Fashion’s future is getting brighter. And as consumers become even more conscious about the clothing they wear, brands, designers and engineers alike are responding by creating new and emerging technologies that can meet — or exceed — shoppers’ greater expectations.
Here, WWD lists the top 10 innovations across fabrics such as denim, nylon, silk and synthetics, all designed with a greener future in mind.
Textile technology firm Evrnu developed the first denim made of regenerated post-consumer cotton waste. Working with brands, retailers, mills and waste owners throughout the supply chain, Evrnu creates recyclable, customizable textiles with its engineered fiber. Stacy Flynn, cofounder and chief executive officer of Evrnu, told WWD, “Two factors are really important at Evrnu: First, reducing negative impact, and second, building products that can be broken down in the future. We have six distinct technologies in development, and as industry professionals we feel we can be most helpful to our industry by developing solutions that create better performing product in partnership with existing suppliers. We’ve been fortunate to work with incredibly talented partners and together are moving very quickly in an industry that is traditionally slow to adapt. One thing is certain: We’ve got to change the way we think about resources and the businesses dependent upon those resources.”
“As a company, we are committed to sustainability and protecting our planet is a core motivator for us,” said Andras Forgacs, cofounder and ceo of Modern Meadow, a biofabrication firm. Modern Meadow created Zoa, a lab grown, chameleonic leather-inspired material made with its designed collagen protein. Described as “highly adaptable” and moldable, Zoa can be easily combined with other materials and accommodate any shape or texture. Forgacs told WWD, “We need to take action today to find solutions that do better for our planet. At the rate we are going, we are going to deplete the earth’s natural resources faster than we can consume them. We need to reduce waste and the production of harmful chemicals, materials and items that just end up in our landfills. At Modern Meadow, we believe that biofabrication unlocks the power of nature to inspire new design for a healthier planet. Our pioneering process is still in development, but we anticipate it having advantages over livestock production in terms of land, water usage and CO2 emissions. We also use Life Cycle Analysis to guide our development and ensure that our process is optimized to be maximally efficient and as environmentally friendly as possible.”
Fiber firm PrimaLoft recently rolled out its latest sustainable product, PrimaLoft Bio, a biodegradable solution that is the first 100 percent recycled synthetic fabric in the market. “With PrimaLoft Bio, we’re pushing the concept of sustainability forward by providing biodegradable solutions that deliver uncompromised performance,” said Mike Joyce, president and ceo of PrimaLoft. “Through close collaboration with like-minded brands, our goal is to offer this technology as a blueprint for developing products composed completely of biodegradable components. These partnerships will serve as a catalyst for companies and consumers to begin collectively offsetting the impact that the textile industry has on the environment.”
Regenerated nylon material Econyl is gaining traction in sustainability for its efforts in diverting waste from landfills. The material is made from rescued waste such as fishing nets and industrial plastic from oceans and landfills and converted into textile and carpet yarns for the fashion and interior industries, the company said. And sustainable apparel basics brand Arvin Goods recently introduced its new men’s boxers, made with Econyl fibers. Dustin Winegardner, cofounder and managing director of Arvin Goods, told WWD, “We really wanted a functional everyday men’s boxer that had a story to fit in the brand, and after some research and reading up on Econyl’s background and process it seemed like a perfect fit. Econyl-regenerated nylon turns waste problems into a fashion solution by collecting abandoned fishing nets from our oceans and old carpets that otherwise would be destined to landfills. It is the perfect complement to our cotton materials we are using in the other items.”
What’s in a name? Polylana, a patent-pending staple fiber blend of virgin and recycled materials, is the only low-impact alternative to 100 percent acrylic and wool in the market, the company said. Polyana’s blend of recycled materials includes modified polyester pellets and rPET flakes that enable it to be dyed at low temperatures, allowing for a “unique” feel when knitted. And Arvin Goods selected Polylana for its collection of beanies that debuted earlier this season. Winegardner told WWD, “For a few months every year there are millions and millions of beanies sold. The majority of these items are made with 100 percent acrylic yarn. There are no alternatives to this that keep a nice hand feel, good quality and reasonable price.” He continued, “Polylana is the only real option in the market. We love it as a material, and it also reduces the use of water by almost two gallons per beanie. The bottom line is we want to prove you can make a high quality product at a great price point using low-impact materials. The only way the mass consumer changes their behaviors and believes in sustainable alternatives is if it is accessible. Arvin Goods makes the cleanest basics in the world accessible.”
Northern California-based Bolt Threads created Microsilk, a material made by way of its proprietary technology that replicates the process of spiders producing silk fibers sustainably and at large scale. The company said spider silk exhibits “remarkable” properties, including elasticity, durability, strength and softness. So far, the firm’s knit ties are its first prototype product, which are available in a limited-edition release. Dan Widmaier, cofounder and ceo at Bolt Threads, said, “The textile industry hasn’t achieved a major innovation in decades and as the second largest industrial polluter in the world, it is directly affecting our planet. At Bolt Threads, we’re passionate about creating materials that are capable of transforming what we wear and how we live,” adding that the company’s goal is “to offer more sustainable alternatives to today’s commonplace materials, which have known negative impacts on our planet.”
Mylo, a synthetic leather fabric also from Bolt Threads, made of mycelium — or mushroom roots — was released earlier this year. The company’s mission in creating eco-friendly, vegan products is rooted in its “process [that] moves away from petroleum-based polymers and materials, toward a more sustainable and biodegradable solution. We bioengineer our materials, giving them desired properties in the early stages of our process, and working toward reducing the need for additional textile finishing chemistries,” Widmaier said, adding that the company “[works] to scale production to bring fashion and material manufacturing innovation into the 21st century.” The firm has partnered with high-profile sustainable fashion brands such as Stella McCartney and Patagonia.
Tag, test, track, repeat. This is the process fulfilled by CertainT, Applied DNA Sciences’ proprietary traceability system that follows materials’ travels from original rPET pellets to the finished product, the company said. CertainT can be integrated into synthetic yarns from polyester, viscose and other “high-end” yarns through a fully traceable and source-verified supply chain. MeiLin Wan, vice president of textiles at Applied DNA Sciences, told WWD, “CertainT is the future for fashion and textiles because it will be providing end-to-end traceability for a wide range of materials such as cotton, synthetics, recycled materials, biomaterials, wool, cashmere, down — virtually any material can be tagged to provide transparency within the supply chain and transparency to the consumer. We continue to work with iconic global brands to share the benefits of the technology and the consumers are forcing brands to take a closer look at product authenticity.”
Nature’s candy, too, feeds into sustainable textile technologies. Materials firm Ananas Anam created Piñatex, a natural, non-woven and patent-protected material made from pineapple leaf fibers, is praised for being durable, breathable and pliable, in addition to tensile strength that is similar to flax and greater than jute, hemp and sisal, the company said. Since its commercialization in 2016, Piñatex has been used by more than 500 brands, including recent collaborations with Hugo Boss, Edun and Lancel, all according to the firm. Dr. Carmen Hijosa, creator of Piñatex and chief creative and innovation officer of Ananas Anam, told WWD, “[We have] a vision to connect people, ecology and economics to build a scalable commercial industry that is both socially and environmentally responsible. Not only do we prioritize sustainability and transparency in everything we do, but the most important thing for us is to have a big social impact especially in places where we operate. Piñatex is made from the by-product of the pineapple harvest therefore no extra land, fertilizers or pesticides are required in its production. It also provides an additional income stream for pineapple farmers in the Philippines and creates a vibrant new industry for pineapple-growing countries.”
Conversations centered on sustainability regularly address conscious consumption, yet rarely touch on overconsumption. But ChroMorphous, the first active user-controlled color-changing fabric, enables its wearer to change the color or pattern of its material through a smartphone app, giving a singular garment two distinct faces. ChroMorphous was engineered by a team of scientists from CREOL, the College of Optics and Photonics at The University of Central Florida. Dr. Ayman Abouraddy, professor of optics and photonics at UCF, said, “Although clothing has been a staple of the human experience for millennia, the basic structure and functionality of textile fibers and yarns have remained unchanged throughout history. The capabilities of electronics constantly increase and we always expect more from our iPhones, so why haven’t textiles been updated? Can we expect an ever-expanding range of functionalities from our clothing? These were the questions we asked, and the foundation for creating the ChroMorphous technology that we began developing in 2016. We are excited to introduce the industry’s first color-changing fabric, as we believe it’s the next groundbreaking innovation in fashion and textiles.”
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