UK certification body for the textile industry, Shirley, talks to Just Style exclusively about the main opportunities and challenges it is facing today.
Behind every responsible fashion manufacturer and brand there are certifications awarded by organisations such as Shirley.
The opportunities and challenges for manufacturers and retailers are based on the impact of the economy, current affairs and the supply chain, but how do these factors affect certification bodies?
At the Source Fashion London event last month, Just Style spoke exclusively to Francesca Walters, senior technical officer at Shirley, to understand how the institute is managing the key issues facing the textile industry right now ranging from sustainability and innovation to marketing.
“We are a textile institute based in Manchester that was established in 1919. We’re part of the British Textile Technology Group, and we work in issuing certificates to brands, auditing factories, and conducting independent testing. We also inform and advise our customers on supply chains and how they can improve their practices.
“We are one of the 18 institutes the global sustainable certification brand Oeko-Tex works with. The Standard-100 is the most popular and long-standing certificate that we issue, and it tests textiles for harmful chemicals.”
“We are seeing an increase in demand for certification because of the industry-wide push for sustainability. This is especially the case from start-ups who want to ensure good practice from the beginning. This means that we can introduce new certificates year on year and keep growing.
“However, it’s difficult within the sector to avoid greenwashing. We only have so much control as a testing institute and no control over how brands choose to market our certificates. Some companies want to be certified but they don’t care what it means or don’t want to put the work in to achieve true sustainability.”
“We have no control over which brands ask for certification. For example, we wouldn’t want a company with a Standard-100 certificate marketing it as something that’s not to do with chemical testing. This also affects the consumer, as if the end user isn’t fully informed, then they can think the certification is about something else entirely.
“It’s a struggle with companies like Primark, who are getting more Oeko-Tex certificates. Of course, it’s good that they are improving, but ultimately their business model is fast fashion.”
“We’ve seen an improvement in visibility and traceability from the brand level down. There’s more push back on supply chains which gradually leads to the eradication of things like unsafe working practices.
“We also see a lot of work in new fibres and research, which Shirley has to be aware of in order to certify these innovations. We hope this continues and that sustainable fabrics become more prevalent in the industry.”By Just Style