Threads of Innovation: Textile Symposium Unravels the Future

Research, Education & Capacity Building for Sustainable Development.

Christina Froemder reports.

Photos courtesy of Franziska Stölzel, Suhyun Ryu, Hyejin Im, Kamol Gomes

Textile Tour in Saxony with lokaltextil

Our journey began on a vibrant Monday (18 September) as lokaltextil UG took us on an immersive exploration of Saxony’s rich cultural tapestry, weaving together its textile history and future. We delved into the captivating annals of weaving culture at the Historische Schauweberei Braunsdorf – a living museum of textile production. In doing so, we unearthed the compelling parallels between local production in Germany and Bangladesh. Moreover, we found inspiration in the forward-thinking endeavours of Mr Rau, the CEO of InnoTex Merkel & Rau, as he shared innovative sustainable textile printing initiatives.

Juliane Dziumla, Sustainability Coordinator at UNU-FLORES, aptly noted, “This is the essence of global networking!” Our encounter was profoundly inspiring, granting us intimate insights into the intricate world of the textile industry. Our distinguished guests and textile experts from Ahsanullah University of Science and Technology (AUST) embarked on a captivating voyage through Saxony’s tapestry of textile history. Yet, it was sobering to witness how little of that history remains today. It left us pondering a critical question: What lies ahead for Saxon textile companies?

Textile Workshop with HILO

Our odyssey continued with hands-on experience and creative prototyping. Sara Diaz Rodriguez, representing Studio HILO, shared her journey in crafting new yarns from diverse materials, ranging from bananas to milk fibers, and beyond. What stood out was their unique software, developed in-house, allowing customisation of open-source machines. This approach resonated strongly with our colleagues and project partners, offering the flexibility of working with small material batches. This is ideal for university laboratories, research projects, and practical training for students.

Representatives from AUST & HILO Studio participate in the Textile Workshop

Welcome Reception

Our welcome reception brought together a mosaic of fascinating speakers under the theme of “Research, Education & Capacity Building for Sustainable Development.” The evening was dedicated to fostering collaboration between Bangladesh, Germany, and beyond. The primary focus was on education and capacity building for sustainable development, with research and innovation playing pivotal roles in promoting sustainability. Dignitaries like Md. Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan, Ambassador at the Embassy of Bangladesh in Berlin, Prof Dr Muhammad Fazli Ilahi, Vice Chancellor at AUST, and Prof Dr Edeltraud Günther, Director at UNU-FLORES, graced the occasion. Rashed Al Mizan & Noor-E-Farzana Annesha, Chairholder and Lecturer at AUST, shared insights into their new Chair of Sustainability and Textile Innovation. Shirin Araghi, Designer at C&A and GIZ Consultant, concluded the evening with valuable perspectives on the importance of circular economy training in higher education.

The packed agenda was complemented by a digital NGO exhibition, showcasing the commendable work of German and Bangladeshi NGOs in the textile sector. These organisations, though absent in person, contribute significantly to a better society and planet. We also curated a clothing and handcraft exhibition, highlighting sustainable clothing and textile goods from past field trips along the Asian textile value chain, featuring project partners like Aabha Ltd. and Strauss e.s. botanica. Additionally, we showcased regionally sourced and responsibly produced leather from local German supply chains (‘Regionales Leder’), an aspect closely connected to the world of fashion.

UNU-FLORES Organisers with the Bangladesh delegation, partners from GIZ, AUST & Strauss, and TU Dresden

Textile Symposium – Day 1

With a warm welcome from Prof Baral of AUST and a keynote presentation by Strauss on “Botanica – STRAUSS’ first entirely biodegradable workwear,” we embarked on the first day of the Textile Symposium. The event, hosted by Ljnk at Kraftwerk Mitte Dresden, delved into three primary themes: water and chemical management, the Resource Nexus and Sustainability Assessment, and the crucial social aspects of the textile industry.

After a refreshing walk, we transitioned to the premises of our partner, Dresden University of Technology (TU Dresden), specifically the Institute of Textile Machinery and High-Performance Material Technology (ITM). There, we gained further insights into their ongoing research and work. The day concluded with a splendid Dresden Sightseeing tour through the enchanting Old Town.

A visit to the Dresden Old Town

Textile Symposium – Day 2

Day two commenced with an invigorating welcome by Prof Günther from UNU-FLORES, followed by a keynote address by Dr Robert Reinhardt of UNEP. He shared profound insights from the recently published report, “Sustainability and Circularity in the Textile Value Chain – A Global Roadmap.”

Dr Robert Reinhardt reflected on LinkedIn, stating, “I am grateful for the insightful discussions and productive plenary sessions on practical best-practice examples, innovations, and the identification of key issues crucial for creating policies that ensure global equity and responsible resource utilisation in the textile sector. For the interconnected, complex, and global textile value chain, ‘shifting the needle’ is essential to instigate a systemic change, guided by science, with the common goal of achieving circularity.”

The first session of the second day zoomed in on circularity initiatives and the industry’s state of the art. It included a fascinating interview with Thomas Ahlmann from FairWertung e.V. Subsequently, we engaged in discussions with experts from both academia and industry. The second and final session, “Nature & Textiles,” was inaugurated with an interview featuring the esteemed Prof Saleemul Huq, Director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) and Professor at the Independent University Bangladesh (IUB).

Impulse talks from leading names like Prof Rubana Huq, Vice-Chancellor of Asian University for Women in Bangladesh and the former but first female president of BGMEA, along with other industry experts, served as bridges, offering further inspiration. These insights enriched the five sessions of the Symposium, paving the way for a reflective workshop. The event concluded with a momentous signing ceremony, uniting academics, industry leaders, and policymakers.

One of the panels discussed ‘Sustainability Assessment & the Resource Nexus’
The collaboration supported via the MoU aligns perfectly with AUST’s Chair for Sustainability and Textile Innovation and the activities of the project… HELD project, implemented by GIZ. By prioritising micro-credentials, i.e. academic short courses on just transition topics, combined with students’ research and digital skills development, this new partnership aims to equip the next generation of academia and industry professionals with application-oriented skills to drive positive change in the textile sector. We express our gratitude to all the individuals and organisations involved in making this partnership a reality.
GIZ Bangladesh on LinkedIn expressed
The outcomes of the week are discussed in a reflection workshop

Likewise, we extend our heartfelt appreciation to all the speakers, panelists, partners, and the dedicated logistical support that made this event a resounding success. Together, we have strengthened intercultural and transnational cooperation within the textile sector. Lastly, but certainly not least, we convey a big THANK YOU to the co-conveners and the entire support team for orchestrating a fantastic event series. Kudos to Franziska Stölzel (moderation & organisation of the event, UNU-FLORES), Lavinia Muth (moderation of panel discussions & organisation of the event, independent consultant, UNU-FLORES), Adiba Afros (organization of the event, independent consultant, UNU-FLORES), Yu-Shan Lin Feuer (TU Dresden), and all our colleagues at UNU-FLORES and beyond.

It was truly a pleasure to organise this event; now, let’s spring into action!

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