Eco-fashion helps Japanese textile makers survive




Vicuna wool is a natural fibre, but is very expensive due to its fine quality and that fact that the animals can only be shorn every three years.

Credit: EveryStockPhoto

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PARIS: Eco-fashion is not just a cool concept but is proving a useful economic tool for Japan's textile manufacturers.

Environment-friendly new products, from recycled cotton to organically-dyed cashmere, and a revolutionary treatment to make wool shrink-resistant without using chemicals were among the innovations showcased at a trade fair in Paris to woo the fashion capital's top designers.

"These are the survivors. The low quality textile manufacturers have all disappeared because they could not compete with China on price," explained Seiko Fujii-Lesage at the J-Tex salon.

They have identified the emerging eco-friendly market as one way of staying ahead of the game, she said.

Fujitex built its reputation on luxury and it has two entries in the Guinness Book of Records for paying the highest ever price for Australian merino wool and for selling the world's most expensive material, vicuna.

Vicunas, related to llamas and alpacas, produce such tiny quantities of ultra-fine wool that the wild animal can only be shorn every three years. Hence its rarity and eye-watering price of 4,600 euros (6,700 dollars) a metre.

"We are trying to deploy natural dyes instead of chemicals in consideration of the environmental issues which the whole world should address," said Fujitex president Toru Fujita.

He was at pains to emphasise that the company's stocks of Andes vicuna, which is considered endangered, had been acquired legally through the Peruvian government's scheme to combat poaching.

Fujitext now has a new range of cashmere dyed with plant extracts including pomegranate, acacia and cloves.

Tarui Textiles uses soil pigments to dye its organically-grown cottons. All the range is sourced geographically, from yellow from the southern French region of Provence to a red from Ayers Rock in Australia and benigara, a red oxide traditionally used to preserve wood from Nakatome in Japan.

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