Saving our planet has been a major talking point not only in politics, but in our everyday lives as well. We should all be trying to reduce our carbon footprint and make our planet a cleaner place for future generations. At University of Fashion, we are committed and continue to focus on promoting sustainability in the fashion industry by highlighting innovative ways to create garments in an environmentally safe way.
For centuries, designers have been using the same fibers: cotton, silk, wool and linen, and other materials such as leather and synthetics. But the overwhelming surge in garment manufacturing has placed an enormous strain on our planet’s natural resources.
Cotton in particular has been linked to soil erosion and water contamination due to pesticides, as well as the 20,000 liters of water it requires to produce just one kilogram of cotton, enough to make a single t-shirt.
Synthetic fabrics also have had a negative impact on the environment. Polyester is known to produce carcinogens, such as terephthalic acid and ethylene glycol in its production, with every wash hundreds of thousands of plastic microfibers enter our water supply.
According to fibre entrepreneur Enrica Arena of Orange Fiber, existing textiles such as cotton, rayon, polyester and wool will not be able to satisfy the increasing demand in quantities and quality going into the future. The solution, she believes, lies in re-purposing the byproducts of food production that would otherwise head to landfill.
Nina Marenzi, founder and director of The Sustainable Angle, who organizes the Future Fabrics Expo, told Forbes magazine, “The over reliance on conventional cotton and virgin polyester, both reliant on finite resources and polluting in its production, needs to change. Sourcing materials from a wider variety of fibers, including innovations appearing now made from food waste, algae, regenerated cellulose, a recycled source, is the way forward.”
The innovative technology used to create textiles from agricultural waste is exciting and groundbreaking in our fight to protect our planet. These unconventional fabrics are solving two problems in one, these fabrics are solving wastage caused by our food consumption and turning it into natural, resourceful fibers for the fashion industry.
At University of Fashion, we hope young and aspiring designers will embrace these sustainable textiles and hopefully we’ll all be walking around in food waste clothes in the future! Remember – make Fashion not Waste !
German-based company Qmilch has been creating textiles out of casein, a by-product of commercial milk production that is not allowed to be sold as food in Germany due to health regulations.
According to their website, “for the production of 1 kg of fibre we need only 5 minutes and max 2 liters of water. This implies a particular level of cost efficiency and ensures a minimum of CO2 emissions.”
Not only does the production of this textile reduce our carbon footprint, the fabric is also biodegradable, meaning your favorite dress will become worm food when it reaches the end of its natural life cycle.
Dr. Carmen Hijosa is the founder of Ananas Anam, the company behind Piñatex. This doctor’s background in the leather industry was the inspiration behind the change to a more sustainable alternative.
Piñatex produces one of the most famous fruit-based vegan leathers today. The textile is made from pineapple leaf fibers; by turning the part of the fruit that cannot be eaten, it provides an additional income for farmers and is a cruelty-free option for shoes, bags and clothes.
Designer Liselore Frowijn, works closely with Ananas Anam fabrics. According to Frowijn, “I am proud to work with Ananas Anam who are helping to build a more sustainable textile industry with their unique Piñatex product. Substainability in fashion is no longer a choice, but a pledge of responsibility undertaken by a new generation of designers.”
Orange Fiber produces soft and silky fabrics that are created by discarded orange peels. The Italian textile is perfect for creating dresses and tops since it is similar to viscose in that it is made from cellulose, and it can also can be blended with silk and cotton, but doesn’t involve the cutting down of trees.
In 2016, Salvatore Ferragamo created a capsule collection using the material which has a premium finish to it, making it an ideal fit for the Italian luxury brand. Ferragamo asked architect and designer Mario Trimarchi, to create exclusive prints with a Mediterranean feel that would be in sync with the origins of the fiber. This resulted in designs inspired by Sicily, the island’s nature and fruits and drawings of floating clouds and flowers, at times in an abstract version.
Chip[s] Board® manufactures a wide range of materials that were created from potato waste that are perfectly suitable for the interiors and fashion markets.
The company’s second material, a bioplastic called Parblex, is steadily gaining momentum in the fashion industry and is being prototyped as buttons and eyeglass frames. Parblex has a beautiful textured finish and is available in three colors: smoke, tortoiseshell and snow.
In 2018, the cutting-edge corporation Circular Systems won the H&M Foundation’s Global Change Award for their Agraloop Biofibre technology. This innovative technology turns otherwise forgotten food waste into fiber for high-quality garments, which Circular Systems boasts are able to be created in a “cost competitive and scalable way.” The technology uses hemp seed, flax seed, pineapple leaves, banana tree, and cane bagasse (bagasse is the dry pulpy fibrous residue that remains after sugarcane or sorghum stalks are crushed to extract their juice) to create these new fibers. Along with clothing, Agraloop can turn waste into packaging, organic fertilizer, and bio-energy. The possibilities seem to be only growing for this new product.
Vegea is another vegan alternative to leather; creating a leather like textile from grape marc (the skins, stalks and seeds discarded in the winemaking process). The result, a rich and beautiful wine hued leather-like textile; without the need for killing animals or toxic tanning. Vegea will continue to research and grow its business thanks to funding from the EU.
The fabric is so avant garde that a couture dress made from Vegea by designer Tiziano Guardini was recently exhibited at the V&A Museum’s Fashioned From Nature exhibition in London.
According to the Vegea website, “Sustainability is one of the pillars of our social responsibility policies and is based on production processes that use vegetable raw materials, recycled materials and bio-based polymers.”