Fabrics of Our Future Lives III: Material World

Self-inflatable fabrics will soon be a big deal soon. Image courtesy of BMW and MIT's Self-Assembly Lab.

Self-inflatable fabrics will soon be a big deal soon. Image courtesy of BMW and MIT's Self-Assembly Lab.

Previous installments of Fabrics of Our Future Lives focused on fashion and footwear

Today we focus on materials, processes, and constructions meant for better, more sustainable living. These include biodegradable packaging, smog-eating buildings, and, yes, a few more fibers we wanted to make sure you knew about.

So, without further ado, 20 materials that are shaping our FAROUT futures.

A scientific upgrade to spider silk. Image courtesy of BioSteel/AM Silk.

A scientific upgrade to spider silk. Image courtesy of BioSteel/AM Silk.

1. BioSteel, AMSilk

  • Stronger than steel. Lighter than cotton. And softer than linen. It’s BioSteel, a synthetic spider silk!

  • Created from spider DNA, this silk’s just like the real deal, and that includes being completely biodegradable, breathable, and bacteria resistant.

  • And since BioSteel’s versatile, it can be used in everything from clothing — BioSteel has partnered with Adidas — to industrial use — its parent company’s AM Silk’s working with Airbus, and it’s sure to create a web of new products in the years to come.  

Clothing that protects and replenishes. Image courtesy of Buki.

Clothing that protects and replenishes. Image courtesy of Buki.

2. Collagen Collection, Buki

  • Clothing that looks good and is good for you? That’s the goal at Buki, a Seattle-based brand that infuses its sustainable wears with UPF 50 collagen threads.

  • These supple but strong threads do more than protect from the sun: they also soften and hydrate skin.

  • And considering Buki’s collection includes essentials like hoodies, turtlenecks, and camisoles, there’s a piece for every style and body. 

Leave no trace when communing with nature. Image courtesy of Dimpora.

Leave no trace when communing with nature. Image courtesy of Dimpora.

3. Dimpora — 

  • People venture into the woods to get back to nature. Little do they know they're leaving behind millions of non-natural compounds.

  • Zurich company Dimpora's biodegradable, breathable, and water repellant fabrics take those compounds, called fluorines, out of the equation.

  • Still in the development phase, Dimpora promises to alter the landscape of outdoor activities.

Mushrooms are poised to change - well, everything. Image courtesy of Ecovative Design.

Mushrooms are poised to change - well, everything. Image courtesy of Ecovative Design.

4. Ecovative Design

  • Ecovactive Design knows what’s up when it comes to mushrooms.

  • The New York innovators use the fungi’s mycelium to create strong, durable, water-resistant materials that are as arresting as they are adaptable.

  • Ecovactive’s offerings include packaging, as seen above; fashion and apparel like MycoFlex “leather;” beauty products, including biodegradable makeup sponges; and food, such as plant-based meat.

  • We’ve said it before, and no doubt we’ll say it again: mushrooms are trippy. 

Intricate designs are a simple solution for smog. Image courtesy of Elegant Embellishments.

Intricate designs are a simple solution for smog. Image courtesy of Elegant Embellishments.

5. Elegant Embellishments — 

  • Gorgeous form and ecological function. Those are the driving principals behind the Berlin architectural firm Elegant Embellishments’ pollution-busting work. 

  • They create exterior fixtures that collect smog and carbon from the air, helping city dwellers breathe a little easier.

  • And with an eye-catching aesthetic, Elegant Embellishments’ creations are as good for the eyes as they are for the planet. 

Meet more resilient fabrics. Image courtesy of Filium.

Meet more resilient fabrics. Image courtesy of Filium.

6. Filium, Nirvana Labs

  • Filium is all about supporting fabrics. 

  • This revolutionary treatment transforms existing resources — i.e. fabrics, like cotton, linen, wool — into stronger, more stain and water-resistant versions of themselves. In doing so, they allow designers to create pieces that last longer, reducing waste. 

  • Plus, since Filium-treated wares repel sweat, it’s odor free, saving water, energy, and time come laundry day. 

A “sustainable sting” with smooth results. Image courtesy of Filium.

A “sustainable sting” with smooth results. Image courtesy of Filium.

7. Green Nettle Textiles

  • We missed this great Kenyan company during Fabrics I, but we won’t make that mistake again!

  • They create a linen-like fabric from typically prickly nettle. Plus, they create new opportunities for local farmers.

  • They call their system the “Sustainable Sting,” and it’s beautiful like a butterfly. 

Liquid Printed Pneumatics do big things. Image courtesy of BMW and MIT’s Self-Assembly Lab.

Liquid Printed Pneumatics do big things. Image courtesy of BMW and MIT’s Self-Assembly Lab.

8. Liquid Printed Pneumatics, BMW/MIT

  • This innovation really gets our motors running: MIT’s Self-Assembly Lab and BMW teamed up to create a printable, self-inflating silicone.

  • This moldable, durable fabric can be printed into any size or shape and then inflated at will, allowing for customizable, interactive, and adaptable auto interiors. 

  • Talk about transformative!

These pleats reduce waste and look so chic. Images courtesy of Petit Pli.

These pleats reduce waste and look so chic. Images courtesy of Petit Pli.

 9. Petit Pli — 

  • Children’s brand Petit Pli’s found waste reducing powers in pleats. 

  • By creating an intricate series of accordion folds, their 100% recycled clothes can expand up to seven sizes as a child grows, meaning they produce less fashion waste, and parents spend less money. 

  • But Petit Pli’s mission’s far larger: Founded by trained aeronautical engineer, Ryan Mario Yasin, the French brand aims to teach future generations about the necessity, and beauty, of slow fashion. Incroyable!

Kinetic energy gives drivers the electric power. Image via Neil Lockhart/Shutterstock.

Kinetic energy gives drivers the electric power. Image via Neil Lockhart/Shutterstock.

10. Piezoelectric Roads, UC Merced

  • One of the more futuristic entries in this round-up is still a work in progress: piezoelectric roads being developed at UC Merced.

  • In the model, roads are embedded with batteries that turn friction into electricity. 

  • This means one day drivers may power the street lights that keep them safe. 

  • Does anyone else hear “Electric Avenue”? 

Pineapple’s create sweet new “leathers.” Images courtesy of Piñatex.

Pineapple’s create sweet new “leathers.” Images courtesy of Piñatex.

11. Piñatex, Ananas Anam

  • There was a time when pineapples were reserved for the rich. Thanks to Piñatex, these once-exclusive edibles may save us all.

  • Located in London, the company uses the fruit’s cellulose to create a realistic leather, saving animals and eroding that industry’s wasteful practices. 

  • Like Green Nettle, Piñatex creates fresh opportunities for local farmers in the Philippines.

  • No wonder fashion houses are sweet on them: recent partners include Hugo Boss, ROMBAUT, and Ally Capellino.

Softening polyester’s feel and impact. Image courtesy of Ladyruang/Shutterstock.

Softening polyester’s feel and impact. Image courtesy of Ladyruang/Shutterstock.

12. The Regenerator, Rise IVF

  • Polyester’s one of the world’s most ubiquitous fabrics. It’s also one of the most polluting. As some companies look to replace it, The Regenerator plans on using what’s already here.

  • The Swedish brand uses eco-friendly chemicals to separate polyester from other fabrics, including cotton. They then break it down and rebuild it into a stronger, suppler fabric. 

  • The other components, like the cotton, are then recycled. So simple it’s chic. 

Bags you won’t feel bad tossing. Image courtesy of MakeGrowLab

Bags you won’t feel bad tossing. Image courtesy of MakeGrowLab

13. SCOBY, MakeGrowLab

  • Kombucha is the not-so-secret ingredient in SCOBY, a marvelous biomaterial created by Roza Janusz during her studies at Central Saint Martins in London. 

  • By adding certain sugars to kombucha, Janusz creates a membrane that can be structured into completely compostable — and edible — products.

  • Now she’s using her knowledge to create bowls, bags, and even trays that will make plastic waste a thing of the past. 

  • And she’s not done: Janusz has her eyes set on leather, too.

Gigantic innovations from shrimpy crustaceans. Image courtesy of LightField Studios/Shutterstock.

Gigantic innovations from shrimpy crustaceans. Image courtesy of LightField Studios/Shutterstock.

14. Shrilk, Harvard’s Wyss Institute

  • A staple in diets around the world, shrimp could also be a key to reducing plastic waste.

  • Researchers at Harvard recently transformed chitosan, a material found in shrimp and other crustaceans’ exoskeletons, into a biodegradable plastic-like material that can be used as bags, packaging, straws, and even cutlery.

  • And with other researchers around the globe perfecting production, expect to see some big innovations from shrimp in the years to come.

An attractive water repellant. Image courtesy of Archroma.

An attractive water repellant. Image courtesy of Archroma.

15. SmartRepel Hydro, Archroma

  • Another company looking to revolutionize fashion’s chemical dependency, the Swiss dye and chemical company Archroma developed SmartRepel.

  • Completely biodegradable, SmartRepel protects the fabrics, and the planet, too.

A more mindful thread. Image courtesy of RESORTECS.

A more mindful thread. Image courtesy of RESORTECS.

16. SmartStitch, RESORTECS

  • SmartStitch also looks beyond fabric to the materials used to put it together, in this case thread.

  • This Belgian brand’s dissolving thread makes it easier to disassemble clothing for recycling or, more ideally, reuse of fabric. 

  • We should introduce them to Infinited Fiber

Truly powerful paint. Image courtesy of Jag_cz/Shutterstock.

Truly powerful paint. Image courtesy of Jag_cz/Shutterstock.

17. Solar Paint, RMIT

  • Next time you need paint, head down under, to The Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology.

  • Researchers Dr Torben Daeneke and Professor Kourosh Kalantar-zadeh are perfecting a paint that collects water from the air, breaking it down to the molecular level, and then harnessing the hydrogen as an energy source.

  • The possibilities are endless. Literally — if all goes well, this paint could power the world.

A breakdown we support. Image courtesy of Super-Synthetics.

A breakdown we support. Image courtesy of Super-Synthetics.

18. Super-Synthetics, Maria Kurian — 

  • It typically takes biodegradable plastics three to six months to break down. Maria Kurian’s Super-Synthetics can do it in as little as ten minutes.

  • Another Central Saint Martins grad, Kurian constructs drinking cups from layers of gelatinous rice starch. By using more or less layers, she can control how long they last. 

  • Some suggest Super-Synthetics could be used in hospitals and marathons. And that’s true, but we think they’d be great at a party, too   

Using old school wood in new ways. Image courtesy of TENCEL.

Using old school wood in new ways. Image courtesy of TENCEL.

19. TENCEL, Lenzing AG

  • Available in three strengths, TENCEL’s array of soft, moisture-absorbing fabrics are made from sustainably sourced wood from responsibly-managed forests.

  • In addition to requiring less energy to produce than cotton, its closed loop system reuses 99% of its solvents and TENCEL’s 100% biodegradable.

  • It’s all part of TENCEL’s parent brand Lenzing AG’s ongoing efforts to reduce their carbon emissions 50% by 2030. This is a great start!  

Want these waste-not crates. Image courtesy of Waitrose.

Want these waste-not crates. Image courtesy of Waitrose.

20. Vegetable Packaging, Waitrose

  • Sustainability’s on the shelf at British supermarket Waitrose. Literally.

  • They stock lentil boxes made from actual lentils, use egg crates made from rye grass, and recently unveiled tomato baskets made out of tomato leaves.

  • But, wait, there’s more: Waitrose carries compostable bags for fruits and vegetables and asks shoppers to bring their own reusable jars for loose nuts. 

  • That’s a British invasion we’d like to see at stores worldwide.