IWTO Congress 2019 Report

The discussion about sustainability is becoming more diverse

On 9-11 April 2019, the 88th IWTO Congress took place in Venice, Italy. Over 320 delegates attended the event representing the entire wool supply chain from all key wool growing and manufacturing countries.

Besides providing a great networking opportunity, the IWTO Congress offers a unique opportunity for learning about new industry developments and sharing views on key issues during presentations and panel discussions. In this report, we wish to share our summary of the event with you.

The event was opened by Eco-Age founder Livia Firth, a well known sustainable fashion evangelist married to actor Colin Firth. The Italian sustainability expert showcased her movie ‘Forever Tasmania’ where she talks to Wool Growers and researchers about animal welfare and sustainable production. Livia’s message to the wool industry was to continue to collaborate across the whole supply chain and to co-invest into research on sustainability. According to Ms. Firth, this was especially important as wool is a strategic key component in reducing fast fashion and minimising the related pollution of microplastic fibres in our oceans. ‘The time for wool is now’, Livia Firth concluded her message to the industry.

The sustainability message by Livia Firth was a returning theme throughout the 3-day event. However, presentations by various speakers such as Eco-Age Chief Brand Officer Harriet Vocking and industry expert Dr. Paul Swan showed that the sustainability discussion is maturing. While the topic used to circle around Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) and animal welfare, the scope is broadening. Aspects such as traceability and transparency, working conditions, economic prosperity, circular economy, community, and social wellbeing were aspects discussed during the event as well.

Hugo Boss representative Heinz Zeller explained why transparency is a top priority for the fashion industry. Clothing manufacturers and retailers want to be in a position where they know exactly where and how each garment item has been produced.
The solution to a traceable supply chain favoured by the industry is blockchain, a technology already explored by various industry players such as AWEX and BKB. However, Mr. Zeller pointed out that a successful Blockchain solution can only be a global one which is jointly being developed by all supply chain partners involved, similar to the world wide web.

Another forum for interesting debate was the Market Intelligence Session organised by Chris Wilcox. Don MacDonald reported about the dreadful drought in Australia and showed the latest AWI video about the situation (click here to view). CEO Joe Farren of British Wool gave insights into the British coarse wool market and CEO Giovanni Schneider of the Schneider Group provided insights into the Italian wool manufacturing and fashion industry (watch Giovanni Schneider’s presentation here). A podium discussion with Chinese wool manufacturers and delegates in the audience followed the presentations. The debate about current high wool prices for fine wools showcased general support and understanding for wool growers and an expectancy for prices to even increase further.

The last Congress was hosted by the Benetton Group at their headquarters in Treviso. Here the main focus was on the topic of wool’s health and wellness benefits. NASA researcher Ms Orndorff reported about her search for finding the best fibre for astronauts to wear during their extended travel to Mars and beyond. After comparing a wide variety of fibres wool came out as a clear winner when it comes to comfort, odour and static.

The IWTO Congress ended with a visit to the Marzotto Group headquarters in Valdagno. Delegates were able to gain insights into one of the biggest users of fine wool and discover a long history of corporate social responsibility by one of the global leaders in the production of high-quality fabrics for men’s and women’s clothing.

Overall the Congress gave a good overview on current challenges and opportunities as well as the latest research results the industry is advancing on. The next IWTO Congress will be held on 18-20 May 2020 in Tongxiang, China.

Petition against Microplastic Fibres

Get involved to help protect our health and oceans from microplastic fibres

Giovanni Schneider, CEO of the Schneider Group, has launched a petition via the website Change.org to help reduce the threat of microplastic fibres.

The petition is addressed towards the Italian government to develop a law that helps make consumers aware of their usage of synthetic clothing and reduce the number of synthetic microfibers entering our water systems. Similar laws are already underway in California as well as New York. These laws foresee that clothes made of more than 50% synthetic fibres need to be clearly marked as being harmful to the environment due to the shedding of synthetic microfibres.

More and more research studies reveal the harm caused by synthetic clothes shedding microplastic fibres. These tiny plastic particles find their way into our rivers and oceans causing harm to marine life and then subsequently also to our own human health.

All garments made of natural and synthetic fibres shed microfibres during wear and washing. The difference is that natural fibres particles biodegrade while synthetic fibres do not. Research shows that synthetic microfibres accumulate in water and bind other toxic chemicals. Plankton and fish often absorb these microfibres and therefore these toxic particles end up in our food chain causing toxic harm.

The rise of fast fashion using cheaply produced synthetic fibres and being washed frequently is unsustainable and a threat to our health and our planet. Encouraging the production and use of clothes made of natural fibres such as cotton, silk and wool can contribute to a healthier future and will also add a positive economic impulse for the Italian textile industry.

We kindly invite you to sign the petition initiated by Giovanni Schneider to help move consumption into a sustainable direction. Click here.


Petition against Microplastic Fibres

ISPO 2019 Report

From 03-06 February 2019, the ISPO fair took place once again in snowed-in Munich, Germany. The International Sports and Outdoor fair had a total of 2.943 exhibitors showcasing their goods to around 80.000 visitors from 120 countries who attended the fair.

Launch of Cashmere Authentico Integrity Scheme

Cashmere Authentico stands for high-quality cashmere, traceable all the way from the Mongolian wild steppe to the Schneider Group dehairing plant in Ulaanbaatar delivered to customers’ textile manufacturing facilities.