If you look in your closet today, how many pieces would you find that are made from polyester or other resource-intensive materials like conventional cotton? This year, the news has been flooded with reports on how damaging microfibres are to the environment, as well as to humans when they end up in our food chain. These microfibres come primarily from synthetic fabrics, which make up over half of the world's clothing. Meanwhile, the leather industry also has its risks, from deforestation of the Amazon, to polluting tanning and dyeing practices, not to mention the water and chemical intensive cotton industry.
Pineapples, apples, mushrooms and spiders are amongst the wonders of nature from which fibres can be recovered for sustainable textiles, which have a significantly lower impact on the planet and whose entire lifecycle has been thought through. It is encouraging to see many innovations surface and become commercially viable (after years and years of R&D) and to see these being used more and more by established fashion brands. Stella McCartney bags made from mushroom leather, and Hugo Boss shoes made with pineapple leaf fibre are amongst these.
Read on for our favourite sustainable fabrics to look out for in the new year.
Piñatex® by Ananas Anam
Piñatex® is a natural leather alternative made from pineapple leaf fibre. The leaves are a by-product of the food industry and would otherwise end up in landfill or incinerated. Their use for this material also creates additional income for the farming communities.
Developed by leather goods expert Dr. Carmen Hijosa, and inspired by traditional Filipino weaving with the plants fibre to make garments such as the Barong Tagalog, Carmen created a new and innovative non-woven textile that has a low environmental footprint whilst having a positive social impact. Already loved by many brands and first worn on a red carpet by Livia Firth in a Laura Strambi dress to the Met Ball in 2017, this material is definitely one to look out for.
Apple Skin by FRUMAT
Apple Skin is another leather alternative made from fruit - more specifically from the skin and core waste recovered from the food industry. The material contains a minimum of 50% apple fibre and is created in Bolzano, Italy. Frumat was the winner of this year’s Technology and Innovation Award at the Green Carpet Fashion Awards in Milan. Watch how apple skin is made here.
ECONYL® by Aquafil
ECONYL® regenerated nylon is an innovative material made from nylon waste such as fishing nets and carpets recovered from the ocean or landfill. The yarn can be endlessly recycled without ever losing its quality through the ECONYL® regeneration system - a sustainable way to create a products from waste in a continuous loop.
Remember our beautiful carpet at the Green Carpet Fashion Awards? It was made from ECONYL® regenerated nylon and will be recycled and reused in the future.
Microsilk® by Boltthreads
Microsilk® was inspired by spiders incredibly ability to produce a silk fibre with strength and elasticity. After years of R&D, studying the proteins of spider silk, a lab-grown replica was created. Rest assured - no spiders were harmed in the process, only studied (and admired). The same manufacturer has also recently launched Mylo®, a leather alternative made from the root structure of mushrooms. Stella McCartney is a close collaborator, so look out for some interesting collaborations in the coming year.
Piracuru Fish Leather by Osklen
Piracuru fish leather comes from the Amazonian region and is used for unique accessories by Brazilian brand Osklen. Piracuru fishing is carried out for food by local communities in line with strict government quotas to preserve population levels and the skin is a by-product of this. Osklen utilise this material which would otherwise go to waste and provides new income streams for the local community. And just in case you were wondering, no - it doesn't smell fishy.
Merino wool is a natural, and low impact fibre, that is in our opinion completely underrated. Wool biodegrades in soil in only a few months, doesn’t shed plastic microfibres harmful to marine life and humans when being washed and in general needs less washing (and therefore less energy and water) as it’s stain resistant. If cared for correctly it’s a very durable fibre that can last for decades. Some brands also love using recycled wool to give this incredible fibre a second life. If you've been seeing a lot of activewear made from wool lately, it's because it's the perfect breathable and odourless material - something to look out for in the new year.