It’s not only clothing, but textiles too, that have supply chains and an ecological impact on the planet. For this reason, the platform for fabric innovation, The Sustainable Angle, has called for the “diversification of the fibre basket” and the need to move beyond our common textile arsenal; namely cotton, linen, and synthetics like polyester and nylon. Here are five examples of how people have looked to nature for inspiration and innovated new sustainable textiles:
Most vegan friendly leather is derived from plastic – and although cruelty free, it comes at a great cost to the planet and thus the biodiversity of animals and plants. Desserto is a Mexican-based company offering a solution to this problem with their sustainable leather made from cacti plants. Founders Adrián López Velarde and Marte are now at the forefront of sustainable leather. Their company ethos is based on valuing the earth and her people all the way through the supply chain.
“After two years of research and development, we managed to produce a suitable material that complies with the features and technical/mechanical specifications required by those industries that use animal or synthetic leather,” co-founder Adrián López Velarde says, via Fashion United.
The Mexican cactus uses very little water in the growth process and grows in abundance throughout the country – and the final outcome is a beautiful, durable and biodegradable eco-leather. This is such a striking example of turning to nature’s genius and applying it to textile production models.
Looking to nature through a scientific lens has its benefits, especially when faced with the notion of a 30% increase in textile consumption by 2030. Project Algae Fabrics by Studio Tjeerd Veenhoven is at the forefront of synthesising sustainable textiles from microorganisms such as algae; which grow in abundance along coastlines across the world. Developing a yarn made from algae is noted to have metabolic improving properties when interacting with the human skin. Imagine wearing an outfit that benefits our health? This is the future technology of fashion if we consider and apply a sustainable mindset.
A clean Veja sneaker silhouette is amplified by its soles; containing 18 – 20 % natural Brazilian wild rubber from the Amazon forest. In purchasing the tree rubber, Veja states that it protects 120 000 hectares of rainforest. Tree rubber is a natural by-product of a living tree, rather than the remnants of deforestation. Shifting to working in union with living natural resources allows the eco-system to replenish and renew. The Amazon, the only forest where this rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis) grows naturally, pulls carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, stabilises rainfall cycles in South America and is a crucial home for indigenous peoples as well as countless animal and plant species, according to the National Geographic.
For these reasons, the Amazon is an area that demands our utmost respect, attention and protection. Veja works with indigenous people of the Amazon, in the state of Acre, to cultivate and purchase tree rubber through living wages and ecological preservation; and one cannot emphasise enough the role indigenous people play in the guardianship of the earth.
Crab shells are known for their incredible ability to self-repair. Such a function in our clothing might seem far-fetched – but in fact it is already a reality. Chitosan, a natural biopolymer widely found in nature and particularly in crustacean shells, shows good biocompatibility through its absorbability, wound-healing, haemostatic, anti-infection, anti-bacterial, non-toxicity and adsorption properties. Some wound dressing textiles in the medical industry have shown that the presence of chitosan can heal a wound 75% faster than a synthetic or cotton dressing. Imagine such a feat for our clothing? I suspect this will become an incredible textile to watch in the future. is a sugar that is obtained from the hard outer skeleton of shellfish, including crab, lobster, and shrimp.
A SCOBY is a Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast that synthesises to make delicious kombucha tea brews. Known as the immortality elixir for its astounding gut health benefits, the SCOBY mother organism can also be the catalyst for growing unique leather-like textiles. Why not start your own grow lab at home with these simple instructions. It is at the top of my to-do list and I cannot wait to grow my own biodegradable biomaterial!
Image credit: Main image features cactus leather from Desserto