A spider silk dress, a mushroom handbag or sneakers made of sugar cane or seaweed… Tomorrow’s wardrobe looks more like a natural history museum than a wardrobe at first glance. And yet this is indeed what the fashion industry is currently coming up with, looking for fibers that are more respectful of the environment and animal welfare, two criteria consumers now consider before checking out.
In an eco-responsible approach, fashion players sometimes use materials that are as old as the world, such as linen or hemp for example. But other new generation fibers have also appeared in the sector. Indeed, start-ups specializing in biotechnology are turning to the resources of nature to convert them into innovative and sustainable materials. Overview of these special materials that have every chance of becoming a staple in your wardrobe in the coming years.
Spider webs, an alternative to silk
Animal lovers, don’t panic! It’s not about putting our eight-legged companions to work seven days a week to make tomorrow’s sweaters and other clothes. The silk threads are secreted by the silk glands of spiders and allow these tiny furry creatures to move around, arrange their hiding place or even create chambers for their prey. But scientists have investigated the mechanism and DNA structure of this silk to infer it from its original function and ensure that it can be engineered in industrial quantities.
Two companies, Bolt Threads and AMSilk, have both succeeded in producing lab silks inspired by that of spiders. With Microsilk, the first has already collaborated with Stella McCartney and adidas to design a tennis dress from this new generation of silk, while the second, in collaboration with Biosteel Fiber, has already formed the basis of several fashion pieces, shoes and accessories. Even more impressive, The North Face relies on Spiber’s innovative silk to create a down jacket, the Moon Parka. This silk is resistant and durable and could quickly become a staple in our wardrobes.
Expired milk, a biodegradable fiber
Unbelievable but true! Expired milk may soon also end up in our changing rooms. Fibers based on casein, the milk protein, are far from new, as we owe them to an Italian chemist and engineer during the interwar period. But for some time now they have come back to the forefront to reduce the impact of fashion on the environment. At the time, the find was intended to replace wool, today it is (already) found in the composition of T-shirts or lingerie.
Although the process introduced in the 1930s has improved, it remains the same. It is about using expired milk to convert it into a natural and biodegradable textile. One of the most famous in the world is the QMilk textile, created by German entrepreneur Anke Domaske when looking for natural fibers for her father-in-law who was suffering from cancer. But since then, other brands have taken the plunge, such as Germaine des Prés, which offers panties and babydolls in milk fiber, guaranteed to be antibacterial and 100% biodegradable.
The dandelion, the new generation of rubber
If pineapple leaves, mushrooms, cacti, apple, grape or corn scraps, seaweed or even sugar cane have become commonplace in fashion collections – we’re hardly exaggerating – the dandelion as an outsider could provide the surprise. He, too, has come a long way, as the Soviet Union searched its full potential in the 1920s before abandoning it. Then it was Germany’s Continental that recently brought it up to date, turning to dandelion root to produce its famous tires.
It must be said that the stem of the plant is full of latex, which, when it dries, is transformed into an elastic gum, rubber, which can very quickly darken the rubber tree. In fashion, the American brand Cole Haan has delved into the subject until they launched a pair of sneakers whose outsole is partly made of dandelion rubber. There is only one step from the garden to the closet.
Besides all the sustainable materials mentioned above, coconut, bamboo or lotus fibers are also the future of fashion. It remains to be seen which ones will stand out to revolutionize our cabinets forever. We’re betting on lab silk, mycelium, a material derived from the fungus, and fruits and veggies — you always need them — and overflowing milk, on the right track to asserting themselves as the star materials of the future.
(ETX Daily Up)