Essen­tials of style

Esquire (Singapore) - - Front Page -

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.

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