Redress hosted its 2014 Eco-Fashion and Textiles Conference (REFTC) May 30 and 31, gathering fashion designers, textile manufacturers and business owners for a fashion show and educational workshops all about the next generation of the textile business.

New technologies in the industry were discussed during the conference. Appalatch, an apparel manufacturing startup in Asheville specializing in sustainably-sourced wool, is beginning to use 3D knitting for its custom-fit sweaters (Its co-founder Grace is pictured right). The technology is similar to a 3D printer, which uses digital inputs to construct a solid object. The technology saves time, ensures precision and reduces waste. Although 3D knitting has been around for a few years, according to Aframian, it is just now coming into mainstream fashion.

Another new innovation is the use of 3D avatars in sampling. Sampling is the process in which garment prototypes are fitted before going into production. Traditionally, if any changes were needed, the garment would need to be remade. Instead, the 3D avatars can try on virtual clothing based on design specifications, speeding up the process and eliminating waste.

All of these new trends are part of what is drawing talent to the area. Both sustainability and new, efficient technologies are big focuses for businesses. “Sustainability reduces costs. […] It promotes innovation. Also, customers are more aware of [eco-fashion] now. The demand is rising,” says Aframian. She says that the industry is no longer what it was, and now it requires much more training to use “top of the line” technology. Redress hopes to play that role.

So does the Carolina Textile District, another textile manufacturers network featured at the recent REFTC. It is a year-old statewide network for supporting and growing textile-based startups. In addition to providing a network, Carolina Textile District also holds a week-long intensive educational program. During the program, participating businesses receive mentoring in areas such as design, sourcing and production for sustainable textile products. Carolina Textile District has over 20 members.

Aframian says growing the North Carolina textile community is a main goal for Redress. “We want to make sure we create community where people feel comfortable to engage and talk about resources or share ideas,” says Aframian. “Really together we can push forward and push forward and make practices better within the industry.”

Redress plans to expand membership on a national level. The founders will also publish a $20 ‘Lookkbook’ featuring fashions from the annual conference. According to Aframian, this will bring awareness to consumers about North Carolina’s eco-conscious designers, and hopefully, some revenue to Redress so they can expand outreach and services for the textile community.