Can Sustainable Fabrics Save The World?
The first installment in a series on innovative materials that are reshaping fashion, industry, and the world.
Cotton, linen, and wool once ruled the sartorial roost. The most common – and natural – fibers, these clothes were humankind’s main textiles for centuries. But that all changed in 1894, after a trio of English chemists debuted viscose, a fiber manufactured from wood pulp. Strong, flexible, and naturally-derived, their discovery became commercially available in 1905. It would later, in 1924, become known as Rayon.
Thus began a new era in fabric fabrication. But few of the innovations that followed were as natural as Rayon. A new century had dawned, and people were enamored by newfangled breakthroughs, including synthetic plastics. And it was to plastics that engineers, designers, and consumers turned in the years ahead, unfurling spool after spool of synthetic concoctions, including DuPont’s Nylon in 1931, Vinyon in 1939, Acrylic in 1950, and Spandex nine years later.
This list goes on – dozens of chemically-constructed textiles flooded the fashion world in the decades that followed, and today countless tons of it clog landfills, forests, and oceans, where synthetic fibers float freely, feeding fish and, eventually, us.
Luckily, we today are also in the midst of another textile upheaval, one in which designers and engineers put sustainability first as they construct new fibers built to produce far less, and even zero, waste.
To acquaint you with the wares you’ll be wearing in the future, here are 10 fabrics charting the textile industry’s new, more sustainable frontier….
Agraloop by Circular Systems —
Farmers looking for extra income should check out Agraloop: Based in Los Angeles and developed by Circular Systems, Agraloop is a cotton-esque fabric made from excess crops from flax, banana trunks, pineapple leaves, and sugar cane bark.
In addition to reducing waste, Agraloop cuts down on crop burning and, thus, carbon emissions - and it can also be used for packaging. Unbeweavable!
Algae Apparel by Algalife —
Is there anything ocean algae can’t do? The oceanic substance is packed with antioxidants, minerals, and nutrients — and now the German/Israeli company Alga-Life has found a way to turn algae into clothing.
Their renewable product not only wears well, but it can also impart all the aforementioned goodies into users’ bodies. Expect this to pave the runway, and sidewalks, for a new era in fashionable wellness.
Biofur by VitroLabs —
Stem cells are miracle workers in the field of medicine, and soon they could be looking fly on the catwalk, too.
California-based VitroLabs is currently using the microscopic cells and 3D tissue engineering to create ethically sound leather for the fashion industry. Chic!
Elsewhere in the growing realm of ethical animal products, Ecopel recently teamed with DuPont’s Sorona sub-brand to develop plant-based “fur.”
But that’s not all: the French and Chinese company is also looking into ways that polyester can be transformed into fuel, a move that would help eliminate massive amounts of fashion waste. Haute!
Founded by former fur aficionado Kym Canter, House of Fluff’s plush, realistic ethical fur is made from plastic bottles. And that’s just the start.
The New York-based company’s currently developing wholly biodegradable plant-based fabrics they hope to start selling by 2020. Start making closet space now.
Infinited Fiber’s technically not a new fiber – well, it is and it isn’t.
Developed by Finnish engineers, it’s a fine blend of used cotton, agricultural waste, and cardboard that’s broken down and rewoven into something new and improved. And, best of all, it can be recycled over and over without losing its strength, meaning what’s old really will be new again.
MycoTEX by Neffa —
The magic of mushrooms helps MycoTEX saves rolls of leather — and the animals that produce it!
The Dutch company harnesses the power of mycelium, aka: mushroom roots, to develop a sturdy, ethical, and earth-friendly alternative to animal hide. Gorgeous!
The Italian company Orange Fiber believes innovation and elegance can go hand-in-hand, and that’s their guiding principle in creating upscale fabrics from citrus waste.
And their fibrous fabrics are so luxurious that Salvatore Ferragamo recently used them for a capsule collection a few seasons back. But, unlike some fashions, these won’t go out of style.
PrimaLoft Bio Performance Fabric by Primaloft —
Recycled. Biodegradable. Synthetic. These three words sum up pioneering American company PrimaLoft’s latest contribution to sustainable sports wear.
Set to sell by the fall of 2020, their radical Bio Performance fiber could be revolutionizing your wardrobe in the very near future.
Zoa by Modern Meadow —
Last but certainly not least, yeast rises to the top with Zoa, a leather alternative born from an animal collagen created by genetically modified yeast.
More than just flat, shapeable fabric, though, Zoa, which is known as a bio-fabric, can be grown into specific shapes, unlocking endlessly fashionable possibilities. While Zoa’s still pre-commercial — that is, it’s still in the research and development phase — we can’t wait to rock it in the years ahead.
Next up in “The Fabrics of Our Future Lives,” it’s all about shoes!