New Cotton Project Introducing: Aalto University

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The New Cotton Project is a world first with twelve pioneering players coming together to demonstrate an entirely circular model for commercial garment production.

This week we meet Kirsi Niinimäki from Aalto University and talk to her about her involvement in the project.

Please give an overview of your company and job role.

Aalto University is an academic partner in the project. Aalto University is quite famous for its design research and especially doing academic research in the sustainable fashion and textile system, but our design research has also more active role while trying to help different stakeholders to change their understanding or practices towards more sustainable ones. Associate Professor Kirsi Niinimäki leads the New Cotton project in Aalto University. She is also a head of Fashion/Textile Futures research group.

What is your participation in the New Cotton Project?

Aalto University will focus to enhance the ecosystem building between partners in the project. We try to identify obstacles in the ecosystem, gaps in the knowledge flows and build bridges to overcome these issues. Based on aforementioned, different kinds of actions will be created but also we will produce knowledge which is needed to enable ecosystem building. Another aspect is the more academic research on the value creation in the supply chain in the context of circular economy and also creating new business models suitable for circular textile system.

What challenges and pitfalls do you think will arise in the New Cotton Project?

Starting a new project like this is a challenging for all partners. Some partners have been collaborating with each other before, so for those ones trust has been built based on previous experiences. To construct trust in this kind of wide collaboration (including several partners) sharing is needed. Now when we cannot meet face to face this is a bit more challenging task to do. There are some gaps in the knowledge and some hesitations (for example what are all the steps which will happen in this project during next 3 years and where will be our company’s actions to happen) so a lot of sharing and interaction, co-planning should happen in the beginning which will ease the continuation of the project.

Where do you see the greatest opportunities in collaboration?

New benefits and value creation can be found through this kind of collaboration. New kinds of business opportunities could arise when we move towards circular economy and especially when we found new ways of collaborating. It is great that the whole value chain is included and they even are quite close to each other so now the industrial ecosystem happens in the European level. This might provide new value aspects when thinking the sustainability of textiles and fashion. This “locality” is quite unique in the global textile and fashion system. 

Where do you see the future of circularity in the fashion and textiles industry?

Circular economy is the future of fashion and textile industry. When this circular industry grows, textile waste will be a valuable source of material and its price will increase. In this way future industry will also include waste as a part of their business thinking and business model. This will challenge the current linear way of doing business and it provides opportunities to better consider higher quality as well as longer lifespan for garments and textiles.

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