Fantastic plastic: How synthetic plastics are driving fashion industry innovation

Exciting growth is being seen in the textiles space thanks to advanced research and development around engineered plastics, writes Fashion & Mash contributor Darryl Lewis.

odo-denim

Over the years, synthetic plastics have created new pathways in the world of fashion. Today they’re a staple in our clothing and accessories, with one of the most traditional forms, fluoropolymers, often used in the production of shoes and jackets.

New innovation and ongoing research means their capabilities are vast, with properties spanning durability, versatility and efficiency. With a little ingenuity, they’re accordingly spurring some exciting growth in the textiles market.

Today, manufacturers, retailers, and start-ups are taking these materials and inventing new concepts that will eventually become a part of our everyday wardrobes. Read on for six innovators producing on-trend and purposeful “plastic”-based fashion apparel.

ODO Denim

ODO Denim, a fashion start-up created by Salaman Chaudry, unveiled the first clothing line featuring self-cleaning jeans (pictured top). The products are manufactured using a synthetic plastic material that is almost 100% pure metallic silver bonded polymer. It eliminates odour from bacteria in the apparel, allowing it to remain clean. As a result, customers will no longer have to wash their jeans… ever. Salaman states: “We’re weaving silver right inside the fabric. It’s permanent.” According to Odo’s website, with every pair of its jeans, customers can potentially save over 7,000 glasses of water. The above video provides a visual of the jeans’ self-cleaning technology.

The North Face and Spiber

With assistance from Spiber, a biomaterials company in Japan, The North Face recently produced a Moon Parka jacket composed of synthetic fibers called Qmonos. These materials mimic spider webs, which are naturally durable and light. Qmonos appears on the entire outer shell of the Moon Parka and is the first clothing to feature artificial protein material, which was developed through Spiber’s patented process. The company remains secretive about explaining this process thoroughly. However, according to the above video: “We’ve developed advanced methods to create new, tailor-made protein materials designed at the molecular level.”

Bolt Threads

Bolt Threads is similarly engineering polymers to produce material that resembles spider silk. The fashion start-up plans to use its technology to create more sustainable clothing. “We’re working toward a world where non-toxic fabrics are the norm, not the exception,” Dan Widmaier, CEO and co-founder of Bolt Threads indicates. The venture-backed, San Francisco-based company, is aiming to produce performance-level silk – silk that is not only more durable, but also machine-washable. It does so by growing microorganisms in fermentation tanks, taking out the protein it created and spinning it into fabric thereafter.

Tamicare

cosyflex

Tamicare, a UK textiles manufacturer, patented the first wearable technology produced by a one-step only 3D printing process. Cosyflex is now in mass production following 10 years of development. The material features a blend of synthetic plastics such as Teflon as well as fully biodegradable natural rubber latex. According to technology entrepreneur and graphene consultant for Tamicare, Tim Harper: “The Cosyflex system builds a garment layer by layer. Any one of those layers can be textile, polymer, latex or printed electronics.” The manufacturer also claims that the material is versatile with the ability to generate a variety of colours and patterns.

Hex Tie

hextie

Using synthetic plastics, this tie company recently launched the world’s first polymer gold tie. The Honeycomb Emirates Tie is composed of 84 reflective gold polymers in the shape of gold hexagons. The handcrafted ties also feature an adjustable neck strap for a custom fit. “I created Hex Tie to appeal to my artist soul while also using my passion and drive as an entrepreneur,” says founder and CEO of Hex Tie, Enrique Alejandro Peral. In just two years, the company has gained an impressive list of clients in over 63 countries.

THINX

thinx-1

This innovative developer of women’s period underwear features a technology made of synthetic plastics to avoid the use of tampons. Thinx was created by Miki Agrawal, who formulated the idea after her sister experienced her period at a family barbecue. The technology absorbs leaks using a multilayer system, which the patent describes as a “moisture-impermeable polymer layer”, a “moisture-absorbent layer”, and a “moisture-wicking layer”. Agrawal concludes that these panties are indeed “breathable and safe for down under”.

Darryl Lewis is a tech maven who is particularly passionate about fashion. When he’s not coordinating outfits and staying updated on the latest fashion trends, he enjoys volunteering and sketching. He is a graduate of Stockton University with a Bachelor of Science in Business. Follow him on Twitter @dlew4life