EuroWeb at the 2024 Festival of the New European Bauhaus – Resources for Visitors

The human past constitutes a vast repository of knowledge, experiences, and techniques. Through practice-oriented research and interpretation, such a historically rich repository can offer contemporary society unique insights into alternative modes of being, doing, and making. In this sense, it can be mobilised to foster critical and innovative thinking aimed at tackling contemporary global challenges. Among these, the transition to a sustainable economy lies at the forefront of current social and political concerns and initiatives. 

In this context, the environmental impact of the textile and fashion industries has come under increasing scrutiny. The textile sector is a major driving force of the European economy. EURATEX – The European Apparel and Textile Confederation estimates that the turnover of the textile and clothing industry in the European Union amounted to €170 billion in 2023, and national overviews conducted by EuroWeb highlight its economic importance, also as a major job creator across Europe. This economic impact is expected to increase in the short term, with projections from the Textile Exchange suggesting a growth of a third in global textile fibre production by 2030, up to 145 million tonnes.

However, this expanding economic importance of the textile and fashion sectors comes hand in hand with a growing awareness of the adverse environmental effects of current production and consumption patterns, based on intensive use of highly pollutant synthetic materials, on mass production predicated on a rapid turnover of products (“fast fashion”), and on an increasingly unmanageable production of waste, as highlighted in various reports by the European Environment Agency. The current textile industry accounts for 10% of the global CO2 emission and for 20% of the total water pollution. All these factors contribute to making textile production one of the most pollutant activities in Europe, only behind food, and mobility.


This awareness is reflected in a growing demand for sustainable products and brands, which in turn has fostered the development of specific sustainability standards and certifications for textile businesses, such as the Global Organic Textile Standard, the OEKO-TEX® Standard or European Union’s own Ecolabel.

Therefore, the textile and fashion sectors have more recently been at the front and centre of policies related to the European Green Transition, namely with the recent approval of the European Union’s Circular Economy Strategy (2020), which particularly highlights the textile sector as a target for transformative policies, and the subsequent presentation of its Strategy for Sustainable and Circular Textiles (2022). The latter specifically maps out the twin goals of: a) developing, certifying and monitoring truly sustainable and responsible textile value chains; and b) shifting the consumption paradigm by enforcing principles of durability, reparability and recyclability.

This roadmap set out by the European Union amounts to a paradigm shift in textile production and consumption, one which will require substantial creative thinking in envisioning and implementing novel modes of making, using, caring for, and transforming textiles and clothing.


Luckily, research on heritage textiles and textile technologies, with its distinctive temporal, geographical, and cultural scope, is uniquely placed to harness the knowledge from past experiences providing practical insights on alternative materials and technologies, on diverse and environmentally adaptive ways of organising production and managing textile resources, as well as to serve as an inspiration for creativity and innovation.

The study of heritage textiles and techniques has developed remarkably in the past few decades, growing into a specialized field bringing together researchers from the Humanities/ Social Sciences and the Natural Sciences, as well as textile practitioners and creative industries. Insights generated through work in this field include, but are not limited to, an in-depth knowledge of:

a) a diverse array of natural products (especially fibres and dyestuffs), their development and patterns of exploration in the past;

b) the techniques employed to optimise their use;

c) the strategies deployed to manage the impact of agriculture and herding for fibre production along environmentally adaptive lines;

d) the value of good, responsible and creative artisanship in creating lasting, appealing, and prized textile products and garments;

e) an array of techniques, tools and skills for mending, re-tayloring, repairing, resizing and repurposing garments and textiles.

Online Resources for Responsible Fashion and Textile Consumers:

European Commission’s Circular Economy Action Plan

EU Strategy for Sustainable and Circular Textiles

European Environment Agency – Resources and Documents on Textiles

European Parliament Briefing ‘Environmental impact of the textile and clothing industry. What consumers need to know.’

‘Sustain your Style’ Platform

Textile Exchange (Nonprofit Organization)

Global Organic Textile Standard

EU Ecolabel

EURATEX Circular Economy Policy Dossiers

Ellen Macarthur Foundation – Resources and Documents on the Fashion Industry


Learn more about the Textile Industry and the economy of specific raw materials:

Alliance for European Flax-Linen and Hemp

European Wool Association

TCBL Association

European Cotton Alliance


Learn more about research on Textile Heritage and its social impact:

Textiles Working Group of the ICOM-CC

Centre for Textile Research (University of Copenhagen, DK)

European Textile Network (Haslach an der Mühl, DE)

Textile Research Centre (Leiden, NL)

Centre International d’Étude des Textiles Anciens (Lyon, FR)

MOIRES – Association pour l’étude et la valorisation des textiles en archéologie et en anthropologie sociale (FR)

ARTEX – Hellenic Centre for Research and Conservation of Archaeological Textiles (Athens, GR)

(Selected reference research institutions in the field of Textile Heritage research; for a more comprehensive list of Textile Heritage institutions, including Textile Museums and Collections, you can consult the EuroWeb National Survey of the European Textile, Dress and Fashion Sectors, with entries for most European countries).
Art & History Museum, Brussels (BE) Map