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Editor's pick sustainability

Kering’s forensic science innovation enables traceable organic cotton

Kering organic cotton
Kering organic cotton

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.

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Editor's pick Podcast sustainability

How bioengineered spider silk from Bolt Threads is driving a more sustainable fashion future

Dan Widmaier and Rachel Arthur
Dan Widmaier and Rachel Arthur

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.

Listen here: Apple Podcasts | Android | Google Play | Stitcher | RSS

“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.

Bolt Threads x Stella McCartney
Bolt Threads x Stella McCartney

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.

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2015: a designer meets digital year in review

AppleWatch_Hermes

It’s been another big year for the fashion industry and its integration with technology: from the release of the (Hermès) Apple Watch, to Natalie Massenet’s departure from Net-a-Porter as it merged with Yoox, not to mention the ongoing and evolving discussions around fashion weeks becoming consumer-facing events.

There’s also been a broadening discussion on the role smart fabrics play in the wearables space, virtual reality is increasingly on our radar for its relevance to retail, and we’re obsessed with how the industry is slowly adapting to a new aesthetic thanks to apps like Snapchat.

Here then, are 10 of the posts you loved the most on Fashion & Mash this year. It’s a collection nodding to many of the aforementioned subjects we continue to track, as well as the likes of personalisation, data, instant messaging, emojis and more. A veritable feast of trends we’re watching across the digital landscape as we head into the New Year…

Thank you for reading and see you in 2016. Wishing you a very happy holidays from everyone here at the (growing!) Fashion & Mash team.

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Editor's pick Startups technology

Material science hits Selfridges with The Unseen’s colour-change accessories line

jacket

There’s something quite magical about an item that changes colour when held in your hands – a combination of awe and wonder harking back to science experiments we were all tasked with exploring as children.

If only you could bottle that, and sell it…

Well, now you can. Or rather, The Unseen, a London-based company fusing the worlds of science and design, can. Founded by Lauren Bowker, who refers to herself as a material alchemist, this is a start-up that has captured the simple idea of colours that alter based on user interaction or the environment they’re placed in, and launched it as a limited-edition, luxury accessories collection in UK department store, Selfridges.

shoulderbag_CROP

There’s a calfskin backpack that shows vivid flushes of colour in response to air pressure as the atmosphere brushes across it’s surface, and an Italian alligator-skin shoulder bag with environmentally responsive ink that changes to reflect the different seasons in the UK. It turns black in the winter, red in the spring, blue in the summer and green fading to red in the autumn.

Read my full interview with Bowker over at Forbes.