Kornit Digital has led a call for action for clothing manufacturers, retailers and governments to harness the latest technology to reduce pollution and create jobs in the UK.
As part of Kornit Fashion Week in London this week, CEO Ronen Samuel joined designers, brand owners and others in the fashion industry championing the very latest in technology for garment and textile decoration.
Highlighting how around 20% to 30% of “fast fashion” garments currently ended up being marked down or sent to landfill, Ronen highlighted how Kornit’s direct-to-garment (DTG) printers supported more sustainable on-demand clothing decoration.
His message was backed at this week’s event by supply chain expert Bill McRaith, former chief supply chain officer at fashion group PVH, whose brands include Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein.
Speaking at Kornit Fashion Week, Bill called for government support for the garment industry to become more sustainable in its production and bring jobs to the UK.
He pointed out that, in the past, “the technology didn’t exist, the ecosystem did not exist, people had moved offshore” but now on-demand DTG technology meant the industry could tackle the excess waste of 20% in garment production and other challenges such as the increasing use of air freight.
“We could solve it today, we have the capability today,” he said. “We need to go solve this stuff and we need to solve it now. Not in five years, not in 10 years.
“Governments could encourage retailers to collude and conspire together to beat climate change. So many obstacles are put in companies’ ways to prevent them working together. There are people chomping at the bit to go deliver it. The challenge now is let’s gear this up a massive level.”
He said that research had shown that bringing back just 10% of garment manufacturing to the UK through processes such as digital garment printing would create 56,000 jobs in the UK.
He stressed these jobs would be in garment manufacturing using “agile automation”, explaining: “The jobs that come back are not the jobs that went away 30 years ago.”
However, Bill said that a major barrier in the UK and the rest of Europe was the lack of a single industry voice representing all retailers and manufacturers in the clothing sector on a par with the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) which has successfully lobbied US governments.
Ronen pointed out that Kornit was committed to working with the rest of the sector to enable these changes to happen, including driving education and awareness through initiatives such as its Fashion Weeks around the world.
“Younger consumers, together with government and brands putting sustainability on top, will make change. Those brands are the leaders, and people follow leaders. There will be a point in time where it will be too late to change.
“We understood over the last few years that we have to play a much bigger role. We have to change the eco-system. Kornit would like to become the operating system of sustainable production of fashion anywhere around the world.
“It’s a journey. We’re just starting. It’s a long journey. Like in any industry, change can take time and we cannot do it by ourselves.”
Chris Govier, president of Kornit in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, added that Kornit was already working on new technology to further support the shift to more sustainable garment printing.
“We are at the tip of the iceberg right now with our technology… but we are constantly evolving our innovative technology. We have new technology coming out later next year which will fundamentally change the whole on-demand production capacity and productivity.”
Championing the role of virtual reality and augmented reality technology in the future of on-demand production, Ronen also signalled that Kornit was keeping an eye on how 3D printing might one day be used to print out a whole garment from scratch.
“It will one day come but the industry is not there yet. Kornit is looking in that direction – how can you print the garment, print the fabric – but it’s too early now. One day it will come.”
For now, Kornit’s XDi technology already enables the printing of textures and layers on garments with ink to emulate embroidery. “This will replace different analogue technologies,” Ronen predicted.
Kornit Fashion Week London is running from May 15 to 17 at the historic Freemasons’ Hall in Covent Garden, highlighting the power of digital production through shows from designers including Manish Arora as well as new fashion brands such as Love Hero.