From fibres stretched out of garbage cans, to plastic bottles, to fruit peels, there are a plethora of innovations in fibres flourishing out there. But what is the future of these textile innovations.
Seeds and fruits are no longer just edible objects, and neither are fashion textile residues. As companies and brands cope up with pressure of generating more sustainable outputs, manufacturing fibres from waste expelled from textile industries is providing a new direction to innovative start-ups.
The report heading Innovations in Cellulosic Fibres Derived from Recycled Textile and Clothing Waste by Textile Intelligence, a global business information company, says new enterprises are making increased progress from the cellulosic fibres derived from clothing and textile waste, some of which are soon to be commercialised by the end of 2021. Clearly, the need of the hour is to address the generated waste and factory effluents released by garment industries. Manufacturing fibres from derivations of effluents and waste is more environment-friendly, the report adds.
Cellulosic fibres derived sustainably are attracting large-scale commercial attention. Key market players which include Kering and Patagonia, and H&M, are investing in this direction. Moreover through partnership and trade interactions, apparel retailers like adidas, Levi Strauss & Co., Bestseller, PVH and Wrangler are also exploring applications of sustainably derived cellulosic fibres to manufacture new product lines.
In the year 2021, for the first time ever, adidas has committed to manufacture 60 per cent of the products by using sustainable fibres like ‘better cotton’ and recycled polyester.
“Sustainability is an integral part of the adidas business philosophy. We have continued to invest in sustainability initiatives during the coronavirus pandemic and we will significantly expand our range of sustainable products in 2021,” said Kasper Rorsted, Chief Executive Officer of adidas in a press release.
Recently, Finnish Biotech Group, Infinited Fiber also started a bid worth €6M to form a business association for creating a circular fashion cycle. The consortium includes businesses from the New Cotton Project with 12 members spanning from Sweden, Netherlands, Finland, Germany, Portugal, to Turkey, working amidst recycling, waste management, manufacturing, academia as well as retail. Many large apparel retailers like adidas and H&M share their partnerships on the project and will conjointly work on “the scale and volume needed to properly test this (technology)” as described by Petri Alava, CEO of Infinited Fiber. The project is bound for 3 years aiming to generate over 3 tonnes of cellulose carbamate fibres supplied to Inovafil, Kipas and Tekstina, partner manufacturers for H&M and adidas. These fibres are derived from textile waste with high concentration of cellulose, cardboard and recycled fabric.
Green fibres are probably the most innovative materials created to minimise environmental impact of waste generated by textile industries. H&M has used fibres derived from fruits to unmask its new Spring/Summer collection of apparel and footwear made with pineapple shell leather and orange silk. The project was started in 2019 with the launch of ‘Conscious Exclusive’ collection and aims to base all upcoming collections on eco- sustainable resources by the year 2030. Piñatex is a fabric derived from the fibres created from leaves of pineapple grown in the Philippines.
The vegan leather was created by Carmen Hijosa, a Spanish entrepreneur with vegan leather jackets and vegan leather boots. The resultant material is not only totally sustainable, but also about 460 leaves are processed to create one metre square of fabric. “With the waste from pineapple fruit vendors located in top 10 manufacturer countries, 50 per cent of global leather production can be replaced” stated Hijosa.
Another interesting fibre is Tencel. This is an ecologically derived fibre extracted from regenerated wood cellulose of FSC – certified forests, reducing the negative effects of traditional processing of fibres. The fabric is produced in a closed loop, i.e., water used is recycled and more than 99 per cent of the solvents are recovered. A design house named TAMGA Designs based in Canada sources high quality plant fibres such as Lenzing ModalTM that is ethically made with all vibrant colours achieved from Oeko-Tex 100-certified dyes.
Who hasn’t heard of doodads of materials made out of soyabean protein! One such creation comes from the soyabean protein fibre which is derived from soybeans once they are oiled. A protein is extracted from the liquid oozed out from refined soy. After a procedure of polymerisation, the material is then cooked to give out yarn. Soybean protein fabric is obtained once the yarn is well cooked and thermoformed, and is known for good air permeability, moisture retention and softness. The fabric is used in intimate garments such as underwear, sleepwear, infant clothing, bedsheets, towels, sportswear and blankets. Vehicles by Ford also decked the usage of soy-based polyurethane in seating foam and upholstery.
An eco-friendly fabric derived from grapefruit waste using sustainable processing transfuses pomace into cruelty-free, or ‘vegan’ fabric known as the Vegea fabric. Collaboratively with wineries in Italy, VegeaTM bagged the Global Change Award. H&M has introduced its exclusive line with clothing made out of Vegea and Circulose fibres derived from discarded textiles.
Along with a Swedish textile recycling and innovations team of company ‘Renewcell’, H&M entered a multiple-year partnership that aims to supersede existing fibres with recycled textiles in garments and footwear. Corn fibre is the next unique innovation in textile derived from corn sugar. Polythic acid is a humidity resistant, heat resistant and highly breathable polymer that is obtained out of legumes and starch. The fabric produced as a result is highly delicate, slightly stiff and is known for the ability to insulate, which makes it a good alternative for construction fabrics, coats and flooring. The residues produced as effluents are used as green manure to fertilise soil. On the other hand, Chitosan is derived from scraps of shrimps and is combined with cotton, wool and linen to form a biodegradable, antiallergic and sustainable fabric.
The initiative of creating fibres out of unexpected materials seems to answer the increasing number of ecological questions on fashion industry. Whether due to increased demand for vegan clothing, vegan accessories or ethical footwear, innovative fibres are evolving as a new trend which is better for the world, and better for manufacturers and brands to survive today.