One of the reasons that fashion is the second most polluting industry on earth is due to the fact that traditional fabrics are resource heavy to produce. And so we're keeping an eye on all of the latest innovations that seek to not only reduce waste, but use waste to produce new pieces. We're also super interested in innovations that replace traditional animal fibers with environmentally-friendly alternatives:
1. Pineapple Leather
One of the most successful innovations over the past couple years has been a leather alternative made from pineapple farming cast offs. Ananas Anam is the company behind Piñatex, a gorgeous fabric that solves the dual problems of traditional leather. Not only is leather not cruelty-free, its production and processing are resource heavy and leave behind a slew of toxins that cause worker health problems and environmental damage. However, traditional plastic alternatives are not much better. We can't wait until this leather alternative hits the entire textile industry, as we'd love to owe a Piñatex couch one day!
2. Waste Free Textiles
A sustainable initiative from H&M, the Global Change Award helps fund projects that reduce fashion's impact on the planet. From biodegradable textiles made of manure or powered by solar energy, to breaking down post-consumer denim for denim dye, leather made from wine industry waste and a better way to track proper textile recycling, these innovations are truly cutting edge. We look forward to hearing more about them as they enter the production chain!
3. Mushroom Leather
Unlike pineapple leather, this leather alternative does not require any chemical processes to create the fabric, but only mechanical ones. The natural texture of mushrooms means that this fabric has more of suede feel to it, making it complement rather than compete with pineapple leather. So far, however, its production runs are very small.
4. Recycled Ocean Waste
Stella McCartney is the latest company to foray into designing pieces made from recycled ocean waste, but she's definitely not the first. H&M's 2017 Conscious Exclusive Collection relied on it as well. In partnering with Bionic, the fast fashion giant used yarns that were engineered from ocean-bound plastics to create fabrics that have desirable textures. McCartney, on the other hand, is working with Parley for the Oceans, a company that's previously worked with Adidas. Parley also produces yarns made from fishing nets, plastic bottles, and other ocean trash. But the aim with their work with Stella McCartney is to produce pieces that are indistinguishable from high-end, luxury designs.
5. Fermented Tea Leather
Finally, a truly interesting leather alternative has emerged out of Iowa State University. The fabric is made through a process similar to kombucha tea: used a SCOBY (a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast) to produce a cellulose fiber that can then be turned into a textile. It is 100% biodegradable, making it a truly circular fabric that's free from toxins. While it's an interesting concept, this fabric performs and looks more like a rawhide leather than a high-end, luxe version. It fills a very different niche than other leather alternatives, but one that still has consumer demand.