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Five innovative fabrics made from sustainable materials

September 13, 2021

As the effects of global warming become more severe, where does the future of fashion lie? Responsible for around 10% of greenhouse gas emissions, the fashion and textile industry is one of the most polluting in the world. With its complex supply chain, determining a single source as a major contributor towards negative environmental impact can be difficult and complicated. 

Thankfully the industry houses some of the most creative and innovative minds that are leading the way to combat climate change. Drawing inspiration from nature with a goal to eliminate waste products, sustainable and organic materials can be used to produce fabrics that cut greenhouse gas emissions and lower pollution. By driving awareness, we can make a substantial departure from synthetic fabrics to sustainable alternatives that are less harmful to people and our planet. Let’s take a look at a few: 

Piñatex®

Leather, loved for its durability and versatility, has long been associated with luxury brands. However its production process is a far cry from glamourous. Involving huge amounts of energy and exposing workers to a sea of toxic chemicals, its production is incredibly damaging to the environment. Instead we can turn to sustainable vegan based substitutes that mimic leather’s appearance, strength and touch.   

Piñatex®, a vegan alternative to leather, is made from pineapple leaves. Developed by Dr. Carmen Hijosa and manufactured under Ananas Anam, pineapple leaf fibre is extracted mechanically, then washed and dried before being purified using enzymes. Its production cuts down on waste (5% compared to 25% of real leather and it can be recycled into fertilser), as the fruit is consumed and the leaves would have otherwise gone to waste. 

Other benefits of growing a fruit with a byproduct that can be worn is no extra water or pesticides are required and farmers can enjoy additional income. 
The resulting fabric is water resistant and breathable, yet light with superb tensile strength. It has already caught the attention and been used by top brands including Nike and Hugo Boss.


Mylo™

Another vegan leather alternative is made from mycelium, the branching underground root system of mushrooms.


Developed by textile fiber company, Bolt Threads, manufacturing Mylo™ involves recreating the growing conditions of mycelium’s natural habitat - the forest floor but in a lab. The whole process takes just a few weeks instead of the two years it takes to rear a cow for hide suitable for leather production. The final material is a sustainable alternative of leather that is soft, supple, strong and suitable to produce a wide range of products. 

From footwear to bags, yoga mats to handbags, Mylo™ has been featured by Stella McCartney for an exclusive bustier top and trousers and Lululemon for a yoga mat and bags. The material’s versatility means that there are unlimited possibilities for this eco-friendly material.


Orange Fiber

Next on the innovative and sustainable fabrics list is Italian company, Orange Fiber by Adriana Sananocito and Enrica Arena.

Each year, over 700,000 tonnes of citrus juice by-product is wasted in Italy, costing both the processing industry and the environment. Transforming trash to treasure, Orange Fiber applies Italy’s rich knowledge in textiles to discarded citrus peel to produce a lightweight cellulose yarn that is ethereal, soft and silky.  Highly versatile, the resulting fabric echoes the exquisite high-end fabrics used in premium and luxury fashion brands. Most importantly, the fabric is biodegradable, ultimately forming a closed loop system.

Orange Fiber won the 2015 Global Change Award by the H&M Foundation for its ingenious combination of Italian heritage – textiles and food. Further highlights include catching the eye of Salvatore Ferragamo and in 2017, a citrus capsule collection was launched making it the first fashion house to use Orange Fiber fabrics. The fabric made another highly anticipated appearance in H&M’s Conscious Exclusive collection. 


ECONYL®

Abandoned fishing equipment often discarded into the ocean, can continue to damage and kill marine life for up to centuries. Since the 1960s, fishing nets have been made from nylon, a material that is cheap yet so strong that when they end up in the ocean (known as ghost nets), hundreds of millions of marine animals are injured and killed.


ECONYL®, created by Italian brand Aquafil, creates recycled nylon yarn from synthetic waste such as textile production scraps, industrial plastic waste and fishing nets from oceans. The end product sees 100% waste material transformed into a yarn that can be recycled infinitely while retaining quality. 


Nylon which would have ended up on the seafloor has instead been transported to the runways of top designers including Tiziano Guardini, Jonathan Cohen, Richard Malone, Burberry, Prada, and more.  


ECONYL® is the perfect example of a closed loop circular economy. The infinite recycling of nylon made from waste products means negative impacts are lowered. Imagination and innovation create infinite possibilities for a future where there is hope. 

Spinnova 

Some of the world’s greatest inventions were inspired by nature and Spinnova is one of them. 


From observing spiders spinning their webs, Juha Salmela and Janne Poranen applied this process to create the most sustainable fibre. Made from wood, textile waste and agricultural waste, its production involves no toxic chemicals nor microplastics and uses 99% less water than cotton production. 


According to Spinnova, the resulting fabric has the stretch and strength qualities of cotton and the insulation of lamb’s wool and is suitable for suit apparel, footwear, accessories, home textiles, non-wovens and more. Quickly biodegradable and capable of being recycled over and over again, means fabrics created from this sustainable material form a closed loop model. 

Spinnova has caught the attention of many. Not only has the group won a handful of awards including Marie Claire Sustainability Awards, Scandinavian Outdoor Award and ISPO Awards for 2019 and 2022, it has secured strong partnerships with renowned brands such as adidas, The North Face and H&M Group. 

What’s next 

Consumers and fashion brands are becoming more eco-conscious, the fashion and textiles industry continue to search for a closed loop economy. From bio based (or plant based) to recycled materials, the goal is to create an industry that minimises the negative impact on both planet and people.

Whether you’re a buyer, supplier or manufacturer, it’s time to improve accessibility and support the commercialisation of sustainable fashion. 

If you’re looking to make a change, Serai’s experts can help you get on the right track. Get in touch today! 

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Sources:

- “Can fashion ever be sustainable? | BBC.” 13 March 2020. https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200310-sustainable-fashion-how-to-buy-clothes-good-for-the-climate. Accessed 13 September 2021

- “You need to know about this innovative sustainable leather!| The Sustainable Fashion Collective.”, 16 September 2015. https://www.the-sustainable-fashion-collective.com/2015/09/16/pineapple-leather. Accessed 13 September 2021

- “Spinnova - Product.”, https://spinnova.com/product/. Accessed 13 September 2021