The fabrics dreams are made of
These new textiles are revolutionizing the fashion industry: waste-based, compostable, and some actually breathe. Read More
X Suit: The magic suit of the future
Ever fancied biking through the rain to get to a wedding without having to change your attire? Then you might want to try out the X Suit. It aims to solve pretty much all the fashion issues modern men struggle with, such as uncomfortable and wrinkly fabrics, stained and smelly suits, and time-consuming trips to the dry cleaners.
The suit is multi-stretch, liquid and stain repellent, odour neutralizing – and wrinkle proof. The patented “X Shield” technology is integrated into all trousers, t-shirts and blazers. But what if you accidentally spill a whole glass of milk on your X Suit blazer? Simply wipe it off with a damp cloth; this suit practically cleans itself.
Desserto: Eco-friendly leather made from nopal cactus
Most of us think plastic when we hear the words ‘vegan leather’. An increasing number of fashion labels, such as Pinatex and Happy Genie, however, are producing eco-friendly alternatives made from plants. Mexican company ‘Adriano Di Marti’ is a new arrival on the plant-based leather scene with ‘Desserto’, a fabric made out of nopal cactus leaves. The company’s two founders, Adriano López Velarde, originally from the furniture and automotive industries, and Marte Cázarez from the world of fashion, believe these industries are simply too damaging to the environment. In 2017, they embarked on a journey to create a new type of leather – cruelty-free and without the use of toxic chemicals, phthalates, bisphenol, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or polyurethane (PU). It took them two years to develop ‘Desserto’, a partially biodegradable, soft and
high-quality material that can be used to produce clothing, accessories, furniture, and even car interiors. Finding a stable alternative to leather meant identifying a raw material that was abundant, such as the ubiquitous nopal cactus. Not only does the plant grow all over Mexico; it is easy to cultivate, as it does not require any water to grow. According to López Velarde, this new type of leather could save considerable amounts of plastic waste, as well as about 20 per cent of the water usually needed to produce textile products. This makes the material not only environmentally friendly, but also cost competitive. López Velarde and Cázarez, however, do not intend to produce their own products. Instead, they plan to conquer the market by selling the fabric to designers and fashion labels.
Biogarmentry: Clothes that photosynthesise like plants
Canadian-Iranian Roya Aghighi, currently a designer in residence at the Material Experience Lab in the Netherlands, is tackling the problems of textile waste and air pollution with the world’s first 100 per cent biodegradable textile capable of ‘breathing’. Aghighi’s ‘living’ textiles are made from nano polymers spun together with single-celled green algae that turns carbon dioxide into oxygen, thus actively improving air quality. Named 'Biogarmentry', the clothes were created in collaboration with the University of British Colombia (UBC) and Emily Carr University as a first proof of concept. Rather than washing the clothes, owners will need to spray them with water once a week – and expose them to sunlight on a regular basis. “Since the life cycle of the living photosynthetic textile is directly dependent on how well it is taken care of, the Biogarmentry challenges our current relationship to clothing, while acting as a catalyst for behavioural change”, the artist declares on her website. The textile is expected to live for around a month, after which it can be disposed of via composting.
The ‘living’ textiles turn carbon dioxide into oxygen, thus actively improving air quality.
Q Milk: Solving both the plastic and the dairy waste problem
Globally around 128 million tons of dairy products are thrown away every year. In addition to reducing the amount that is tossed on the rubbish heap, reusing waste dairy would also be a great way to save resources and cut disposal costs. German microbiologist and fashion designer Anke Domaske tackled the second option by using milk waste to make clothing. Milk fibres have been around for almost a decade, but producing them requires a lot of water, energy, time, and chemicals. Domaske, however, found a new way that uses no chemicals whatsoever. She first became interested in milk fibres when her stepdad, who was suffering from cancer, could not find any suitable anti-allergenic clothing. While trying to solve this problem, she also stumbled upon the issue of dairy waste.
Milk fibres are made from casein, a protein that has to be separated out of sour milk. The dried casein protein is typically mixed with water and other chemicals in order to make the fibres more resistant. Domaske replaced these chemicals with natural ingredients such as vegetable protein, wheat bran and wax. The result is a kind of super-fabric that is compostable, antibacterial, flame retardant, temperature regulating, and can even be washed at 60°C. Her patented fibre spinning process requires very little water, energy and time, making the production process particularly sustainable, as only two litres of water are needed to make 1 kg of textiles. The “Q Milk” fibres can also be used to make paper, tissues and toilet paper.
Orange Fiber: Turning citrus fruits into fashion
Every year Italy generates about 700,000 tons of citrus waste the fruit industry struggles to dispose of. Two Sicilian entrepreneurs decided to transform this “pastazzo” – Italian for citrus waste – into high-quality fabric. Well, at least part of it. It all started with Adriana Santanocito’s thesis on fashion design, which explored new technologies for creating textiles. After a cosy chat in the kitchen with her friend Enrica Arena, Santanocito decided to start a company that would produce ‘orange fibres’. One year later in 2015, the two friends had already set up a pilot plant for extracting citrus cellulose and created a patented production process.
Their biodegradable citrus cellulose yarn can be dyed and mixed with other natural materials such as cotton, linen and hemp to create different textures. Thanks to nanotechnology, the material also nourishes the skin like a sort of wearable body lotion. Last but not least, since the materials are sourced locally and the fibres are biodegradable, the production process is in line with the principles of the circular economy. The fibre is already being used in the luxury fashion industry and is rapidly gaining ground.
Mestic Fibre: Transforming manure into couture
Best known for creating a ‘bulletproof human skin’ from spider silk, Eindhoven-based artist Jalila Essaïdi has now figured out a way to turn cow manure into fashion. Her patented method tackles three major global problems: the lack of sustainability in the fashion industry, high methane emissions, and the phosphate and nitrate contamination caused by excessive industrial farming. Fascinated by the potential duality of manure, Essaïdi first contemplated turning it into vanilla. Her business instinct, though, told her transforming it into cellulose was a more interesting option.
Her method involves separating dry and wet manure so the cellulose, which is simply the remains of the grass the cows ingested, can be extracted from the dry manure. The wet fraction is fermented to extract the acids later required to transform the cellulose into a fibre. The method is also being used to produce plastics and paper. All materials are biodegradable – and the time span the materials will require in order to degrade can be ‘programmed’ in the lab to make sure they last for as long as they are supposed to.