RE: From Yarn to Tag
Last month I presented on RFID technology in the fashion industry. Some of the initial anecdotal responses I received, as well as questions post-presentation, were surrounding my mention of RFID technology on yarn. I decided to do deeper research on the subject and investigate how the process works and the benefits of this technology.
The high-level process of embedding RFID technology into yarn is as follows: An antenna is connected to an RFID chip and weaved into the textile yarn. There are a few requirements for the yarn to be viable to make the technology effective in its use. The yarn that best suits RFID requirements is washable, easy to process, conductive, flexible, and enduring meaning that it can last for a determined timespan.
As I mentioned in my presentation, embedding the technology in yarn has benefits for both businesses and the environment when the benefits of RFID are fully exploited. RFID embedded in yarn used for textiles in the apparel industry supports deep insights across the entire supply chain. In my presentation I described in detail the benefits of RFID on apparel, more specifically in fashion stores, and the benefits store data can provide businesses in the entire production process. Yarn in RFID can provide the most accurate authentication of products. Implementation of RFID technology into yarn also provides better control in the production process. Unfinished products can be detected, and quality can be monitored and controlled by the entire RFID system. Proper use of materials in the production process can also be better monitored with implementation on the yarn level.
Another subject I very briefly touched upon in my presentation was implementation of RFID technology in yarn which can provide recycling directions at the end of a product’s life. RFID on the yarn level promotes sustainability in the fashion industry and is the answer to another key issue that faces industry. The global fashion industry produces over 92 million tons of waste per year. In the United States, over 17 million tons of used textile waste are produced each year. Clothing is hard to recycle. This is due to the fact that clothing is made of a combination of various fibers and materials. RFID leverages efficiency of recycling apparel by differentiating products that need to be sorted by textile type.
RFID also can be leveraged to reduce waste and overproduction. Real time data supports lean production of products not widely desired by consumers which decreases costs and enhances a business’s bottom line. Beyond usage in yarn and textiles at the smallest level, implementation of RFID technology tags in warehouses and logistics channels can greatly reduce waste that is created during the production process. Accurate order tracking can reduce waste produced by unnecessary transportation caused by weak order tracking. Not only can the technology help reduce Co2 waste in the logistics space, but it can also pinpoint bottlenecks and wasted space in warehouses and provide data that can be used by management to rectify these issues.
There are numerous other technologies targeting the highly wasteful fashion industry to combat the high levels of pollution produced year over year. Natural textiles such as cotton, are highly resource intensive and use the amount of water that one person drinks in 2.5 years. On the other hand, synthetic materials do not degrade quickly and are made of harmful chemicals. One way to combat these problems is turning to natural agricultural waste including leaves and rinds to create more sustainable textiles for the clothing industry. The fashion industry is also looking to implement regenerative farming to restore the health of soil that is greatly drained from producing natural textiles like cotton.
Other fashion tech companies look to curb consumer consumption with their business models. ThredUp is a popular company that supports buying and reselling apparel items that are in good condition from sought after brands. Rent the Runway has a different business model that offers consumers different subscription levels where you can search for clothing, accessories, and outwear from high end brands and the items are delivered on a rotating basis. I currently have a Rent the Runway subscription because of all the holiday events coming up in the next two months. I got my subscription because I thought it would help me save money rather than buying new clothes, I have a one-time charge each month. In a culture where many people feel the need to get a new outfit for every event (most likely perpetuated by social media and Instagram pictures), Rent the Runway helps solve this problem in some way. While there are many technologies being presented to combat the waste created by the fashion industry, both businesses and consumers will need to change their behaviors and make conscious efforts to become part of the solution to make a change.
Would you wear a shirt with antennas or made of leaves?