PARIS — Grape leather, a vegetal leather using leftovers from winemaking, scooped the greatest number of public votes for the second edition of the Global Change Award by the nonprofit H&M Foundation, which rewards technology concepts that make the fashion industry more sustainable.
A grant of one million euros, or $1.1 million at current exchange, was split between a total of five winners selected by the foundation following an online vote held from March 27 to April 2, with the ranking of the prizes determined according to the number of votes. The other winning ideas included a biodegradable textile made from cow manure; denim dyed using a coloring powder derived from used denim; decomposable nylon made from water, plant waste and solar energy instead of oil, and a digital thread that facilitates recycling.
Italy’s Rossella Longobardo, who led the team behind the wine leather invention, was due to accept the top prize of 300,000 euros, or $320,000 at current exchange rates, at an awards ceremony in Stockholm on Wednesday.
“Our first objectives will consist in switching from a pilot to an industrial scale production of our fabric and starting a green, cruelty-free revolution within the leather industry, finally solving its related issues and overexploitation,” she said in a statement.
The solar textiles concept, produced by a U.S. and Swiss team led by Miguel Modestino, will receive 250,000 euros, or $267,000. The teams behind the remaining three innovations — content thread, denim-dyed denim and manure couture — hailing from the U.S. and the U.K., Australia and the Netherlands, respectively, were each awarded 150,000 euros, or $160,000.
“I congratulate all five winning teams. They have the potential to help reinvent the fashion industry, enabling products and resources to have more than one life,” Karl-Johan Persson, board member of H&M Foundation and chief executive officer of Hennes & Mauritz AB, said in a statement.
“Winning the Global Change Award gives you a boost through funding, coaching, industry access and validation that you probably can’t find elsewhere. If you want to help reinvent one of the largest industries in the world, this is the place to go,” he added.
This year’s winners were chosen from among 2,883 submissions from 130 countries, up from 2,700 for the inaugural edition last year. The countries with the most applicants were India, the U.S., Nigeria, the U.K., Italy, Sweden, Macedonia, Indonesia, Iran and Bangladesh.
The jury included model and environmental activist Amber Valletta; Dame Ellen MacArthur, retired British sailor and founder of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation; Vikram Widge, head of climate and carbon finance at the World Bank Group, and Ellis Rubinstein, president and ceo at The New York Academy of Sciences.
The award ceremony marked the beginning of a one-year innovation accelerator, provided by the H&M Foundation in collaboration with Accenture and KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. The program is designed to help the winners develop their ideas, focusing on three main areas: circular economy, innovation and fashion industry connection.
The H&M Foundation was founded by the family of Swedish billionaire Stefan Persson, the chairman and main shareholder in fast-fashion chain H&M, which was founded by his father Erling Persson and is run by his son, Karl-Johan Persson.