Companies know that greenwashing tactics simply won’t cut it with today’s savvy consumers. Those consumers want to know companies can substantiate their eco-friendly claims - and they do their homework on manufacturing practices because they want to see meaningful change.
Fashion sustainability is driving innovation in all kinds of weird and wonderful ways, with some major brands leading the charge. Take Stella McCartney, for example. The luxury fashion house launched the world’s first garments made from mushroom root fabric this year in collaboration with Bolt Thread (‘Bolt’). Bolt is a fascinating company focused on the innovation of high performance bio certified materials and the developer of the “mushroom root” fabric branded Mylo. The sustainable fabric is made by engineering mycelium (mushroom root) into material, which then produces a sustainable alternative to leather.
Stella McCartney is officially the first to have used this innovative fabric but the likes of Adidas, Kering and Lululemon have all partnered with Bolt, suggesting there are more exciting things to come. What’s more, mushrooms aren’t the only food making their way into fashion. Sneaker/trainer brand Genesis, self-proclaimed as ‘the world’s most eco-friendly sneaker brand’ uses a multitude of innovative textiles including mesh from oyster shells, leather substitutes from pineapple leaves and banana paper and canvas from the abacà plant.
And, if ever there was an example of sustainability in fashion brought to life, it’s Roya Aghighi’s algae clothing – because it’s quite literally alive. Known as biogarmentry, it contains green living cells spun together with Nano polymers. That means the clothing, when worn, will purify the air around you by turning carbon dioxide into oxygen.
Usually when we think about ‘garment care’ we’re talking about what temperature to set the washing machine at – but it takes on a whole new meaning for this algae collection. No washing is required as the clothing items are essentially plants – all they need is some sunlight and a spray with water once a week!
Amazingly, that’s not the only example of a fashion brand looking at air pollution. Panagaia, known for its carbon capture technology, has pushed the limits once more by developing a new ink. Branded X AIR-INK, it captures air pollution particles and turns them into water-based ink for use on clothing. The brand is also known for using grape leather alternatives and botanical dyes made from fruits and vegetables.
Alongside these amazing examples of creative thinking, we have the likes of brands like Ecoalf focussing on the reuse/recycle message. Ecoalf has partnered with French multinational tyre manufacturer Michelin. Together they are producing sustainable loafer shoes made from Michelin’s reused rubber – and plastic bottles collected from the ocean.
Marks & Clerk, in a bid to put more of a spotlight on sustainability in the fashion industry, has launched a podcast series in collaboration with Future Fashion Factory – a £5.4 million, industry-led Research and Development partnership exploring and developing new digital and advanced textile technologies to boost the design of high-value creative products.
The podcast, Fashion and Sustainability: the future of fashion and textile industries, explores a range of hot topics including garment recycling and end-of-life processing, virtual sampling, data-driven design and supply chain sustainability.
Crucially, the podcast series delves into the intellectual property (IP) issues associated with sustainability and efficiency practices within fashion including trade marks, patents, copyright, design rights, confidential information, trade secrets, supply chain contracts and all other related contracts.
It’s important to bear in mind that, there are usually numerous IP implications when companies change their practices in response to consumer demand. Innovation is important and companies should take care to secure their rights.
I’ll be watching closely to see what other interesting fashion sustainability developments happen during the course of this year. I suspect we have just hit the tip of the iceberg and there’s much more innovation to come.
This article first appeared in The Scotsman: https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/columnists/green-is-the-new-black-in-eco-fashion-noelle-pearson-3327637