Understanding Textile Standards: bluesign and Wolford

Has shopping elegant hosiery just got a little greener? Let’s have a look at the bluesign standard and what it means using the example of their latest partner Wolford.

When trying to build a more sustainable, green, and ethical wardrobe, nothing can beat meticulous research. Also textile standards are here to provide more clarity. But because you can’t rely on them alone, we’re discussing the most important standards with examples in the new series called Understanding Textile Standards.understanding-textile-standards-green-up-the-wardrobe

A Sexy Classic: Wolford Hosiery & Fashion

From luxurious tights, sexy stay-ups and exquisite lingerie to elegant dresses, shirts, and fancy accessories – Wolford offers perfect basics and extravagant wow-pieces alike. Personally, I have quite a few Wolford tights, stay-ups, belts, and undies in my wardrobe as I turn to Wolford whenever my requirements for underwear, tights, or lingerie in general can’t be met by an all-green organic brand in terms of design, shape, or functionality. (Eco bras, you expensive little blotches, I’m looking at you.)beautycalypse-wolford-haul-bluesignFrom all hosiery brands I’ve ever worn, Wolford has always won hands down; the quality of fabric is impeccable and “unbreakable”, the workmanship is top, the designs are very well balanced between cool/business and feminine/sensual, and both the fabric and the design can handle quite a few seasons of machine washing. I also can highly recommend their bras, having discovered them late and after long years of utter discomfort caused by other brands myself.

Except for some styles made with wool and leather, most Wolford designs are vegan-friendly. The price range is premium to luxury, but the sale section in the brand’s own international online shop doesn’t disappoint – or you can head to their Bregenz-based factory outlet. Wolford is also winning in the ethics department, thus never giving you the feeling of buying an advertised bubble.

As the discussion “natural fabrics vs. synthetics” is a topic in itself, I will confine myself here to simplistically saying that yes, sometimes natural fabric is better, and yes, sometimes synthetics outgreen eco cotton and co.

Founded in 1950, Wolford AG is headquartered in Bregenz, a small Austrian town on the picturesque Lake Constance (Bodensee in German). Operating over a dozen subsidiaries, nearly 300 monobrand stores, approximately 3,000 retail partners as well as an international online shop, Wolford today counts more than 1,500 employees.Lake-Constance-Bodensee-2015{Lake Constance in early Spring. By the way, what you see on the left is a tiny edge of the renowned Bregenz Opera Festival stage in the state of decoration.}

Wolford produces the entire range in Europe – in Austria and Slovenia. The company has deployed bluesign materials in the past and has now fully joined the bluesign system:

Wolford is aware of its social responsibility and has already set benchmarks in terms of ecological standards by way of investment measures at its headquarters in Bregenz. We will continue along this path in the future.”
– Axel Dreher, COO Wolford AG

Understanding bluesign

bluesign technologies ag was founded in 2000 in St. Gallen, Switzerland as an expert system to control the production of synthetic fabrics; their major shareholder (80%) is the Swiss SGS Group, a multinational inspection, testing, verification and regulatory services provider. bluesign processes create transparency along the production chain with sustainability and safety standards for:
– Resource productivity
– Consumer safety
– Water emission
– Air emission
– Occupational health & safety (this includes workplace safety and health-related regulations, however, unlike GOTS, it does not include regulations for fair wages and fair working conditions).

As far as I know, today it’s not only the leading standard for chemical fibres but also the only synthetic fabric standard recommended by Greenpeace (albeit they don’t consider it as top notch as GOTS or IVN for natural fabrics due to the lack of regulations for fair working conditions and wages).bluesign-logo-and-brochureGiven their focus on synthetic fibre production, bluesign has been used first and foremost by leading sportswear and outdoor wear companies such as Brooks, Puma, Adidas, lululemon and, respectively, Burton, Patagonia, Vaude.

Wolford are bluesign’s first hosiery partner.
Find the list of bluesign brands here (bluesign notes that the list is growing and might not include all brands).

What does the bluesign partnership mean for a brand?

As a brand, you are not operating in a vacuum. However ethical, green, and fair you are yourself, you must rely on partners on many stages. Standards are a safe bet for a thoroughly audited and controlled process. Criticism strikes when the ethics of a single brand are stronger than a given standard’s regulations, or when the regulations are so weak literally anyone can join.

What bluesign can do is help regulate processes for both end-consumer brands and chemical manufacturers, focussing on cutting out toxic elements and on creating safety guidelines throughout the value chain. For brands like Wolford, this means a lot since their products are like your second skin – lingerie, hosiery, shapewear etc. with a lot of skin contact. Given the outstanding product quality, it would also be a shame if the products were toxic or bad for the environment, too.

What bluesign don’t do is, as stated above, regulate fair wages or working conditions. For Wolford on the other hand, who are operating manufacturing plants in two EU-countries only, the EU legislation applicable to Austria and Slovenia is creating a very good framework of wages and workplace standard regulations.

Obviously, depending on the performance of synthetic fibres, it’s the sportswear, outdoors wear and also underwear/ hosiery manufacturers in particular who can’t work with standards like GOTS – here’s where the bluesign standard steps in and offers a good regulation enabling safety for workers, consumers, and the environment. In terms of fair production, the ethical Adventurers will have to check each bluesign brand themselves, paying particular attention to those with production sites in the Far East.

Now, I hope this was insightful and helpful for your next round of fashion shopping; and I’ll be discussing other standards one by one, each with the example of a brand and an info where to find more brands that have joined the given standard. 

Stay alert and have fun on your ethical Adventure!


Geeking out about all things truly green, healthy and ethical over at BEAUTYCALYPSE.com (Avatar illustration by A. Goncharenko)

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