As Albert Einstein said, "In difficulty lies opportunity." As fast fashion's impacts revealed themselves over the last decade or so, trailblazers began searching for solutions. Between 2013 and 2019, patent filings for new fiber innovations increased eightfold. Here are the top five mind-blowing categories of change happening around fashion fibers:
1 EMBEDDED TECHNOLOGY
From microchip technology to infrared light therapy to bluetooth-transmitting fibers and sensors, the sci-fi future we imagined is upon us. Yoga apparel that vibrates in the area of your body that needs adjusting to perfect a pose? It exists. UV sensors in a swimsuit that let you know when you should seek shade or extra sunscreen? It's been done. There are even fibers that can be sewn into garments to trace it back to the farmer and those that indicate the fiber makeup for recyclability. There has never been a better time to dream it and achieve it for wearable tech.
2 RECYCLABILITY & CIRCULARITY
Mechanical and chemical recycling for textiles has been around for awhile, but there have been roadblocks: synthetic dyes that don't break down, fiber blends, and scalability. Organizations are creating ways around those roadblocks in a variety of ways. Some are considering end-of-life at the beginning of the design process, so that fashion can either break down easily (biodegradability) or be dissembled to recycle into new fiber. Others are promoting creative mending solutions and refashioning of existing wardrobes. Others still are scaling technology that sorts clothing by fiber blend so they can be properly recycled. More clever fashion groundbreakers are turning waste into worth each day.
3 CREATIVE ANCIENT FIBER SOLUTIONS
What's old is new again-- we can't ignore the tried and true functionality of organically-grown natural fibers. Used from ancient times, fibers like linen (flax), hemp, and cotton are naturally compostable. By blending complimentary natural fibers with inherent performance qualities, like antimicrobial properties, breathability or flame resistance, we can achieve some of the desirability of synthetic fibers, without the environmental impacts. Sometimes, solutions are right in front of us if we look back through history and reinvent them for today.
Some organizations are growing bacteria to turn into fashion or dyes for textiles. Others are growing fungus or algae for fiber. Others still are using byproducts from the agricultural industry to create raw materials: pineapple fiber, corn husks, orange fiber, and banana. Fiber is being processed from renewable trees or from soy or milk protein. Because they are from nature, they can be returned to nature. The solutions driving change are truly astonishing.
5 CRUELTY-FREE LEATHER
In addition to the heartbreak of animal cruelty, the process of tanning leather is one of the most toxic processes in the entire fashion industry. We can't deny leather's range of durable uses. So, what do tree bark, pineapples, mushrooms, agave, coffee, grapes and nettle have in common? They can all be used as starting materials to simulate leather! Now THAT is fashion you can feel good about.
What innovations have you been reading about? Have we left anything exciting out? Let us know.