It’s no secret that the apparel industry is one of the main culprits of global pollution. However, as the awareness of the problem has been increasing, human ingenuity has been put at work to solve it. From new startups to large established conglomerates, the investment in researching sustainable fibers has grown steadily in the last decade. As a result, labs around the world are now flaunting several viable hi-tech alternatives with the same qualities of natural fibers, but manufactured more sustainably. Here are some of the most interesting solutions coming soon near you.
Biosteel® a 100% vegan and biodegradable biopolymer imitating spider silk produced by the German company AMSilk. Soft and smooth to the touch with moisture management qualities, Biosteel® is ideal for high performance sports apparel and footwear, it is also the fiber used by Adidas for its Futurecraft shoe which was unveiled in November 2016.
Spider silk is also the inspiration behind the BoltSpun tie, the first human-made silk consumer product launched by the American Bolt Threads last March.
From growing cattle to treating skins, the leather product cycle is one of the main causes of greenhouse emissions, and it is the motivation behind a growing field of research in bio-engineering: bio-fabrication or cell cultures. An example of this is the technology used by New York-based Modern Meadow, which produces nature’s materials using cells instead of living animals. Based on collagen, a protein found in animal skin, the cells are modified according to the desired features, to deliver the right structural and aesthetic properties. The resulting bio-leather is then tanned and finished using an eco-friendly process.
Vegetable fibers are also used to re-create leather-like materials. In particular two of these new biotechnologies, one derived from mushroom and the other from pineapple leaves, have been making headlines recently. Suede-like Muskin is created from mushrooms by the Italian Grado Zero Espace labs, which also produces a hybrid yarn derived from cypress trees with excellent anti-bacterial and antiseptic qualities.
Since 2013, Ananas Anam has been developing a natural and sustainable non-woven textile called Piñatex™ made from pineapple leaves fibers. Durable, soft and versatile, this material has been recently used by Puma and Camper to produce prototypes.
Science and fashion working together seems definitely to be the right solution to move forward, as our planet's natural resources are strained by pollution and population growth.