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product sustainability technology

Nike creates circular design guide

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”.

Nike’s 10 principles of circular design

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.

How are you thinking about your sustainable innovation strategy? Want to learn more about how we worked with Google? The Current Global is a consultancy transforming how fashion 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 hear more.

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product sustainability

Nike awards designers reimagining footwear waste

Nike Grind
Nike Innovation Challenge

Nike is pushing forward with its circularity goals through a challenge that invited designers, engineers and scientists around the globe to come up with creative products using footwear material waste.

The Nike Circular Innovation contest posed two challenges to applicants: creating new products using materials from the Nike Grind program, which is the company’s initiative to collect post-consumer athletic shoes by any brand; and to develop new technologies to advance footwear recycling.

The challenge, which started in February, received over 600 applications from 58 countries. The sportswear brand eventually narrowed the selection down to 35 finalists, who were tasked with creating a product using rubber, foam, fiber, leather and textile blends recovered from its manufacturing process. In the end, five groups won the Design with Grind challenge, and one group was awarded for its Material Recovery Fix.

What the design finalists came up with included everything from furniture to yoga and street safety, and even a vacuum mattress for people suffering from neurodevelopmental disorders. The brand hasn’t yet disclosed whether it will further develop the ideas with each of them.

As for the materials challenge, the brand awarded Florida-based plastic experts SumaRec, which identified two new phases that could be added to Nike’s material recovery process: an additional step which divides materials based on their weight, and an extra material-grinding step.

At this year’s Copenhagen Fashion Summit in June, Nike COO Eric Sprunk said that at present, 75% of Nike’s products already contain some recyclable materials. “Our rule is: there is no innovation without sustainability.” He further announced the introduction of a new ‘supermaterial’  from recyclable natural leather fiber. The textile, called Flyleather, will be used in popular styles such as the Air Jordan and Air Max.

How are you thinking about material 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 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 product

Reebok launches shape-shifting bra inspired by NASA fabric

Reebok PureMove
Reebok PureMove

Reebok has announced the launch of PureMove, a sports bra that adapts to the movement of its wearer in real time. This means that when the wearer is moving quickly, the bra material stiffens to provide extra support, while when the movement is slower and requires more flexibility, the material softens.

The US-based sportswear brand took four years to develop the innovation, adapting it from a material that has been previously used in NASA spacesuits and bulletproof vests.

“Innovation has always been in Reebok’s DNA and placing an emphasis on transforming and improving one of the most important fitness garments for women is no exception,” said Barbara Ebersberger, VP of performance apparel at Reebok. “We could not be prouder to come to market with a product that breaks down barriers in a category that has dissatisfied consumers for far too long, lacking any true technological advancements.”

To achieve the innovation, Reebok developed the Motion Sense Technology by combining performance-based fabric with a sheer-thickening fluid (or STF), which is a gel-like solution. Originally developed by the University of Delaware in 2005, STF takes liquid when in a slow-moving state and stiffens it into a solid when moving at high speed.

By incorporating STF into the fabric, the PureMove bra immediately responds to changes in movement by the wearer.

Reebok also worked with the University of Delaware to undertake vigorous testing on the new material, employing 54 different motion sensors to test bra prototypes. By comparison, the brand says typical testing only uses five sensors.

It furthermore cites a study that was published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health Journal as a key influence when developing the bra, which outlines that one in five women actively opt out of workouts because they don’t have a sports bra that is comfortable enough.

Reebok’s innovation places the brand in the race for developing material innovation that is increasingly adaptive to the wearer’s immediate needs, which is particularly relevant to the sporting industry. Similarly, earlier this year Puma worked with MIT to showcase how biodesign could increase performance, presenting prototypes such as insoles that collate realtime biofeedback to measure things like fatigue.

For more on material innovation in fashion, listen to our TheCurrent Innovators episode with Dan Widmaier, CEO of Bolt Threads, the company responsible for sustainable textiles such as spider silk and, most recently, mushroom leather.

How are you thinking about 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 product sustainability

Allbirds makes sustainable shoe material open source

AllBirds, B-Corp, Flip-Flop, Sustainability, Footwear
AllBirds

Allbirds has announced the launch of a new sustainable material that will replace the acetate alternative traditionally used in shoe soles. The direct-to-consumer brand is also planning on making this technology, titled SweetFoam, freely available to other companies.

“Our goal was to innovate and show the industry that this could be done,” said Jad Finck, the brand’s VP of sustainability and innovation to Fast Company. “But if this is actually going to take hold and have an impact, it is critical for this to scale beyond ourselves.”

Shoe soles have been commonly known to be harmful to the environment as one of its raw materials, a foam known as EVA, is derived from petroleum, a non-renewable and polluting material. The company’s solution to this problem was to replace the petroleum for sugarcane, a plant-based and renewable material.

This marks an important achievement in the industry, as the material is the first ever carbon-neutral green alternative to EVA foam. By collaborating with Brazilian petrochemical company Braskem, the company has produced its first SweetFoam shoe range, a line of flip flops called Sugar Zeffers.

At a price point of $35, the range further emphasizes how the sustainable material does not have a significant impact on pricing, or ultimately design, which the company hopes will help convince others in the industry to follow suit.

The motivation for Allbirds to develop this technology can be easily traced back to its company values. As a B-Corp certified company, the brand has been continuously improving the sustainability credentials of its product range, such as ensuring ethical sourcing and renewable energy sources for its popular wool slippers.

How are you thinking about 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 film technology

Prada looks at automated future in new sci-fi video series

Prada Nylon Farm
Prada Nylon Farm

Prada has released a ‘futuristic fairytale’ film series celebrating its nylon backpack first launched in 1984, by referencing a series of next generation technologies.

Nylon Farm, as the four-part project is called, features a flock of cyborg sheep, in a nod to Philip K Dick’s sci-fi novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Alternate reality technology and an automated manufacturing system is at play to harvest the synthetic fleece, but the ideals of such artificial intelligence is seemingly disrupted by a level of human emotion that comes into the scene.

“It may all seem perfect, but something in this place has gone beyond the normal production processes. A series of strange anomalies have interrupted the regularity of the Farm and required the launch of an investigation. Will following protocol be enough in this story?” reads the write-up.

A post shared by Prada (@prada) on

While Vogue refers to it as an example of Miuccia Prada directing an episode of Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror, the intention from Prada is to symbolize the brand’s technological innovation on the one hand, but also its ability to respect the brand’s history, on the other.

The nylon that has become a signature of the house was originally sourced from factories making parachutes for the military. It’s this quest for newness from Miuccia that is so referenced.

The four episodes were filmed at the brand’s industrial headquarters in Tuscany, the first one of which launched this weekend past. The following three will be released on June 1, 4 and 9 across the brand’s social media.

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Editor's pick product sustainability

Bolt Threads and Stella McCartney introduce mushroom leather handbag

Mylo leather by Bolt Threads
Mylo leather by Bolt Threads

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 Falabella bag made from Mylo leather by Bolt Threads
The Stella McCartney Falabella bag made from Mylo leather by Bolt Threads

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. 

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product technology

Uniqlo exhibition demonstrates its history of fabric innovation

Uniqlo and Toray's The Art and Science of LifeWear exhibition in New York
Uniqlo and Toray’s The Art and Science of LifeWear exhibition in New York

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.

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business Startups sustainability technology

H&M Foundation launches third annual Global Change Award, announces groundbreaking recycling solution

H&M Foundation's Global Change Award
H&M Foundation’s Global Change Award

H&M Foundation, the non-profit arm to the H&M retail business, has opened its annual Global Change Award for entries. Designed to accelerate the shift from a linear to a circular fashion industry, it is seeking those out there trying to reinvent the wheel in terms of innovation.

A total grant of €1 million is up for grabs; a sum that will be distributed between five early stage businesses. Those winners will also get to join a one-year accelerator programme designed to help speed up the development of their innovations and maximise the impact on the industry. The programme is provided by H&M Foundation in partnership with Accenture and the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm.

Previous winning innovations included leather made from wine leftovers, digital threads weaved into garments to ease the recycling processes, and climate positive nylon made from water, plant waste and solar energy. Last year there were more than 2,800 entries from 130 countries.

“Now in its third year, the Global Change Award has really become a positive force in the fashion industry. It has proven to be a true catalyst for the winners, giving them support and access to a valuable network so they can bring their innovations to the market quicker and better prepared. I’m really curious to see what disruptive innovations we will receive this time,” says Karl-Johan Persson, board member of H&M Foundation and CEO of H&M.

An expert panel of judges with extensive knowledge within fashion, the environment, circularity and innovation, select the five winners, and it’s then up to the public to distribute the €1million grant through an online vote nearer to the launch date in early 2018.

Said Professor Edwin Keh, CEO of The Hong Kong Research Institute of Textiles and Apparel (HKRITA) and a member of the expert panel for the award: “Sustainable and responsible consumption is the way forward. We must find better ways to make what we use, and wisely use what we have. The Global Change Award is an important initiative to drive this forward. By intentionally and thoughtfully reusing, recycling, and repurposing, we can drive significant and radical improvements to our world.”

In other news, H&M Foundation and HKRITA just announced a groundbreaking solution to recycle blend textiles into new fabrics and yarns, without any quality loss, through a hydrothermal (chemical) process. The finding is referred to as a major breakthrough in the journey towards a closed loop for textiles.

“For too long the fashion industry has not been able to properly recycle its products, since there’s no commercially viable separation, sorting, and recycling technology available for the most popular materials such as cotton and polyester blends. This very encouraging finding has the potential to change that. We are very excited to develop this technology and scale it beyond the laboratory, which will benefit the global environment, people and communities,” said Erik Bang, innovation lead at H&M Foundation.

The technology will be scaled up and made available to the global fashion industry to ensure broad market access and maximum impact.

The other panellists for the Global Change Award include Bandana Tewari, editor-at-large, Vogue India; Chiling Lin, actress and sustainability influencer; Dame Ellen MacArthur, founder of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation; David Roberts: distinguished faculty at Singularity University; Lewis Perkins, president of Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute; Sophia Bendz, executive in residence at Atomico; Steven Kolb, president and CEO of The Council of Fashion Designers of America; Vikram Widge, head of Climate Finance & Policy, IFC, World Bank Group; and Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, youth director of Earth Guardians.

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business digital snippets e-commerce product social media Startups sustainability technology

What you missed: Wang’s text-to-buy line, Stitch Fix to IPO, activism from outdoor brands

The Adidas Originals by Alexander Wang line launched via text message
The Adidas Originals by Alexander Wang line launched via text message

A round-up of everything you might have missed in relevant fashion business, digital comms and tech industry news over the past week.


TOP STORIES
  • The second Adidas Originals by Alexander Wang line launches via text-to-buy event [Racked]
  • Stitch Fix has filed confidentially for an IPO [Recode]
  • A call to activism for outdoor apparel makers [NY Times]
  • How Reebok, Adidas and Y-3 will dress future space explorers [Fast Company]

BUSINESS
  • Jimmy Choo bought by Michael Kors in £896m deal [BBC]
  • MatchesFashion.com could enter stock market [Fashion United]
  • Bangladesh to digitally map all garment factories [JustStyle]
  • Fashion must fight the scourge of dumped clothing clogging landfills [Guardian]

SOCIAL MEDIA
  • Vogue takes ‘hub and spoke’ approach to Snapchat editions in Europe [Digiday]

MARKETING
  • Why Helmut Lang hired an editor-in-residence in place of a creative director [Glossy]
  • Amazon and Nicopanda launch LFW ‘see now, buy now’ range [Retail Gazette]

RETAIL & E-COMMERCE
  • China’s store of the future has no checkout, no cash and no staff [BoF]
  • Saint Laurent to launch online sales in China [WSJ]
  • You will soon be able to search eBay using a photo or social media web link [CNBC]
  • MatchesFashion.com’s Tom Chapman: Amazon’s missing the ‘magic’ of high-end fashion [Glossy]

TECHNOLOGY
  • Walmart is developing a robot that identifies unhappy shoppers [Business Insider]
  • For the first time ever, you can buy your own 3D-printed garment online [Fashionista]
  • MIT’s living jewellery is made up of small robot assistants [TechCrunch]
  • Intel axed its entire smartwatch and fitness-tracker group to focus on augmented reality, sources say [CNBC]

START-UPS
  • John Lewis unveils retail tech start-ups for JLAB 2017 [The Industry]
  • Spider silk start-up spins into retail by buying an apparel company [Fortune]