How Fashion Brands Are Pushing Sustainable Biotextiles

Today’s fast fashion consumption has severe environmental impacts. But with the development of eco-friendly biofabrics young labels as well as established fashion brands are revolutionizing the textile industry.

The environmental awareness among consumers is increasing steadily. Especially the growing number of vegans results in livestock production coming under pressure. But this development does not only affect the food sector. It also requires a more ecological behavior from the fashion industry. After all, leather is a common used material in high-priced clothes, bags and other accessories. So it is no surprise that fashion brands are aiming to research innovative solutions in the field of biotextiles.

The Infinite Design Possibilities of Biofabricated Materials

“In part it’s because we’re in a new era of demand for transparency from clothing brands, which means they’re asking the same of their suppliers. But it’s also because the top brands are now seeing the performance potential in what is really a new category of materials.”

Natalia Krasnodebska, Head of Communications of Modern Meadow explains. The company claiming to be the world’s first bioleather materials brand is the mastermind behind Zoa™, an artificial leather. This material is biologically grown from a yeast and thus leaves a lighter footprint on the planet which is crucial since the current decadent attitude to clothing is not eco-friendly at all.

To be honest: Biotextiles are nothing new in the fashion industry. The first steps in this field date back to the 1930s when a fabric made from milk was presented, for instance. In 2011 a very similar approach was introduced by QMilk. But they apply a protein from non-food milk to produce casein-derived textiles, which are already used by clothing brands such as Vaude. Nevertheless, biofabrics have never achieved their breakthrough so far because luxury brands preferred natural fibers to synthetic materials without valuing the benefits. Zoa™, for instance, is extremely versatile as the manufacturer’s website promises:

“Able to be any density. Hold to any mold. Create any shape. Take on any texture. Combine with any other material. Be any size, seamlessly. A liquid. A solid. An anomaly.”

Newcomers Introducing Pioneering Biotextiles

Except from leather production being under fire, cotton is criticized, too. Growing it costs huge amounts of water, chemicals, energy and land, hence negatively affecting global warming. So, it is essential to think in closed loop systems and work on greening the industry.

Another example for a new fabric is MYX which is made from plant fibres, leftovers from clothing and rope production as well as mushroom spores, the waste product of commercial mushroom production. These elements form a matrix structure giving the material a textile feel. Danish designer Jonas Edvard invented MYX and uses it since 2013. By now, he just created furniture, but thanks to its excellent properties it would also suit the fashion industry: It is not only low cost and sustainable, but also light-weight and flexible with a warm and soft insulating surface.

In 2017 the Helsinki Fashion Week partnered up with Infinited Fiber Company to launch a collection named The New Normal. All items were produced using an innovative process that turns textile and paper waste into new fibers. Petri Alava, Infinited Fiber Company’s CEO, describes the advantages of this method:

“We have developed a process technology that can turn cotton rich textile waste into new fibers for the textile industry. And not just once, but infinitely. Infinited fiber can be recycled again and again without decreasing the quality of the fiber.”

These efforts not only benefit the environment, but also have the finger on the pulse in terms of customer orientation as Helsinki Fashion Week founder Evelyn Mora points out:

“It’s the consumer who is being hugely underestimated by the fashion industry, as happened with the food industry and demand for innovation there too. The fact is, that in time luxury brands are going to have to get into these new fabrics – they don’t really have an option.”

This is why it is particularly pleasing that major players like Salvatore Ferragamo or Stella McCartney are also implementing techniques such as orange fibres or garmets made from a silk inspired by spider web DNA in some of their pieces. Often it needs popular labels coming up with innovations before they can finally enter the mass markets.

Do you know other promising biofabrics entering the textile sector? Share them with us in the comment section.