of sustainability in the post pandemic reality of fashion.
According to McKinsey report, consumer pattern for sustainable fashion globally is encouraging. Two-thirds of buyers are willing to spend extra on eco-friendly clothes. Indian shoppers definitely consider a sustainable manufacturing process as a priority while buying fashion items, although material, fit, design and price have a more controlling influence. New data shows that more than 67 percent consider the use of sustainable materials to be an important purchasing factor.
With consumers demanding social, environmental, and economic change, brands need to reassess their priorities and adapt to the new reality. As sustainability takes the centre-stage in fashion conversations, the need to ramp-up sustainability efforts by brands can no longer be ignored be it in terms of adopting sustainable materials or bringing in environmentally responsible practices at every step of the production process and transparency to the next level.
At Lenzing, we have been global pioneers in advocating these practices starting with our wood based cellulosic fibers. A good example in terms of end product is LENZING™ ECOVERO™ fibers. LENZING™ ECOVERO™ is our sustainable viscose fibre brand and the world’s first eco viscose brand and the only viscose to be certified with EU Ecolabel. This is being adapted successfully by increasing numbers of brands and retailers in their lines. As global leaders of sustainable fashion, we envision ourselves as driving the next phase of sustainable fashion revolution in India by providing the industry and consumers alike with the most advanced and completely bio-degradable product options like LENZINGTM ECOVEROTM at the same time assuring them of complete product comfort and convenience.
Driving sustainability and combating climate change has always been at the core of Lenzing’s philosophy and we are happy that the larger industry is also adopting the same. We are supporting this transformation through our myriad offerings.
What has been the response of brands and manufacturers to this rapidly increasing focus on sustainability, especially in India?
Over the past few years, consumers and producers both are increasingly concerned about the impact of textile industry in terms of resource consumption – water consumption and disposal, chemicals & dyes, how it is harming the environment, and the waste treatment and its resulting carbon footprint. Now, the consumers are aware and more educated, they demand transparency from producers to get better understanding of manufacturing methods of their product and about what kind of material used across the supply chain. Producers, retailers and brands are also working to provide the information to the consumers and are more focused on collections that meet the highest available standard on sustainability.
While, brands and manufacturers were realizing this, the adoption of required change was moving gently. COVID pandemic transformed the sustainability narrative within the fashion industry. This inflection needs to be sustained by the industry through effective partnerships between brands and various players across value chain to offer better products.
As the global pioneers of sustainability in fashion, how is Lenzing AG helping brands towards the future?
Lenzing AG has gained more grip in the industry value chain. We are really pleased to see that various players across the value chain, including key fashion brands, are making serious commitments to use more sustainable fibres and embrace the circular economy. With greater awareness of sustainable fibre usage and stronger collaboration amongst key industry players, we could help minimize the environmental impact of the fashion industry, and work towards a more sustainable textile ecosystem in the long run. Sustainability is an intrinsic and core part of Lenzing, stemming from our belief that a clean and healthy environment is a fundamental human right. Over the past 80 years, we have pioneered sustainable production processes and innovative technologies for cellulosic fibre production. Sustainability is key to maximizing the value of our ecosystem and is vital for the future development of the textile industry.
In 2019, Lenzing announced that by 2030, it aims to reduce its specific CO2 emissions per ton of manufactured pulp and fibers by 50 percent and by the year 2050, the Lenzing Group will no longer generate any net CO2 emissions. This is a huge undertaking.
To realize these goals, we are implementing our sustainability strategy to ensure an even higher level of environmental compatibility across all production operations and state-of-the-art technologies that further improve exhaust emission values. Towards the same, Lenzing introduced CARBON NEUTRAL TENCELTM Fibres branded lyocell and modal fibres to the market in 2020.
At the local level, we are actively working on developing a robust supply chain across the country and help brands across the spectrum to incorporate sustainable solutions in close conjunction with end-consumers through brand and designer associations. To build on the growing needs and requirements put forth before by the consumers, we launched our first supply chain solutions hub in Mumbai early last year. This will give access to global solutions and innovations to the local manufacturers in the region.
Lenzing also introduced the first ever blockchain-enabled supply chain traceability platform for brands powered by TextileGenesis™. The platform allows all brands using TENCEL™ and ECOVERO™ branded fibers, and supply chain partners globally across the world end-to-end supply-chain traceability.
We strongly believe that working closely with our partners and customers is crucial to creating profound change in the industry, and we remain committed to driving innovation and sustainability in the industry.
What are some of the fashion retail brands that is Lenzing AG is collaborating with at the moment? Is Lenzing AG only working with premium brands or is it also working with budget brands?
Lenzing has a robust footprint across the globe. We work with brands across categories irrespective of size, genre and categories. As sustainability drivers for the fashion industry, we work towards providing fibre solution for key global brand such as Jockey, Victoria Secrets, Armed Angels as well as designers like Mara Hoffman.
For Lenzing, India serves as a key market for exports as well as a huge domestic consumption. Lenzing has been present across all major apparel categories in India such as ethnic wear, intimate wear, general outerwear, denims and home furnishings. The company has been associated with ace designers such as Anita Dongre, Rajesh Pratap Singh and Abraham & Thakore to leading brands such as AND, Global Desi, Marks & Spencers, H&M, D’décor, Levi’s, as well as retailers like Future Group and Myntra to name a few. With a huge response garnered by their flagship fibre brand – TENCEL™ and sustainable viscose fibre brand- LENZINGTM ECOVEROTM, Lenzing Group had also introduced its nonwoven specialty fibre – VEOCELTM in 2019 and LENZINGTM Industrial solutions earlier, diversifying the reach among the beauty and industrial application segments.
We also closely work with young labels who are focused on offering sustainable products XYXX Crew, Tailor & Circus, Tahweave, etc. Our association with these brands is a testimony to our commitment towards leveraging our experience in supporting these sustainable brands.
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