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SubscriberSustainability

The 10 most innovative alternatives to plastic for luxury

Eating five portions of veg a day accounts for a healthy diet. But what if wearing plant-based clothes could make us and the planet healthier, too? Innovative start-ups, materials companies and luxury labels are collaborating in a quest for more eco-friendly fabrics.

Morgane Nyfeler

By Morgane Nyfeler05 octobre 2021

Materials science company Pangaia released two new plant-based fabrics this summer, adding to the brand's already extensive portfolio of material innovations (DR)

Around 50 per cent of our clothing is made from synthetic materials ­– nylon, acrylic and polyester – which are non-biodegradable and composed of plastic, and can sit in landfills for 200 years before they decompose.

This pioneering production model can help revolutionise the fashion industry and empower brands who are looking for more eco-responsible textile value chains

Enrica Arena, CEO of Orange Fiber

When items from these materials are washed, one typical load can shed up to 700,000 microfibres that end up into our oceans. The Ellen McArthur Foundation estimates that 22 million tonnes of these fibres will be released between the years 2015 and 2050 if we continue producing, buying and washing synthetic clothes. In response to those harmful impacts, the German start-up smartfiber AG has developed SeaCell™ which is made of sustainable raw materials – seaweed and wood – using the lyocell process, an innovative and eco-friendly production method in a closed loop system with no chemicals released as waste. The seaweed is sourced in the Icelandic Fjords before being washed, dried, carefully ground and incorporated into the cellulose fibre which is then fully biodegradable. Not only is the fabric breathable, light and soft against the skin, but it also transfers nutrients such as iron, calcium, magnesium and Vitamin E into the skin.

Innovative plant-based materials

Designer Stella McCartney used the Mylo™ mushroom-based vegan leather process for her latest collection (Stella McCartney)

It is mostly through collaboration and a shared vision to improve the fashion industry that such materials come to life. The Austrian producer of wood-based fibres Lenzing is leading the way in botanic products derived from renewable sources and has recently partnered with Orange Fiber on a lyocell fibre known as TENCEL™ which is added with orange pulp to push the boundaries of innovation in sustainable, plant-based materials. “This pioneering production model can help revolutionise the fashion industry and empower brands who are looking for more eco-responsible textile value chains,” says Enrica Arena, CEO of Orange Fiber. “With consumers becoming more eco-conscious, it is imperative for the industry to innovate with sustainable materials to stay efficient, competitive and save our planet for future generations.” The citrus juice by-product material has already been used by brands such as H&M, as well as luxury labels such as Salvatore Ferragamo, and the new collection of fabrics in partnership with Lenzing called TENCEL™ Limited Edition will be presented to the market in October.

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