Each material innovation must represent an in-demand alternative to one of series material categories including technical or biological fibre, dye/pigment, finish, fastener, or sewing thread

Each material innovation must represent an in-demand alternative to one of series material categories including technical or biological fibre, dye/pigment, finish, fastener, or sewing thread

Biodegradable banana silk, a solvent-assisted dyeing method for cotton fibre, and a biodegradable coating made from squid ring teeth protein that prevents microfibre shedding are among a dozen material innovations that have the potential to drive the apparel industry closer to its circular economy goals, according to a new report.

The inaugural report, published by non-profit sustainability organisation Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute and its Fashion Positive initiative, in partnership with H&M Foundation, outlines 12 innovations, selected from over 40 submissions, that target improvements to material health and reutilisation – key attributes of materials primed for the circular economy.

Due to be released every quarter, the Emerging Material Innovators Report aims to encourage the investor and accelerator community, along with brand partners, to take notice and support the financial and business goals of the innovations it will highlight in each edition.

Each of the concepts featured in this, and subsequent reports, were evaluated and selected by Fashion Positive and H&M Foundation. Although submissions were not verified by third-party assessors of the programme, they were qualified based on their likelihood of meeting Gold level requirements of the Cradle to Cradle (C2C) certification standard.

C2C Certified products are evaluated and optimised for human and environmental health, recyclability or compostability, renewable energy use, carbon management, water stewardship and social fairness, with the materials used designed to stay in a perpetual cycle of use and reuse. There are five certification levels in the C2C Certified Program: basic, bronze, silver, gold and platinum.

Meanwhile, each material innovation must represent an in-demand alternative to one of a series of material categories including technical or biological fibre, dye/pigment, finish, fastener, or sewing thread. The submission must also be able to be applied to a wide range of textile/fashion products to facilitate scaled impact; represent an opportunity to solve a fashion industry material challenge; demonstrate a high potential for material health verification based on elimination of toxic chemicals; demonstrate high potential for material reutilisation through continuous technical or biological nutrient cycling; and require accelerator and/or investor support to achieve commercial production scale.

Fashion Positive also encourages all parties to ensure its material innovations are developed and verified to meet the chemical, environmental, social and planetary needs of the future of fashion.

The first 12 innovations are:

Banana Sylk
Sustainable Textiles Supply Chain (STSC) focuses on "Wealth from Waste" fibres such as Banana Sylk made from 100% banana plant stem fibres. It is a boutique online store designing unique, ready-to-wear and bespoke fashion and interiors. By harnessing contemporary and age-old technology, Indian engineers have developed innovative fibre extraction machines to create high quality sustainable and biodegradable banana silk.

Himalayan Nettle Biological Bast Fiber
Himalayan nettle is a wildly natural, sustainable fibre extracted from a variety of stinging nettle that grows in mountain forests of the Himalayas. It is long, strong, silky, and lustrous and stands out because of its hollow core, which gives it a light feel and thermal properties. The plant is wild-harvested annually by Himalayan subsistence farmers in their off-season. Himalayan Wild Fibers uses a proprietary extraction process and follows sustainable practices to extract and process the fibre.

Malai Faux Leather
Malai is a biocomposite material made from bacterial cellulose and natural fibres. It is strong, flexible, water resistant and 100% biodegradable and can be customised into sheets, patterns or even moulded into 3D seamless shapes.

Bio-polyester fibres
Mango Materials' fully biodegradable biopolyester fibres are a sustainable, high-value alternative to petroleum-based polyester and can be used with other natural textile materials. The fibres are made from waste methane using a natural bacterial process.

Biodegradable Calotropis procera fibre
Produced by Migo Ranch and Farms and sourced from the fruits of the Calotropis procera tree, which grows naturally in arid and semi-arid areas, the fibre is a natural biodegradable with qualities that lie between cotton and silk. It can be blended with other types of fibre to produce a different fibre with unique attributes.

Bio Leather
Modern Meadow is a biofabrication company creating advanced materials from engineered, animal free collagen in order to bring new materials category to the market. The process is still in development, but the firm says it expect to have advantages in terms of land, water usage, and CO2 emissions.

IndiDye dye/pigment
Expert Fibres' IndiDye utilises a patented dyeing technology that combines natural plant based dyes with an ultrasonic fibre dyeing process that uses minimal water, no hazardous chemicals and produces no waste water effluent. The fibres are not bleached before dyeing, which saves water, energy and the use of hazardous bleaching agents. The resulting melange yarns are 100% biodegradable. Dyeing occurs at the fibre level where the dye and fiber are exposed to ultrasonic pressure waves that push the colour pigments into the core of the fibre.

Biodegradable pigments made from bacteria
Faber Futures' pigment producing bacteria are grown directly on the fabric, significantly reducing water usage to 200ml to dye a T-shirt. Colourfast patterns and prints can be produced without the use of harmful chemicals that are often needed and used during the dye cycle. Patterns and prints can be controlled using a selection of proprietary tools and protocols.

HKRITA solvent-assisted cotton dyeing
The Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles & Apparel (HKRITA) has developed a solvent-assisted dyeing method for cotton fibre, which involves the use of an emulsion system with silicone-based green solvents as the dyeing medium. This method not only produces dyed fabrics comparable to those produced by conventional methods, it also saves 90% of the water. The effluent is easier to manage because dye fixation happens in the absence of salt.

Dimpora membrane/coating
A phase-change functional membrane for apparel and footwear that is made from environmentally benign materials that could replace hazardous perflourinated chemicals. The membrane keeps the wearer dry and releases sweat at the same time.

Tandem Repeat coating for synthetic fibres
Tandem Repeat is a self-healing and biodegradable coating that is designed to minimise plastic pollution. The coating, once applied to a fabric, increases its shelf-life and integrity. It is made from squid ring teeth protein and is completely natural. The protein is dissolved in a weak acid or organic solvent and applied to a textile via dip coating or spraying. The textile is then dried to remove remaining water. Initial studies show that microfibre shedding can be prevented by applying the coating to a textile.

Klos Fastener
Zipr Shift produces the Klos, a bio-inspired closure that mimics the spine in order to achieve the features essential for a flexible, durable, hermetic (airtight) closure. The zippers can be made out of any rigid or flexible material.

Click here to access the report.