With sustainability at the frontline of the fashion industry headlines, it’s no wonder that new sustainable materials and methods are popping up left, right and centre.
Scientists are teaming up with the fashion industry to combat this is by producing new materials that have a lower impact on the environment. These newly discovered materials are proving to be more sustainable, vegan and some are even biodegradable. A couple of them are still at their development stage, but once completed these new materials will one day replace the likes of leather and silk.
A huge study called the Pulse of the Fashion Industry that was released in May 2017 revealed some major problems in the fashion industry, hanging up all of it’s dirty laundry for everyone to see. It was concluded that three of the worst materials per kg for the environment are in fact derived from animals. Cow leather came in as the worst for environmental impact, followed by silk fabric, cotton then wool. With that being said, we’re hopeful that these new sustainable materials will be used in their place for good in the near future.
So then, without further ado – let’s explore these ingenious new materials…
Microsilk® is one of the most recent innovations to offer an alternative to silk and was created by Bolt Threads in California. The material replicates the same mechanism that spiders use to create their webs (without the use of any spiders). The company have developed a way of bioengineering their own proteins, similar to those used by spiders to make their webs by putting genes into yeast and then fermenting this using sugar and water to finally extract the liquid silk protein. The liquid silk protein is then spun into fibres that are knitted or weaved into garments. Pretty scientific and incredible really when you think about it! No spiders are harmed in the making of this material either, only studied!
Now Mylo™ is also pretty impressive. Made from mycelium, which is the underground root structure of mushrooms, it grows as tiny threads that form vast networks under the forest floor. Incredibly, Mylo™ can be created in days rather than years without the material waste of using animal hides to impact the environment. Pretty cool right? The material created again by Bolt Threads looks and feels just like leather which is great news for the fashion industry. The material is also completely biodegradable and non toxic too.
Inspired by the amount of natural resources available, the founder of Piñatex® Dr. Carmen Hijosa sought to create a “new, non-woven textile that could be commercially produced yet provide positive social and economic impact and maintain a low environmental footprint throughout its lifecycle”. After 7 years of research and development, Piñatex® was created. The leather like material is made from the leaves of the pineapple plant which are normally discarded from the pineapple harvest.
Orange Fiber was created as an Italian Innovation Startup in 2018 with the hope and ethos that “innovation, sustainability and quality” will make the world a better place. The sustainable fabrics are created using the by-products of citrus juice that would have otherwise been thrown away. The very first prototypes of fabric from citrus cellulose were presented at the Expo Gate of Milan at the Vogue Fashion’s Night Out.
It is more important now than ever before to recognise that materials derived from animals such as leather, silk and wool are doing more harm than good to animals and the planet. With these new materials comes new prospect and hope for the future of the fashion industry, yet we still have a long way to go!