February 3, 2020 – By Beatrice Tridimas
It’s back and it’s better. No, it’s not Bryson Tiller, although that would be kinda fun. Rappers aside, last week The Sustainable Angle’s 9th Future Fabrics Expo came back to London.
Hm, what is this, you say? It’s a display of all the most innovative, creative and exciting fabrics that are leading the way to a sustainable future for fashion. It also attracts the most innovative, creative and exciting designers, people and guests (like me?) and becomes a buzzing collection of creativity, enthusiasm and good looks all wrapped up in a sweet Holborn basement.
Founders of the Future Fabrics Expo, The Sustainable Angle are a not-for-profit organisation which support innovations in sustainable fashion and textiles. Developing environmentally friendly materials is fundamental to the future of the planet. The work The Sustainable Angle do could be truly transformative for the fashion industry, let alone the rest of the planet.
I went along to this year’s Expo to find out what exactly the future of fashion looks like and what it’s made from. Here’s a review of my favourite materials, best conversations and one’s to watch over the coming year…
Sustainability. Innovation. Future. All of these words suggest something completely new, unique and mind-blowing. But what I took away from this year’s Expo is that sometimes the most sustainable things are those that we already have. So, instead of looking for more, let’s just go back to basics…
Hardly a new kid on the scene, flax seed has been transformed into linen since Cleopatra ruled. More recently, it’s been popular on the health foods scene, but the versatile, airy linen that has always been around, hasn’t shared so much of the lime light.
Europe is the biggest producer of flax seed. That’s great for UK designers because it means they can cut out the emissions created from transporting and shipping materials from further away. But more than that, linen is pretty much a godsend for sustainability and I can’t believe it’s 2020 and we’re only talking about it now!
Needing little fertiliser and only rain water, flax is as undemanding as it gets. Every part of the plant is used so manufacturing linen creates no waste, and the final product is easily biodegradable – an absolute winner in sustainability.
This was a new one for me, but I fell in love straight away. Bananatex is a completely biodegradable, zero waste material made from fibres extracted from the stalks of Abaca leaves.
Bananatex’s creaters, Qwstion, are innovators in sustainable bags and accessories but their breakthrough with Bananatex is going to revolutionise the industry. It’s already being used to make furniture – pretty cool huh – and talking to representatives at the Expo, it looks like a shoe might be coming soon, and I am totally into it.
Available in three, earthy colours, Bananatex has a natural beeswax waterproof coating making it both durable and completely biodegradable, so much so that you can bury it in your garden and it will simply disappear. Easy as that!
This year’s Expo was not short of sustainable denims. I snooped around the different options, but the real winner for me was Anubha Industries.
Why? Anubha have a clear-cut set of sustainable development goals for 2025, on top of their already clean practices.
Currently, Anubha have saved 1965 million liters of water with their new sulphur dying system and 50 million kw of energy by reusing it. On top of this, they use a range of sustainable fabrics, including organic cotton, Tencel, recycled polyester and hemp and aim to reuse 90% of their water, cut down their chemical consumption by 25% and use 100% sustainable materials by 2025.
Anubha’s energy was infectious. They are full of excitement for the future and I was truly convinced they can single-handedly change the future of denim, no pressure though…
With a super sleek display showcasing Adidas X Parley trainers and Arsenal FC shirts, Parley have made some partnerships worth boasting about. One of the many things Parley do is up cycle plastic waste found in oceans and along shore lines, breaking down the plastic and spinning it into fibres which are used to create a new textile.
Ultimately, Parley seek to reinvent plastic itself (that’s the kind of ambition we need) and end plastic pollution for good. They are working on developing new materials that can completely replace current plastic usage and good luck to them!
Alice Pott’s ‘Perspire’ collection is an innovative exploration of the crystallisation of sweat. Yup. It’s the only material which can be biologically unique to individuals because it’s quite literally formed from our own body waste.
The thought behind it? We can use waste to create new things, so why not use our bodily waste? Hm, still unsure how I feel about that but it’s unique, to say the least, and attracting attention, currently being used for jewellery and developments in fibre optic technology – who knew sweat could be so versatile!
Favourite material: Agh, I couldn’t choose!
Piñatex, innovators of plant-based leather and all-time favourite of mine, have just introduced a new shade of material, and it is irresistibly PINK. I cannot wait for this to be wearable!
Clerici Tessuto comes in a close second with their 100% organic silk in a refreshing pistachio green perfect for Spring.
Finally, fashion is going vegan! There were SO many vegan leather alternatives on display, so here are a few of my favouritesl;
beLEAF: Quite literally a leaf that is leather. Pretty cool.
MycoFlex: Biodegradable, fire and water resistant, this leather alternative is 100% mycelium. It’s essentially a giant mushroom that grows in nine days and ta da!
Desserto Vegan Cactus Leather: Leathery goodness made from the prickly pear cactus that has a very small environmental footprint. Yes, please.
Using waste as a resource
Seeking new value and purpose in what already exists lies at the core of innovation. This year’s Expo emphasised recycling, repurposing and improving materials we already have.
There were recycled wools, cottons, polyesters, as well as completely new textiles created from recycled fibres. There were also fabrics made from recycled car tyres or fish nets and Alicia Rowbotham’s really funky accessories made using every part of factory waste, including bobbins and yarn cones.
Using what already exists really is the most sustainable solution. Whether it’s repurposing something so that it lasts longer, or recycling materials so that they become something completely different, preventing what exists in the world from going to waste is a sure way to champion sustainability in 2020.
A huge part of sustainability and recycling is creating closed loop production systems where nothing goes to waste, raw materials are regenerated, and the final product is eventually reintroduced to the manufacturing cycle. Many of the exhibitors at this year’s Expo boasted closed loop production, something every business can benefit from. Get aboard the cycle!
I managed to snatch a quick chat with Managing Director of Anubha, Aditya Goyal, who enlightened me on the truth about cotton growth.
And the truth is? The excessive consumption of water in cotton manufacturing is a myth.
The moral of the story?
We must use what we have better and stop abusing our natural resources.
Designer to Watch
Recently nominated for the Stella McCartney Today for Tomorrow Award by Anna Wintour herself, Patrick McDowell, has taken the fashion industry by storm.
Sustainability lies at the core of his designs, up-cycling clothing, repurposing textiles and using organic materials and local manufacturers to create gorgeous items, embedded with delicacy, modernism and concern for the future. With whispers of his success echoing round the basement, Patrick McDowell and his crystal studded coat are certainly the ones to watch this year.
Textile coating company Stahl have been working with Piñatex to develop a biodegradable resin to replace its current PU coating and make the textile 100% biodegradable. Stahl are innovators in responsible textile development, sure to use low-impact chemicals, replace non-renewable sources of energy with biotechnology and make use of their waste and recycling. I can’t wait to see what they come up with!
And a quick shout out to MarinaTex, a new compostable alternative to single use plastic film. Still in early stages of development, this could CHANGE our plastic consumption for good.
The Future Fabrics Expo really was a mix of the weird and wonderful, but mostly it was refreshing, exciting and inspiring. Materials are at the core of everything we do, so it’s important to know what we’re using and what impact can have.
My biggest take away from the Expo was that it’s not too late to get creative, especially not with what we already have: the more we stretch our minds, the closer we are to securing a future for the planet.