• Claire Wu

Japan Textile Salon in NYC 2020

Updated: Apr 20

The fashion industry is the second most polluting industry in the world. Every step from the process of creating fabrics to the finishing product that can be quickly replaced by a newer one all contribute to environmental damage. Hoping to move the Japanese textile industry forward, JETRO introduced “sustainability” as the theme of this year’s Japan Textile Salon.

This year’s Japan Textile Salon discussion panels that largely focused on the importance of the companies to invest in sustainability. “Sustainability isn’t a trend, it’s a direction,” said Chief Merchandising Officer at Untuckit LLC Bjorn Bengtsson. Bengtsson mentioned that with the occurrence of climate change and the frequent incidents of wildfires, consumers not only are asking for sustainable products, but they’re also expecting the companies to be sustainable.


However, being sustainable isn’t something that can be done within a night, it’s a long process that can take up to ten years. Bengtsson said, “what’s important [for the companies] is not to declare [they] have done X and Y, but [to show] ‘we know we’re not perfect, but we have a plan to get there’.” He mentioned that younger consumers, especially, tend to be more skeptical about what the companies say because they have been educated about the aspect of sustainability and will not “put up with false statements.” Therefore, it’s better for companies to start with a smaller action.

Angela Kramer, Senior Manager Fabric Research & Development at 3.1. Phillip Lim said the fastest way to approach sustainability with an effective change is the design of the products. Designers may choose a fabric that’s either recycled or has less toxic filaments. She also said that it’s important for these companies to work with the farmers and factories in creating and selecting a more eco-friendly textile to be used in clothing production. Companies may also follow the steps of bigger companies such as H&M and Patagonia in treating unwanted garments.


“Sustainability can’t be an IP of a company,” said Bengtsson, “anything I do, if that belongs to large corporations, I have an obligation to share with the industry, because many small companies do not have the resources to pursue a stable path, because they don’t have the money to invest to it.”


There were 16 exhibitors who attended the Japan Textile Salon, each presented its specialty textiles as well as their way of approaching sustainable products. Yet, multiple exhibitors revealed that the aspect of sustainability hasn’t fully infiltrated Japanese society. Unlike what has been discussed at the panel discussions, the demand for sustainable products isn’t as high. Exhibitors claimed that most consumers found it difficult to understand why the recycled products would cost more than regular products and are skeptical of the value of sustainable products.

For this reason, JETRO is hoping to raise the awareness of sustainability to the Japanese textile companies as well as the buyers in the United States through this event.


*Japanese version of this is published in Kigyo Gaikyo February 2020

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