In recent years, it has become more apparent how damaging the fashion industry is to the environment. Therefore discussions about textile standards, in terms of sustainable fashion, and the exploration of new technologies like the blockchain all sound very promising, but what if we could simplify the process of finding out the footprint of our garments.Some consumers may be satisfied with reading the label on their clothes. Others may look to standards organisations like GOTS or ISO, to learn more about the supply chains of their favourite brands. But we still don’t have scientific evidence to show exactly where a garment has come from. We can track its footprint from a seed to the shelf with various stages of reporting, but we do not have hard science to show for our tracking. If a technology was developed to do this, it would quickly impact the level of sustainability within the fashion industry, and would probably spread to other industries as well.
Imagine a Fiber Testing Kit, that any consumer could purchase, bring home to their closet, and run a quick analysis on their favourite t-shirt. Anyone with the ability to test the fiber, theoretically, could hold companies accountable for their sourcing practices. An invention like this could be highly disruptive to the fashion industry, especially pertaining to the ongoing battle between ethical apparel and fast-fashion. Having the ability to know where a piece of clothing has been throughout its lifetime could be fascinating. Where were the fibers grown? Where was the product manufactured? Whose hands created the stitches? What if we could track the DNA of fabric?
Over 40 years ago, DNA profiling was developed by British-born Sir Alec Jeffreys, a geneticist and professor at the University of Leicester. Across the pond in California, biochemist Dr Kary Mullis, learned how to link and repeat DNA (polymerase chain reaction or PCR), while trying to find the point of genetic mutations for hereditary diseases. Both extraordinary minds made incredible breakthroughs for our knowledge and understanding of the human genome. DNA testing was implemented into law enforcement’s forensic teams within two years of the discoveries and has since been used worldwide to prove criminal acts, as well as exonerate innocent suspects.Since 1983, millions of people have benefitted from the ability to profile our DNA. Our knowledge of genetic linkages has led to countless family members being reunited, even posthumously. Millions more have been able to learn about their ethnicities, histories, and heritages through ancestry tracking. Yet often, we still think of DNA profiling most closely linked to evidence in criminal proceedings.