Like him or not, Kanye West is a forward-looking innovator. Especially with a fearless appetite for change. Yeezy isn’t the first fashion house to embrace eco-friendly fabrics but the use of algae foam in Yeezy fashion footwear. It also shines a welcome light onto a part of the fashion world. One that is consequently largely overlooked by the mainstream.
Very few of the fabrics used by the fashion industry in the last fifty years can be said to be environmentally friendly. Plastic based fabric have been featured heavily. Especially since polyester and fast fashion became the norm. Only increasing the carbon footprint of the industry.
Shoes are another story. With the move from having just practical footwear as our grandparent’s generation would have done. So an increase in disposable income has brought fast fashion to footwear. Increasing the use of leather and synthetics ten-fold.
As society pushed for more transparency in everything from politics to food production, fashion brands the world over are embracing the challenge of finding (and using!) fabrics that are better for the environment. Swedish powerhouse, H&M was one of the first to introduce eco pieces with alternative fabrics featured in its Conscious range. The dresses, tops, and shoes were made exclusively from recycled and alternative materials including glass and oranges. A bold step for high street fashion.
You can embrace the eco-fabric revolution too with these alternative options.
SeaCell from Nanonic is made from organic seaweed and is a soft fabric with a silky feel. Nanonic are not the only ones who have looked to the oceans for solutions. “New York-based AlgiKnit has also found that seaweed, specifically kelp and one or two other types, makes a fine alternative material. In their case, it’s yarn or BioYarn as it has fast become know”, says Dave Hodgson, eco blogger at 1Day2write.com and Nextcoursework.com.
Both of the seaweed materials have been tried and tested by designers. German designer, Luisa Kahlfeldt uses SeaCell in her Sumo Diaper range whilst AlgiKnit has found its way into footwear.
Apple and Pineapple
Handbag lovers will be happy to learn that innovators like Piñatex and Nuuwaï have created leather alternatives from pineapple and apple respectively. Piñatex was one of the feature fabrics of H&M’s 2019 capsule and lends itself well to stitching and print. Nuuwaï’s bags and accessories are right on trend and set to be future favorites of the fashion elite.
We already know that oranges are good for our immune system but it turns out that they are good for the Amazon rainforest’s immune system too. In the mid-1990s one thousand truckloads of waste orange peel were spread over a barren area of the rainforest. Fifteen years later, the peel has restored the site into a lush jungle again. Proof that food waste is an overlooked resource with a lot of potential.
Oranges are just one of the food waste types being turned into fashion fabrics too. Italian business, Orange Fiber has created silk-like fabrics from juice that would have been thrown away without their intervention. Using it to make chic boho pieces with a focus on Italian quality.
“Sustainable fashion fabrics feel like a new concept but the truth is that they have been around for decades. Issac Nichelson has been championing alternative fabrics for nearly thirty years now,” says Bethany Jones, fashion writer at Writemyx.com and Britstudent.com. She is right of course, the conversation around alternative fabrics started a long time ago. Nichelson’s company Circular Systems has been proactive in its efforts to find a solution. Innovating with Agraloop where they turn food waste like banana tree trunks and sugar cane bark into ‘high-value natural fibre products’.
The fashion industry creates 92 million tons of waste every year. Much of this comes from offcuts and trends that didn’t sell. Look to designers like Kim Cathers, Canada, for pieces that use reclaimed textile but still look great. I’d high street fashion is your thing then start asking store assistants to point you to their sustainable collections. The more demand there is in store, the faster recycled and alternative textiles will become the norm in all fashion.
As I wrote before, consumers must also continue to be steadfast. Especially in their water conservation habits. As well as small changes. Especially like washing jeans less. Because it can result in big savings.