The fashion industry has been on a green revolution going full steam. Seems like there are major innovations and improvements sprouting up to help it be more sustainable, have less impact on the environment, and initiate positive change for the welfare of many.
While fashion isn't necessarily the hot topic when it comes to the coolest and most mind-boggling inventions on tech, it doesn't mean that nothing amazing has come out from it. So we compiled the 6 most amazing green innovations on fashion that are currently being enjoyed or are in development.
Dyeing or putting colour on fabrics have had the biggest negative effect on the environment when it comes to fashion. About 85% of the water, 75% of the energy and 65% of chemicals used in textile production is used in dying and finishing. That's why the time is ripe for a green revolution.
Enter AirDye, one of the most eco-friendly and technologically-advanced way to dye fabrics. It uses 90% less water and 85% less energy than the conventional method. Instead of applying colour to fabric with dyes on water, AirDye's process uses hot air to transfer dyes from paper carriers to the fabric directly.
2. Upcycled Fabrics
Fashion designers around the world are embracing fabrics that are sourced from seemingly unthought of places. Rachel Faller of Tonle uses discarded fabrics from factories and turn them to apparel, jewelry, and bags.
Mipan recovers nylon from industrial products like nets and carpets that are turned to upcycled fabrics used by Eco Panda to create their recycled swimwear line.
3. Lab-grown Leather
Aside from being frowned upon by animal rights activists, leather has also been taking a lot of flak from eco-warriors as well. The luxury material is produced with a heavy chemical cocktail and requires a whole lot of water and energy in the process. That’s why innovators are searching for eco-friendly leather alternatives that don’t harm animals. One way is to use leather grown not in farms, but in labs.
Two years ago, New Jersey startup Modern Meadow unveiled a line featuring “biofabricated” cow-free leather. The brand’s process relies on genetic engineering to produce collagen, the building block for a super-lifelike leather material.
4. Plastic Bottle jackets
Plastic gym clothes may sound uncomfortable, but modern recycling processes allow feedstocks like bottles to be broken down and woven into knit fabrics, leaving behind a soft yarn. The trend started by small labels like Girlfriend Collective is now picking up steam among mainstream brands. Timberland, for example, recently partnered with the social enterprise Thread International to make clothes and shoes from plastic bottles collected from the streets of Haiti and Honduras.
Even if these fabrics are non-biodegradable, their production uses less crude than the manufacturing of new polyester and keeps plastic bottles from landfills.
Fabrics with some percentage of recycled PET can be found in many labels today, and recently the material stepped up to enter the high-end fashion world with the Ecotech Zegna solar jacket and Patagonia.
(T)Weed? It's a textile that's made of weed! Various upstarts in Europe have begun developing new ways to produce fabrics with nettle, and one of the commercial products with it, STINGplus, recently won an award in London.
BBC presenter Kylie Pentelow wore the first nettle dress made of these fibers, from Leicester's De Montfort University investigation project.
So what makes this weed the answer to our need? Nettle is very resistant, needless of fertilizers and pesticides, and easy on water use. Plus, its fibers are longer and stronger than cotton, and finer than hemp. Some people call this the most sustainable fiber ever. It's been around since World War II, when the Germans had to find an alternative to cotton to make uniforms because the market for that fiber was dominated by England. So you know they're battle-tested.
6. Milk Fibre?
Innovators have long used rapidly renewable resources to create clothing—think: cotton and bamboo. Now, companies like Qmilk are taking it to a whole new level. This brand produces what it calls “the material of the future,” a unique biopolymer that’s made with the milk protein casein and can be used for clothing and upholstery. The material takes significantly less water and energy to produce than traditional fabrics, although it’s unlikely to win points among the animal welfare set.