Sustainable fashion also known as eco-fashion, is the growing philosophy and trend of sustainability. This covers various issues such as fair trade, the environment, animal welfare, sustainable production and fair working conditions. Eco fashion is good for the environment, but what makes the fashion environment friendly is still not known to many. What goes behind creating these green fabrics has always been a question to many of us. Let’s explore the innovations behind these new age threads.
Fabrics made from food products
Fabric yarn made out of food products is making fashion more sustainable. Banana stalks, are a part of plant that is usually dumped or burned once the fruit is harvested. Theses talks relegated to garbage causing pollution, are used for creating a versatile fabric and then turned into beautifully tailored skirts, jackets, kimonos, throws, cushion covers, and blankets. A company called Qmilch, uses protein found in sourced secondary milk, which is not suitable for human consumption or needs to be thrown away to make an eco-milk fibre. Ingeo is a fabric derived from fermented corn starches which are spun into fibres for apparel and home textiles. Recycled coffee beans are used to create cold weather performance apparel, by a high tech sports clothing company Virus for their stay warm line. The coconut husk disposed of by the food service industry is used to create a durable fabric. Fermented tea- Kombucha or pineapple leaves fibres are used to create alternative vegetable leather. Soy protein fibre left over after processing soybeans into food, a fabric from fermented wine, or turning citrus by products into sustainable yarn all are examples of fabrics made out of food products.
Yarn made by Qmilch, using protein found in sourced secondary milk : Image Source
A finished garment constructed from fabric, made by Qmilch, from milk protein: Image Source
Water saving techniques
To name a few, air dye, digital printing, water free stone washing are the techniques innovated to save water. Air dye process heat transfers proprietary dyes from paper to fabric, and is a one step process.7 to 75 gallons of water is saved in dying of a pound of fabric; this technique uses 85 percent less energy than the traditional dying methods resulting in saving energy and water, and also reduces the chances of producing any harmful by products. Digital printing is also a technology that helps save water, by reducing the water usage by 95 percent and also minimizing textile waste. In this technique prints are directly applied to fabrics with printers.
A designer outfit with digital print detailing : Image Source
Levis practiced the water free stone washing technique which allowed the company to use an average of 28 percent less and at times as much as 96 percent less water to finish their jeans for its water conservation collection, this waterless collection has helped Levis reduce its use of water by more than 172 million litres. Bio filtering is also one of the techniques which helps remove the most toxic textile dyes components, unlike the traditional biological systems, this innovative technique filter relies on microorganisms growing in aggregates. The waste water is poured over the microorganisms, which process pollutants and each aggregate holds up to 10 times more microorganisms than traditional technologies and produces 80 percent less sludge than conventional biological filters. Evrnu is a another technology that eliminates massive waste and substantial harm to the environment, by converting solid waste into a liquid and then transforming it into a new pure fibre that can take on the characteristics the designer needs. This process is done with 98 percent less water than it takes to make traditional cotton fibre & with 90 percent reduced CO2 emissions compared to polyester production.
This process has a gigantic scalability. This technology allows us to recycle all materials containing cellulose. This material has been created by a company called Re:newcell. In this process old cotton clothes are brought to the factory, after the removal of non-recyclable pieces like zippers and buttons and shredded turning them into porridge like substance. The porridge is then broken down to the molecule level and turned into a fibre substance to be used as a thread. Best results are achieved when you recycle pure cotton, however we can also recycle fabrics that are a mix of cotton and other materials. This company has formed partnerships with textiles companies who will buy its pulp rather than the typical fabric rolls.
Recycled Cotton is one way to re-use old garments to create new yarn for new fabric: Image Source
A New life for plastic bags and beer bottles
Plastic bags and bottles have always been a threat to the environment, but today it has been used positively to create fabrics, the upcycled synthetics are broken down into a fine particulate, melted and extruded into fibre. A mix of bottle fibre and cotton results in a material that is soft to the hand yet durable and performs like a denim. Recycled plastic reduces air, water and land pollution and consumes 30 percent less energy. The reduction in use of natural resources and energy will result in the decrease of carbon emission. Recently Hollywood actress Emma Watson wore a red carpet gown, that was in fabric made completely from recycled plastic bottles. So sustainable fabrics are indeed the way of the future.
Emma Watson wearing a Louis Vuitton dress made from Newlife recycled polyester, created from used plastic bottles : Image Source