Essentials of style
attuned to the social mindedness of a whole new generation of consumers. Sounds wonderful, right? Well, not quite. In place of biodegradable (but unethical) furs, most fashion houses are making use of non-biodegradable substitutes such as polyester and nylon— plastics. The same culprit that found itself lodged in the nostril of a sea turtle in 2015. The same material that’s forming its own inhabitable island between California and Hawaii; just one of many such artificial islands. And also why a plastic straw protest has been quickly spreading like wildfire.
It does seem like we are doomed to fail. Before we know it, we’ll be walking in polyester biker jackets, next to a hill made out of cheap synthetic fibre socks.
Yet, as bafflingly oxymoronic as the sustainable objectives of fast fashion seem to be, or how some ethical solutions are doubleedged swords, the industry is doing something. There is hope. And significant change can only be made, and can potentially amount to something substantial, when everyone—brands and consumers alike—does their part.
Across the board, cotton is the most environmentally exhaustive material to produce. Some experts believe that the production of cotton uses the most amount of water among all agricultural commodities, even more than crops grown for nutritious consumption. While cotton is biodegradable and recyclable, the latter is not always the best or easy fix.
As it stands, recycled cotton yarns have to be mixed with other long-strand fibres. That’s because in order to turn cotton fabrics into yarns, they first have to be chopped up and broken down, which inevitably shortens the strands of the cotton fibres. Adding secondary fibres, such as new cotton or other synthetic fibres, is the only way to give recycled cotton fibres enough strength to be woven into clothes. This means that recycled cotton clothes have yet to be made of fully recycled cotton.
But it could soon be a reality. In 2015, H&M founded the Global Change Award, an initiative to speed up the process of finding an innovation that can help make the fashion industry circular, or what insiders refer to as ‘closing the loop’. Each year, five winners are selected to share a EUR1 million grant and be part of a yearlong Innovator Accelerator Program.
Past winners have included an innovation that makes sustainable bio-textiles using leftovers from food crop harvests, leather created from leftovers of winemaking (called ‘grape leather’), as well as a process that can recycle polyester at a molecular level in order to create a new polyester textile.
It’s now fashionable to be a little bit geeky. Global Change Award is one of many tech-based initiatives that have sprouted to help solve fashion’s sustainability conundrum. In 2017, Fashion Tech Lab (FTL) was founded by fashion media entrepreneur Miroslava Duma. FTL seeks to support companies with new technologies that could potentially redefine the way we make clothes or the types of materials used. The company has helped to discover 100 new technologies with some in the pipeline.
The Gucci ArtLab was established in 2018 and is set to be a centre for sustainableinnovation for Gucci. Kim Jones’s first Dior Mencollection steals the spring/summer 2019 season.