As the world’s second most polluting industry, fashion is trying to reinvent itself to reduce its ecological impact. This involves developing new practices, using new materials, and switching to manufacturing processes that consume less water and energy. Various initiatives keep springing up to drive fashion in a direction that’s more sustainable and respectful of the planet, as well as human beings. Here’s a look at some of the most innovative approaches underway as the world celebrates Earth Day, April 22.
If upcycling, clothing repair and buying second-hand currently stand out as essential alternatives for making fashion more responsible, many in the sector are working on new solutions to considerably reduce the carbon footprint of our wardrobes. Some of these often surprising solutions could contribute to revolutionizing the textile industry as we know it.
3D printing to limit waste
From small French company 3D-Tex to the renowned American designer Heron Preston to the Portland-based sustainable shoe brand Hilos, more and more fashion firms and designers are embracing 3D printing as a means to offer greener pieces, focusing on zero waste and circularity. The idea is to shift to a more ecological manufacturing process, while limiting waste and offering more resistant creations, some of which can be infinitely recyclable.
That’s the challenge taken up by the Saint-Malo-based start-up 3D-Tex, which defines itself as the “first fully 3D knitting workshop in France,” on its official website. The company manufactures sweaters — but also hats — in 3D and without seams thanks to a technology that seriously cuts down on waste. It’s an initiative that has already won over many brands, starting with TBS and Le Slip Français, and which could serve as an example in many other sectors.
While 3D printing is on a mission to revolutionize the knitwear sector in France, it seems to have already conquered the footwear sector in the United States. This is evidenced by various projects from the likes of Heron Preston and Hilos. The former presented the first 3D-printed sneakers that can be infinitely recycled in the fall of 2021, while the latter is currently producing four models of shoes made on demand using this technology, thus addressing a number of issues such as overproduction, stock shortages and energy savings. These three initiatives demonstrate the industry’s enthusiasm for 3D printing as one of the most innovative solutions for a more sustainable future.
Turning waste into clothing
While upcycling allows many brands to give a second life to their fabric scraps and surplus or used clothes, some in the industry have gone even further by transforming waste — sometimes even components whose concentration in the atmosphere is one of the factors behind global warming. Incredible, but true. The objective is to depollute the environment while proposing new creations that do not require any new raw material.
The TchaoMegot company takes an unusual approach by recycling… cigarette butts. These are collected, then cleaned through an ecological process, before being transformed into eco-designed insulation used in the padding of certain puffer jackets. It’s upcycling taken to a whole new level, while also raising awareness about the pollution generated by this common waste item, which still has a disastrous impact on the oceans.
In a different vein, the California-based start-up Newlight Technologies has developed AirCarbon, a carbon-negative biomaterial made from greenhouse gases. It took more than a decade to develop this innovation, which is of great interest to fashion giants such as Nike, which has partnered with the company to explore the use of AirCarbon in various applications. While we wait to learn more about the products resulting from this collaboration, shoppers can already discover Covalent, Newlight Technologies’ own brand, which offers bags and sunglasses designed made using the biomaterial.
And because every such initiative contributes to improving the health of the planet, ready-to-wear brands are also mobilizing for Earth Day. Projects include UGG’s new carbon-neutral Icon-Impact collection, which includes the Fluff Yeah Terry, Fuzz Sugar Terry Slide and Fuzz Sugar Terry Cross Slide, and the new Classic Mini Regenerat shoe, which uses sheepskin from regenerative agriculture farms, not to mention Vans’ Eco Positivity collection, which focuses on more sustainable materials such as organic cotton, hemp and organic foam made from vegetable oils.
Canada Goose is presenting its new Kind Fleece made from recycled wool and biobased fibers. In advance of Earth Day, the brand also published its 2021 environmental, social and governance report, demonstrating its progress in terms of sustainable impacts. It states that it has converted more than 20% of its materials to preferred fibers and materials, and nearly 60% of its packaging to more sustainable solutions. Often singled out, the fashion industry seems to be on the road to transformation, striving to help make the contents of our closets less harmful for the environment.
Source: Fashion Network