What next for schoolwear?

The word on everyone’s lips at this year’s The Schoolwear Show was sustainability, with a vast number of exhibitors introducing eco options into their ranges for 2020. Here P&P editor Melanie Attlesey takes a closer look at some of the eco uniforms that were on display.

Billed as the biggest event in the schoolwear calendar, The Schoolwear Show returned once again to Cranmore Park in Solihull from Sunday, October 13 to Tuesday, October 15.

2019 seems to have been the year where businesses and consumers alike began to take sustainability, the environment and recycling seriously. The schoolwear industry is making its own mark in this field, with a large number of the exhibitors keen to showcase their new eco ranges to visitors.

Below are just a few examples that I spotted while walking around the exhibition:

  • Perhaps leading the way in eco uniforms is David Luke, which was celebrating its 10 year eco-versary at the exhibition. To date David Luke has prevented 27 million plastic bottles from reaching landfill. The supplier’s eco uniform now extends to trousers, skirts, sweats, jackets and the original blazer. Earlier this year, David Luke became the first schoolwear brand to achieve SCS Recycled Content Certification for its products, meaning the polyester fabrics used in its eco uniform products contain post-consumer waste.
  • Falcon highlighted on its stand the new CTIV+ 100% recycled polyester collection, which comprises of shorts, a T shirt and a polo shirt in a number of colourways and sizes for children and adults. The range is made from recycled plastic bottles which have been shredded and turned into yarn.
  • An addition to Banner’s stock supported schoolwear range for 2020 is the new Eco Tartan pleated skirt, which is made from a combination of 65% recycled polyester and 35% viscose. 100% of the recycled polyester yarn is made from synthetic renewable fibre with recycled PET from plastic bottles that would otherwise end up in landfill.
  • For back to school 2020 Zeco has expanded its eco range, which currently includes gold level GRS certified blazers.
  • Also launching a range of eco blazers at the show was Winterbottom’s. From 2020 all of Winterbottom’s forward orders of its Kempsey and Knightsbridge blazers and jackets will be from a recycled source. They will have an EcoElite stain repel and release finish which has less environmental impact than traditional finishes.
  • William Turner was keen to highlight how it plans on going green for the future generations with its tagline ‘Fit for the Future’. Visitors could find out all about how the manufacturer is focusing on sustainability and the future of our children’s planet. Staff on stand were full of information on the company’s up and coming green credentials and green product offering, which includes Eco bags, EcoPure biodegradable water bottles and Eco ties.
  • And finally, Rowlinson Knitwear used the exhibition to tell its ethical story to date. A feature on stand was a timeline, which detailed each milestone in the manufacturer’s journey starting way back in 2007 when Rowlinson became the first in the industry to bring Oeko-Tex certified products into the schoolwear market to 2019 when Rowlinson aims to become carbon neutral by the end of the year. On stand Rowlinson was showcasing its Performa Eco blazer and Performa Eco jacket. Both are made from 100% polyester derived from recycled plastic bottles.

Recognising that sustainability is a key issue in the schoolwear industry at the moment, the organisers arranged a seminar session titled ‘Sustainability – Long Live Uniforms’ which aimed to introduce attendees to retailers who have successfully introduced second-hand, re-use and recycle schemes into their business, allowing school uniforms to extend their life.

But, as David Burgess, chair of the Schoolwear Association, rightly pointed out, it’s all very well developing these eco products as the right intention is there, but what manufacturers, suppliers and schoolwear specialists need to think about is ‘what happens next’? After these uniforms have been worn and re-worn, are they going to end up in landfill or be recycled into new school uniforms? Perhaps will we see more of this train of thought at next year’s The Schoolwear Show.

Next year’s The Schoolwear Show will take place from Sunday, October 11 to Tuesday, October 13 – save the date!

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