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Looking ahead: the big picture

Both emerging and on-going developments will characterize 2024 trends.

Features | January 29, 2024 | By: Janet Preus

Trends in the textile industry are apparently not easy to pin down; market researchers who study trends as a business agree on some, but not all. The degree of detail researched impacts the outcome, of course, and even market niche investigations generate hefty reports. Given the extensive reach of textile materials and products in the larger industrial picture, this is not surprising. But big picture trends are there and worth noting as another new year is just underway.

This article will look at four trends that are either ongoing or emerging:

  1. The wide-ranging issues surrounding sustainability
  2. Novel materials
  3. Smart textiles’ slow but consistent growth
  4. The prospects for artificial intelligence (AI) use in the textile industry

It’s also worth noting the inter-relationships among these developments. Many novel materials have been developed specifically to make textile products more sustainable, for example. Smart textiles, in part, are also driving the development of novel materials, and AI could impact all of the other trends in some way. 

Redefining sustainability

The question of what it means for a business or product to be “sustainable” is complex and requires looking at a number of factors. With evidence of climate change mounting, pressure for industry participants to step up their efforts to provide more eco-friendly products is also increasing. But that’s just one piece of a complicated sustainability puzzle. Questions about recycling, water use, energy use, harmful chemicals, waste generation, supply chain, and landfilled single-use products are among basic questions facing producers every day. 

StartUs Insights, which provides industry research on “innovation, emerging companies and technologies,” chose “Sustainable supply chain” for the number four slot on its “Discover the Top 8 Trends in the Textile Industry (2024)” list. It also says that the textile industry is “one of the largest contributors to environmental pollution.”

In fact, this is such a complicated issue that enterprises often turn to services, such as those provided by many research firms and academic institutions to help them navigate the process of supply chain “due diligence.” According to the German research and testing company, Hohenstein, due diligence means that a company is responsible for protecting human rights and the environment throughout its supply chain, encompassing its business partners’ operations, as well as its own. 

The industry also continues to struggle with the recycling of textile waste and discarded textile products., a website dedicated to promoting environmental awareness and sustainability, published an article April 11, 2023 (“17 Most Worrying Textile Waste Statistics & Facts”) that lists several key points, including that the world produces 92 million tons of textile waste every year; 87 percent of the materials and fibers used to make clothing alone will end up in either incinerators or landfills, and only 20 percent of discarded textiles are collected. 

New recycling technologies are available, but generally require transporting textile waste to a site built for that purpose. Transportation alone is a deterrent, which suggests the technology needed is one that’s more available and doesn’t require moving waste product great distances. 

An over-arching problem has prompted action from the European Parliament just this month to ban “greenwashing” and regulate labeling. reported on the EU’s directive that aims to “make product labeling clearer and more trustworthy” by banning the use of general environmental claims (environmentally friendly, natural, biodegradable, climate neutral or eco) without providing proof.

Elsewhere in the world, The Indian Textile Journal published its “Industry trends for 2024” in November, 2023, noting key takeaways. “The textile industry’s outlook for 2024 and beyond is characterised by a strong emphasis on sustainability, incorporating both natural and synthetic fibres, prioritising yarn quality, embracing technical textiles and digital printing, and maintaining a resolute dedication to creating a more environmentally friendly and ethical future.” It was speaking specifically about the Indian textile market, but given its size, these trends are certainly relevant in the larger context. 

Novel materials 

According to StartUs Insights, because the industry’s main environmental issues involve water and air pollution, greenhouse gases and chemical discharge, “novel fabrics and advanced manufacturing technologies are major textile industry trends.” In fact, it put the development of novel textiles number one on its trends list. 

New chemical-free processes are being developed that reduce the industry’s dependence on petroleum-based materials; however, polyester is not going away anytime soon. According to Valuates Reports®, the polyester fiber market was valued at $81.1 billion in 2022, and is estimated to reach $160.1 billion by 2032, growing at a CAGR of 7.1 percent from 2023 to 2032. 

But new polymers are being developed in other ways. The American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) released an article in 2020 describing polymers as a “rapidly evolving technology,” noting that “how we manufacture polymers and textiles is changing for the better. As concerns over the impact of climate change increase, engineers and scientists working in polymers and textiles are focusing on developing more sustainable products.”

Since then, information about novel materials has appeared regularly in industry news. A press release from North Carolina State University (NC State) is a recent example of progress being made to create new, viable alternatives to environmentally concerning materials or processes. 

The report, dated December 22, 2023, announced that researchers there have “combined biopolymers derived from the ocean to replace synthetic plastic films. … Materials with enhanced structure derived from crustaceans and seaweed could be part of a next-generation answer to the challenge of replacing petroleum-based plastic films.”

Smart textiles: slow but steady

StartUs Insights placed smart textiles in the number two slot on its trends list. It wouldn’t be unreasonable, in fact, to put smart textiles and novel materials together, as they are often intertwined. With more interest, more cooperation, more understanding of what these materials are and what they could do, growth is inevitable. 

Grandview Research says, “The global smart fabrics market size was valued at USD 2.48 billion in 2022 and is anticipated to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 31.3 percent from 2023 to 2030.” MarketsandMarkets has a similar view, predicting the smart textiles market will grow from $2.3 billion in 2021 to $6.6 billion by 2026, and should grow at a CAGR of 23.2 percent during this forecast period. 

Grandview Research adds, “this growth is driven by factors such as increasing demand for wearable technology, advancement in textile manufacturing, expanding industrial and military applications, and rising traction in healthcare applications.”

That covers a lot of territory, but the breakthrough technologies likely to impact more significant growth (at least for wearables) remain: power sourcing, wearability and washability. 

The prospects for artificial intelligence

This topic has more questions than answers at this point. Where, exactly, will AI take hold first within the larger textile industry? Will it be in the area of manufacturing? With a chronic shortage of trained and experienced employees, could AI technology help to bridge the gap? Design and prototyping? It seems logical that AI could be helpful in speeding up the process from design, through prototyping, to scaling up production. AI is already a force in market research in the broader business world. How would that play out in this industry?

MarketsandMarkets calls artificial intelligence a “megatrend” in a white paper accessible via its website. It identifies AI as “the primary driver of growing technologies, such as robotics, big data, and IoT. In both the short-term and the long-term, and across back- and front-office applications, AI has the potential to add value to business workflows, augment employee capabilities and harness the power of man and machine to improve customer experience.”

Look for our features in February on this site, where AI in the textile industry will be discussed in more detail.

Janet Preus is senior editor of Textile Technology Source. She can be reached at

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