The planet is hurting, severely. As a post industrial revolution society we have unfortunately become more and more of a ‘throw away’ culture. Given our technological advancements most things are quick, easy, and cheap to produce, and even easier to throw away and ‘buy a new/ better one’, this is called cradle-to-grave design and this approach has led the planet to the brink of total destruction. The oceans are awash with floating plastics and the air is poisoned with pollutants and according to the WWF we consume 30% more resources than the planet is capable of replenishing annually.
But do not despair, fashion can lead the way to absolution; it’s easy to engage the public in something they already do everyday wear clothes. Thus fashion has the ability to lead a paradigm shift with regard to materials and sustainability that will hopefully carry to other aspects of life.
When most people think about sustainable fashion they envision hippies frolicking in hemp potato sack dresses, but now we’re light years ahead of this.
Dutch textile designer Aniela Hoitink has approached this issue in a very exciting way and is using mycelium, the vegetative portion of mushroom fungus, to create a biodegradable material for clothing. The concept of creating wearable garments from living products is beyond thrilling. Using these soft-bodied organisms that grow through continuous replication Hoitink was able to build a textile from disc shaped pieces of mycelium. Then develop a production technique that enabled the material to retain shape and flexibility to create the gorgeous Neffa dress.
These garments can be built 3-dimensionally and shaped during production. This process allows for the exact amount of material necessary to be grown, eliminating any waste in the production process. Furthermore, mycelium fabric is easy to repair without risk to the garment appearance and can be composted when no longer needed. A perfect self -sustaining system, that fits the core ethos of sustainability to work with natural systems to create and replenish in disposal. This approach is known as cradle-to-cradle design, when a product can be disassembled into a biological or technical nutrient at the end of its life.
Now to pineapple leather, which sounds a little ridiculous, so get ready to be wowed! Ananas anam is a company that manufactures Piñatex, leather like material made from pineapple leaf fibers, and distributes to footwear, fashion, furnishing, and accessory designers. The company employs a cradle-to-cradle approach to develop materials that enhance the earth’s health. Piñatex is a truly amazing fabric, its soft, flexible, strong, breathable, highly versatile, can hold prints, and the list goes on. Various mainstream labels such as Puma have already embraced this and are creating prototype sneakers.
Finally, seaweed, yes the stuff that tangles in your feet in the sea, can be made into fabric. Nanonic Inc. has developed SeaCell, a textile made from organic brown algae using the plant’s component containing cellulose. Most interestingly, SeaCell has calcium, vitamin e, and functions as an anti-inflammatory, thus naturally possesses ayurvedic properties capable of improving skin. It almost sounds too good to be true, and although not yet widespread there are many fashion start-ups working with it. How can this stuff not take off?
In sum I say with hope we are on the precipice of a fashion led environmental revolution and at the conclusion of our ever-increasing consumption and disposal based way of life.