Sustainable fashion tech and innovative processes

The Sustainability Series (part 2)

With the industry responsible for producing 92 million tonnes of textile waste every year and contributing to nearly 10% of global carbon emissions1, it is no surprise that the EU has introduced proposals requiring fashion brands to take responsibility for the production process.

In part 2 of our four-part Sustainability Series, we look at fashion brands responding to the global sustainability crisis by using innovative processes to create sustainable fashion and textiles.

In this four-part Sustainability Series, we explore what the EU and fashion brands are doing to address sustainability, including through strategies and utilising innovative fabrics and manufacturing processes.

Fashion brands, from start-ups to household names, are working towards a more sustainable future. This includes through both using alternative materials which are readily available (such as organic cotton), using innovative technologies to produce new materials (discussed in part 1 of our Sustainability Series), or methods of manufacture, as discussed here. 

As the fashion industry continues to be increasingly globalised, it is often difficult to measure and authenticate the sustainability of the multiple processes involved in producing a single garment. With the EU’s new proposals to improve the sustainability of the processes in the industry, the spotlight is on brands in the fashion industry which are already actively innovating to improve the sustainability of their processes.

Japanese knitwear manufacturer and retailer Uniqlo has revolutionized the knitwear scene by using patented 3D knit technology called WHOLEGARMENT. Uniqlo’s 3D Knit jumpers and dresses are produced three-dimensionally as one entire piece. The WHOLEGARMENT machinery, developed by Shima Seiki, offers more precise control than traditional knitting techniques, allowing for new ways to manipulate fabric. As the garments are produced in one piece, there is minimal waste, and the process is streamlined by removing the need to sew separately knitted panels together. This innovative technology improves the efficiency and carbon footprint of the knitting process. 

There are even patentable technologies for providing supply chain transparency and accountability in the fashion industry. FibreTrace has developed a new photon-marker system software, enabling brands to verify each step of the supply chain, which ensures brands are being held accountable for their sustainability claims. FibreTrace was listed in TIME magazine’s 200 best inventions of 2023. 

FibreTrace’s luminescent pigment is non-toxic and can be applied to fibre or yarn to ensure that the materials in the end product can be traced back to specific points in the production process. This ensures that claims often made in the industry such as “made from 500 recycled bottles” or “made from 70% recycled materials” can be authenticated. With issues of greenwashing as an ever-growing threat2, services which enable and promote authenticity are welcome.

Another innovative development is self-cleaning textiles, which incorporate nanotechnology to break down dirt on exposure to sunlight or water. As a result, the garments don’t need to be washed as often, which extends the lifespan of the garment and reduces water consumption.

Although there is still some way to go to achieving a fully sustainable fashion industry, the pace of innovation in both the materials and processes in this area is extremely fast and shows no signs of slowing down, especially with the added incentive of the EU’s proposals. Any companies innovating in this area must ensure their IP is suitably captured and protected as early as possible. 

The Sustainability Series is a four-part series exploring what fashion brands and the EU are doing to address the critical issue of sustainability in the fashion industry.


  1. 10 Concerning Fast Fashion Waste Statistics | Earth.Org
  2. Navigating the Rising Threat of Greenwashing Enforcement | Potter Clarkson