Nike has created a circular design guide that aims to give the fashion industry a common language for circularity.
The guide comes with 10 principles of circular design, including topics such as “material choices” and “waste avoidance”.
Each of these are explained in more depth within it, including via case studies of successful design innovation by Nike and other brands.
They include video footage of a Central Saint Martins student and Nike staff talking on the principles, as well as an inspirational quote.
What follows are thought-starters for designers to think about the concept in more depth. Under the “material choices” principle for instance, it asks: “How could your material choice increase the lifecycle or durability of the product?”
A number of case study examples then follow, such as an outline of Nike’s Flyleather material, a sustainable leather alternative made of leftover factory off-cuts. Other case studies come from brands such as Levi’s, Fjallraven, Patagonia, Outerknown and Eileen Fisher.
The last section features inspirational publications, including “Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things” by William McDonough and Michael Braungart, which outlines the founding principles of the circular economy, according to the non-profit Ellen MacArthur Foundation.
It is freely accessible to anyone interested in knowing more about circularity. The launch coincides with the annual Copenhagen Fashion Summit, one of the industry’s most important sustainability events of the year.
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From sustainability guru Stella McCartney to German premium label Hugo Boss, brands across the spectrum have been experimenting with textile innovations that aim to push the industry towards a greener future.
This mission comes with a sense of urgency, with several reports predicting the uncomfortable reality of resource scarcity. A statistic from The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) estimates that humans were using the equivalent of 1.7 planets’ worth of natural resources in 2017.
Such resources, and water specifically, are central to the fashion industry’s supply chain. From planting and irrigating cotton fields, to dyeing and washing fabric – a world without enough water and raw materials spells out an uncertain future.
“In the worst case, the fashion industry will face distinct restrictions on one or more of its key input factors, leaving it unable to grow at the projected rate and in the long run unable to continue under its current operating model,” said the Global Fashion Agenda in its The Pulse of The Fashion Industry report.
It’s for that reason, the industry is exploring the circular economy, which takes the traditional, make-use-dispose model in fashion, and rather promotes a closed-loop where items are reused, recycled and reduced.
We’ve seen numerous startups playing in this space for years, experimenting with different natural ingredients and formulas to create textiles ready for market. Today, a number of brands are jumping on board and partnering with such teams in order to replace traditional materials.
Here are nine of the strongest examples…
Stella McCartney has been championing sustainable fashion since the formation of her namesake label, pushing the envelope of what circular textile innovation means for the industry at large.
One stand-out circular textile from the brand is Re.Verso™, a regenerated cashmere made from post-factory cashmere waste in Italy. According to the brand’s self-implemented Environmental P&L account, using this alternative material reduced its impact by 92%.
Direct-to-consumer brand Everlane, which pioneered the concept of a transparent supply chain through its “radical transparency” approach, announced its newest sustainable material just this month – a fleece called ReNew, which is made from recycled plastic bottles.
The brand also pledged to replace all materials made of virgin plastic (including polyester and nylon) with material made of plastic water bottles and renewed materials by 2021. It expects to be recycling 100 million water bottles through its supply chain.
ADIDAS X PARLEY FOR THE OCEANS
Adidas’ partnership with Parley for the Oceans, a non-profit organization set to remove and recycle waste from the ocean, has been an elemental part of the brand’s sustainability strategy.
In 2015, the two companies teamed up to make a sneaker that was made entirely of yarn recycled from ocean waste and illegal deep-sea gill nets. While the shoe was impressive in both design and sustainability, the partnership really started to come to fruition last year when sneakers like the Parley x Adidas Ultra Boost became more widely available to the public. Eric Liedtke, head of global brands at the company, said each pair of shoes uses the equivalent of 11 plastic bottles, which means that Adidas has recycled some 55 million plastic bottles this year.
In August 2018, direct-to-consumer footwear brand Allbirds announced the launch of “SweetFoam”, a biodegradable and environmentally friendly alternative to petroleum-based materials traditionally used in the manufacturing process of shoe-soles. The first product the brand created with SweetFoam was a range of sustainable flip-flops called Sugar Zeffers.
The new material, which is made up of a sugarcane base, marks an important achievement in the industry, as it is the first ever carbon-neutral green alternative to the traditional EVA foam. To inspire industry-wide change, Allbirds also made this technology open-source and therefore available to everyone.
The shoe, which is also called the Cotton + Corn sneaker, is made with a cotton top and a bioplastic sole created from a corn-derived alternative material. It is also the first in its category to be certified by the United States Department of Agriculture to consist of 75% bio-based content.
Los Angeles-based sustainable fashion brand, Reformation, has been making fashion using end-of-roll fabrics for years, but through its newest category, underwear, it’s taking things a step further.
The intimates collection is made using a mixture of sustainable fabrics such as recycled lace, eco mesh (a recycled type of yarn) and Lenzing TENCEL, a patented fabric derived from a wood cellulose material.
For its new Plant Bae collection, direct-to-consumer fashion brand, Aday, wanted to trial a new fabric composition using SeaCell, a fiber created from seaweed from the Icelandic coast.
Every four years, the seaweed is harvested and spun into fiber together with lyocell to stabilize. For the Plant Bae collection, it was also enhanced with cellulose and modal to create an additionally soft fabric composition. The innovative material has seen previous incarnations in Falke socks and Lululemon sportswear in its VitaSea collection.
Salvatore Ferragamo created a capsule collection in 2017 made from an innovative new material derived from leftover orange peel. The brand partnered with Italian company, Orange Fiber, to product the silk-feel line, which included apparel such as t-shirts and delicate scarves.
This material is, for now, aplenty: a recent figure from the Italian Agricultural Department revealed that waste from the juice industry resulted in 700,000 tonnes of discarded orange peel on a yearly basis in Italy alone.
German brand Hugo Boss released limited collection footwear in April 2018 using discarded pineapple leaves that imitate the texture of leather. The material, called Piñatex, has been used by smaller footwear brands such as Bourgeois Boheme, although Hugo Boss is one of the first mainstream brands to adopt it.
Piñatex is derived from the leaves of the pineapple plant, a byproduct of the pineapple harvest that has no other use for farmers. The creation of the textile therefore provides local farmers with an additional income.
How are you thinking about sustainable innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. TheCurrent is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.
Luxury group Kering is introducing an organic cotton that is 100% scientifically traceable, thanks to a new supply chain transparency innovation.
Launched in partnership with Supima Cotton, Italian premium textiles company Albini Group, and forensic textile testing service Oritain, the aim is to validate product authenticity and instil consumer confidence.
It does so by using forensic science and statistical analysis to examine the chemical properties of the fiber, creating a unique chemical fingerprint that links it back to the field in which it was grown. This makes is possible to verify at every stage of its lifecycle that it hasn’t been substituted, blended or tampered with. Only an exact match shows that the organic cotton is authentic.
Cecilia Takayama, director of the materials innovation lab at Kering, said: “At Kering, we are focused on sustainable raw material sourcing and this innovative technology for our organic cotton supply chain will enable our Materials Innovation Lab greater visibility to verify farming best practices and fibre quality; ensure integrity within the supply chain; and guarantee alignment with our Kering Standards.”
She added that “traceability in fashion’s fragmented and global supply chains is imperative to create real change”.
Visibility of the supply chain has been the first big task for fashion businesses that have typically relied on various third party providers, with little awareness of exactly what goes into the textiles they then use.
Supplier transparency has historically been the industry’s best-kept secret, but such lists are increasingly now being published. The next step in this comes with a level of scientific and technical input to drive and verify authentication – which has to begin with fiber and fabric transparency.
Advancements in the chemical analysis of fibers, as seen here, is what makes it possible to match the identity of cotton to its inherent natural identifiers attained during growth, Marc Lewkowitz, president and chief executive officer at Supima, said.
Kering is ultimately looking to create industry standards for traceability. It is aiming to use this advance to implement complete supply chain verification for organic cotton production or the impact it has had on farmers, workers and the environment. The innovation contributes to the group’s 2025 goal of 100% supply chain traceability.
How are you thinking about sustainability and transparency innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. TheCurrent is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.
Puma has teamed up with the MIT Design Lab to explore how using living organisms can enhance a person’s performance when wearing sportswear.
Four initial experiments that derived from that study were exhibited at this year’s Milan Design Week, which took place in Italy last week.
Through this partnership, which initiated a little over a year ago, Puma and MIT have been conducting research on how biodesign – the practice of using living materials such as algae or mycelium – can bring the advances in science and biotechnologies to the consumer’s daily lives through sports products. For the MIT Design Lab, its long term aim is to make athletic gear that is “highly adaptable, personalized, and future-proof”.
The four initial projects include a Breathing Shoe, which is a biologically active shoe that enables personalised ventilation by growing its own air passageways to keep the foot cool; Deep Learning Insoles, which collate realtime biofeedback by using organisms to measure chemical phenomena that indicates things like fatigue; Carbon Eaters, which is a microbially-active t-shirt that responds to its environment to change its appearance and inform the wearer about air quality; and Adaptive Packaging, a biologically programmable material that can change its shape and structure to become a new type of alive, biodegradable and adaptive packaging.
The exhibition was powered by a desktop bio-prototyping platform by Biorealize, which brings the capabilities of a biology wetlab into a single piece of hardware that enables the user to design, culture and test organisms.
Material startup Bolt Threads has introduced Mylo, a new leather material made from mycelium, the roots of a mushroom. For this textile innovation the company is continuing its work with designer Stella McCartney, who is launching a new style of the iconic Falabella handbag made from the innovation.
Bolt Threads has developed the patented leather by creating optimal growing conditions for mycelium cells to self-assemble into an animal leather-like material, meaning it can be produced in days rather than years.
The textile was developed in collaboration with Ecovative, a New York-based startup that had initially created the mushroom technology for packaging. It is not only sustainable from a raw material point of view, but can also be dyed with tea, which has long been a natural dyeing agent.
It’s the right time to show the world that we are more than just spider silk, Dan Widmaier, Bolt Threads’ co-founder and CEO, told us. Widmaier, who has a PhD in chemistry and chemical biology, is constantly developing things with his team in the company’s lab at a small scale, and leather and silk are just the beginning.
He refers to Bolt Threads as becoming a “platform” that can launch an infinite number of new materials inspired by the endless opportunities in nature.”There’s a huge ability to have an impact here,” he says, with relation to the change such new materials can make on sustainability and the environment. His tagline is “better materials for a better world”, which he refers to as critical for the globe’s growing population and increasing middle class.
The Stella McCartney handbag made from Mylo will be on display in London’s Victoria & Albert Museum’s “Fashioned from Nature” exhibit from April 21. McCartney has no plans of putting the handbag on sale as yet, though her excitement towards investigating sustainable technologies is strong: “Once you take that technology and innovation and you marry it with luxury fashion and design and creativity, there’s no end to what magical madness you can create,” she told Forbes.
Bolt Threads’ own version of a Mylo leather handbag will be available for preorder in June.
This is Bolt Threads’ second material launch, having introduced Microsilk, a manmade spider silk produced in a lab in 2017. To showcase the material’s potential, the composition of which is meant to be stronger than steel but softer than a cloud, the startup launched a necktie and a hat. It followed that by introducing its partnership with McCartney via a dress made from the material that showcased the same level of fluidity and drapery as original silk. This was part of an exhibition at the MoMa in New York in October last year.
Want to know more? At this year’s SXSW, our chief intelligence officer Rachel Arthur spoke to CEO Widmaier on how his company’s innovations are driving the future of sustainable fashion for our TheCurrent Innovators podcast.
In order to get sustainable products out the door we have to create the kind consumers actually want to buy, Dan Widmaier, CEO of advanced materials technology company, Bolt Threads, says on the latest episode of TheCurrent Innovators podcast.
Speaking to Rachel Arthur, he says it’s all very well having a vision for the future driven by deep technology – in his case, best known as spider silk – but if the consumer doesn’t like it, it’s irrelevant.
“Ultimately it is up to the consumer,” he says. “[We’re] seeing the speed at which consumer taste is changing – 2017 was a transformative year for sustainability. It is getting big really fast and it’s becoming one of the issues at the forefront of the industry because it touches everyone… No one wants to work in an industry where you say, hey, you know what I’m going to do today, I’m going to mess up the world for the future. Everyone wants to make it better. So it’s not surprising. We all want to feel like we are working towards some greater good in the world.”
His team is doing that by mimicking spider silk found in nature and reproducing it in a lab. This is about harvesting proteins to ultimately create sustainable, high-performance fibers and fabrics that will eventually find their way into our clothes. He launched his first product – a tie – at SXSW last year. And has since partnered with fashion designer Stella McCartney in order to drive that real consumer drive.
You can’t buy any of the McCartney products yet, but he promises there are big things coming up later this year.
His work is oft referred to as the beginning of a new material revolution – one that looks at bioengineering, thus focused on what comes from nature, rather than from chemistry to produce polymers and plastics, as was the drive throughout the 20th Century.
In an age driven increasingly by a focus on sustainability, he says it’s about time there was a greater push around new materials. His team has recently closed $123 million Series D investment round, so the next step is about getting to scale.
Listen to the podcast to hear how Widmaier thinks his team can get there, the kind of challenges that stand in his way between now and then, and just why sustainability is such a big agenda for fashion.
The big thing, he says, is about balancing impatience with reality. “Big innovations around fundamental technologies that are at the cutting edge are more fragile in the world than people realise. So we try to balance the desire to go as fast as humanly possible with the desire to see it be a success in the long term, because we think the good transcends beyond just Bolt. We can be an example that investing in deep science and deep technology can really create lasting good and commercial value in the world.”
Catch up with all of our episodes of TheCurrent Innovators here. The series is a weekly conversation with visionaries, executives and entrepreneurs. It’s backed by TheCurrent, a consultancy transforming how consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.
Bioengineering start-up, Bolt Threads, has released its second commercially available product using Microsilk, its protein-based manmade spider silk.
Launched with outdoor lifestyle brand Best Made Co, which Bolt Threads acquired in July, the limited edition “Microsilk Cap of Courage” as its being called, is a hat made from the company’s bioengineered silk combined with luxurious American Rambouillet wool fibers from Mountain Meadow Mill in Wyoming.
The resulting integration of 21st century fibers with traditional materials and spinning techniques, took nine months of work, according to the team. They worked through a multitude of prototypes before getting to the final product, which they believe represents an increasingly collaborative future between apparel, technology, sustainability and design teams.
Uniqlo is hosting an exhibition in New York celebrating the upcoming 15-year anniversary with its fabric technology partner, Toray Industries.
“The Art and Science of LifeWear”, is a large-scale exposition that acknowledges the co-development of innovative clothing that aims to keep consumers cooler, warmer and more comfortable. It includes Heattech, which launched in 2003, as well as views on the science behind AIRism, Kando-pants and Dry-EX.
Tadashi Yanai, president and CEO of Uniqlo parent company, Fast Retailing, said: “Toray’s revolutionary technologies have been vital in Uniqlo’s quest to create LifeWear clothing, which makes everyday life better and more comfortable for people everywhere. I encourage people to attend this exhibition to see the innovations stemming from this partnership that have enabled us to deliver new value by combining unparalleled functionality and comfort with contemporary styling.”
The exhibition is fronted by a series of large-scale installations and experiential displays that enable visitors to understand the technologies and science behind them. They can see a deconstruction of Heattech on a molecular-level to demonstrate its heat-retention properties for instance, and an experiment that shows the absolute minimum volume to which Uniqlo’s Ultra Light Down can be compressed.
The brand has reportedly sold over one billion items of Heattech clothing since launch. Uniqlo more broadly did $17 billion in sales last year.
Akihiro Nikkaku, president of Toray Industries, added: “Our corporate philosophy is about contributing to society through the creation of new value with innovative ideas, technologies, and products. As an integrated chemical company, we engage in research and development from long-term perspectives in the conviction that materials can change our lives. I hope the exhibition of Heattech and other technological fruits of joint development with Uniqlo will give attendees a solid understanding of why this partnership can keep delivering new value in the years ahead.”
Visitors to the Art and Science of LifeWear can also preview other advanced Toray technologies from fields including aircraft, racecars and rockets, and gain a sneak peak into the future of clothing accordingly, including items that change colour and that provide instant feedback to athletes. According to Nikkaku, the company looks 10-20 years out at innovation.