Innovating future fabrics – the eco fashion of tomorrow
Clothes don’t grow on trees or in scientific labs – or do they? It’s the 21st century, folks, so the creation of clothes is definitely beginning to occur this way. From pineapple leather and orange peel fabric to lab-grown biotech silk, here are the most innovative new fashion materials and the people pushing to make them the most loved sustainable fabrics.
Once upon a time, the atypical use of pineapples was restricted to heated pizza debates. The idea of pineapple clothing wasn’t on anybody’s radar. But times have changed and while the pizza debate rages on, pineapples have become an exciting eco fashion player.
Carmen Hijosa, ethical entrepreneur and founder of Piñatex, was so shocked by the toxic environmental impact of mass leather production, that she decided to research and develop an innovative sustainable fabric alternative. Over seven years, and after much trial and error, Carmen found a fabric that could be commercially produced, provide a positive social and economic impact and maintain a low environmental footprint throughout its lifetime.
Piñatex, a natural and innovative sustainable fabric, is made from pineapple leaf fibre. The pineapple leaves are stripped to allow for the collection of the long, stringy natural fibre. What’s more, the leftover scraps can be turned into a nutrient-rich fertiliser, meaning nothing from the Piñatex process is wasted. Following the process, the fabric can be made into various fashion pieces including clothing, accessories, shoes and even interior furnishings and automotive upholstery.
What next? Eco fashion made from food scraps?
Another inspiring development in the world of eco fashion are items created from, well, food scraps. Pineapple leaves aren’t the only plants leading innovative sustainable fabric evolution: citrus fruit scraps also deserve a round of applause.
Adriana Santanocito and Enrica Arena are the founders of Orange Fiber and they have created the world’s first brand to produce sustainable fabric made from citrus fruit scraps. Based in Italy, Orange Fiber creates its fabric by taking the remaining scraps of citrus fruits after they have been industrially squeezed:
- Firstly, patented technology is used to extract the “pastazzo” – the white and often stringy skin – from citrus fruits.
- Then, the citrus cellulose is spun into a high-quality innovative sustainable fabric, which can be used for eco fashion.
And it has enormous potential. In Italy alone, more than 700,000 tons of citrus fruit scraps are produced every year, demonstrating the scope of natural resources already available to be produced into sustainable material. Since its inception, Orange Fiber has created a variety of fabrics, including twill, which is made from 68.9% cellulose acetylated fibre from oranges and 31.1% silk; and jersey which is made from 94% cellulose acetylated fibre from oranges and 6% elastane. If the textile is made from 100% citrus, the fabric has an especially soft, silky feel.
Perhaps the most surprising of all innovative future fabrics…
Eco fashion doesn’t have to follow a tree-hugging stereotype: it can also be made from cutting-edge science. Bolt Threads is a Californian startup that’s creating innovative sustainable fabrics with Microsilk – a tear-resistant fabric.
After analysing the properties of natural silk, Bolt Threads managed to create a protein similar to that found in the traditional fibre. Using a fermentation process, which requires nothing more than yeast, sugar and water, it was then able to produce this innovation in great quantities. From there, the man-made silk protein was spun into Microsilk, which can be woven into yarn. Since making the discovery, the team at Bolt Threads has worked closely with innovative brands like Patagonia and Stella McCartney to create eco fashion alternatives, all by using cutting-edge scientific technology.
Header image: Bolt Threads (PR)
Image of Carmen Hijosa: ©David Stewart (Ananas Anam (PR))
Image of two scientists at Bolt Threads in California: Bold Threads (PR)