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Editor's pick product sustainability

57% of H&M Group’s material mix is now sustainably sourced or recycled

57% of all materials used by the H&M Group now come from either recycled or sustainable sources, according to its annual Sustainability Report released yesterday.

This is a considerable increase from last year, in which recycled or sustainably-sourced materials made up 35% of the company’s material mix – thus inching it closer to its ambitious circularity goals for 2030.

“Big change requires bold actions and the courage to aim high. At the same time, we have to be humble to the challenges our planet is facing,” said Anna Gedda, head of sustainability at the H&M Group.”So if we want to make a real change, we have to be brave, push the boundaries and not be afraid to fail.”

At present, 55.2% of the Group’s material mix is sourced from sustainable origins that are verified by third-party bodies. For example, 95% of is cotton comes from certified sources such as organic cotton (14.6%) or sourced from the Better Cotton Initiative (79.9%).

The remaining 1.4% of the mix comes from recycled sources, a small percentage that the report highlights is due to the “lack of viable recycling solutions [which] either do not exist or are not commercially available at scale.”

Other highlights include a reduction of 11% in CO2 emissions in its operations, moving it closer to its target of becoming climate-positive by 2040; a new commitment to making all of its packaging designed to be reusable, recyclable and compostable by 2025; reducing water usage in production by 25% by 2022, supported by WWF; and the announcement that 655 factories and 930,000 garment workers are now covered by the Group’s key programmes for workplace dialogue and wage management system.

Technology is also playing a major role, with artificial intelligence being deployed to ensure production and demand are more aligned from a sustainability perspective. This follows an announcement in late 2018 that Christopher Wylie, of Cambridge Analytica fame, is joining as a consultant on all things AI.

From the consumer side, its Take Care initiative, which offers customers guidance, repair services and products to care for their garments in order to extend their lifespan, has now moved into further four markets; and in June 2018, the company launched of Afound, a new brand giving unsold products a new life.

Additional reporting by Camilla Rydzek.

How are you thinking about your sustainable strategy? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. The Current Global 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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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 product

Madewell launches sustainable denim dyed with shrimp shells

Madewell 'Eco Collection'
Madewell ‘Eco Collection’

Madewell has launched a new line of sustainable denim that uses shrimp shell fibers in the dying process, significantly reducing the use of chemicals and water needed during manufacturing.

The J.Crew-owned brand is working with the Candiani mill in Italy to use its Kitotex® product, which is made with byproducts of the food industry (such as thrown away shrimp or lobster shells) to dye textiles. The exoskeleton of crustaceans contains chitosan, which is a fiber that helps bind dyes to fabric, while eliminating some of the chemicals traditionally used in the manufacturing of denim.

By using Kitotex and organic cotton also supplied by the Italian factory, Madewell’s Eco Collection is using 65% less chemicals and 75% less H2O than conventional material.

Once the fabric has been manufactured and dyed it gets sent to Saitex, the same Vietnamese factory responsible for G-Star RAW’s and Everlane’s sustainable denim. The factory recycles 98% of its water and turns manufacturing waste into bricks for affordable housing.

Madewell 'Eco Collection'
Madewell ‘Eco Collection’

For this inaugural collection, the American label is launching six styles of eco denim, from jeans to overalls. This is a part of its fall 2018 launch, which also includes the introduction of bigger sizes to 40% of its collection. Recently, J.Crew’s CEO Jim Brett has also noted that the brand will soon be launching a menswear line for the very first time, which should help push it towards its billion-dollar goal.

How are you thinking about product 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

Puma and MIT exhibit examines how biodesign can enhance performance

Puma x MIT Adaptive Packaging

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.

Puma x MIT Carbon Eaters
Puma x MIT Carbon Eaters

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.

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Editor's pick product sustainability

The North Face launches recycled product line to support National Parks

The North Face - Bottle Source collection
The North Face – Bottle Source collection

The North Face has launched a new product line that uses recycled material sourced from three US national parks to support the sustainability within the parks themselves.

The Bottle Source collection, which includes t-shirts and tote bags made from cotton and recycled bottles, will donate $1 for every item sold, which will go back to the parks through the National Park Foundation to support upcoming sustainable projects.

So far, the Bottle Source program has collected more than 160,000lbs of plastic bottles sourced from waste at Yosemite, Grand Teton and Great Smoky Mountains National Parks. Donated funds will in return go into the development of projects such as bear-proof recycling bins and reusable bottle filling stations.

“Bottle Source is a fitting next step in our materials innovation,” said James Rogers, director of sustainability at the brand. “This collection helps fund sustainability efforts in our national parks as more and more people enjoy these stunning places.”

“The North Face partnership inspires people to think about sustainability in a whole new way,” added Katherine Chesson, vice president of grants and programs at the National Park Foundation. “The Bottle Source program not only helps reduce waste, it is also a source of funding for important projects at national parks.”

This collection joins a series of other efforts the brand has been developing to improve the environmental impact of their products. Since 2016 The North Face uses only 100% down certified under the Responsible Down Standard across all product lines, while a 10-year-old partnership with bluesign has seen the brand make efforts towards helping their mills reduce their impact by using water and energy more efficiently.

Other sustainable products include the Reaxion line and the Denali jacket, both of which use recycled polyester, and the Cali wool beanie, that uses regenerative farming practices to produce wool to pull carbon into the soil.

Partnering with the right organizations has been key to the outdoor brand’s strategy of creating positive impact, as also recently seen with their announcement of a multi-year collaboration with the Girl Scouts of USA (GSUSA) to promote female empowerment.

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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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Editor's pick product sustainability technology

Levi’s revolutionizes finishing process, driving more sustainable supply chain

Levi's Project F.L.X.
Levi’s Project F.L.X.

Levi’s has announced Project F.L.X. (future-led execution), an operating model that reinvents the denim finishing process, resulting in a more sustainable supply chain.

Developed by the label’s innovation arm, Eureka Lab, the initiative replaces a decades-old manual technique for finishing that the industry has adopted as a standard production method, which is not only chemically-reliant, but time-consuming and labour-intensive. At the heart of it, is a series of digital tools including a laser technology.

“30 years ago, jeans were only available in three shades: rinsed, stonewashed and bleached. Today those three shades have exploded into endless variations, all produced with very labor-intensive jobs and long lists of chemical formulations,” said Bart Sights, VP of technical innovation at Levi’s and head of the Eureka Innovation Lab. “We’re designing a cleaner jean for the planet and the people who make Levi’s jeans, and we’re doing it on a scale that no one else has achieved to date.”

Developed in house, Project F.L.X. also allows the brand to considerably reduce production times and as a result, time to market. For instance, it cuts finishing time dramatically – from two to three pairs per hour to 90 seconds per garment, followed by a final wash cycle. Its on-demand production also means it can delay final product commitments until much later in the production process, reducing lead times by more than six months to in some instances, only a few days.

Meanwhile the brand’s designers have been given a new video game-like software that allows them to build new styles on an iPad. They can then digitise the finished design with photo-realistic quality and send the digital files directly to a vendor for mass manufacturing, thus also cutting R&D times considerably. With this technique, the process of prototyping a pair of jeans has been reduced to only three steps, from between 12 to 18 steps prior.

“With this new model, we can deliver the authentic and iconic products we’re known for in an incredibly responsive and responsible way,” said Liz O’Neill, SVP and chief supply chain officer for the brand. “The advanced imaging capability is a game-changer for us, and something that has eluded our industry for years.”

Levi's Project F.L.X.
Levi’s Project F.L.X.

From a sustainability standpoint, the model is a step forward in achieving the company’s commitment to zero discharge of chemicals by 2020 because it accelerates the elimination of many chemical formulations that Levi’s has promised to “phase out”.

It is also expected to reduce textile waste by being more responsive to demand, and accurately only producing what the market needs. As for saving water, the company has already proved it can use nearly 100% recycled water in the final manufacturing stages, and is exploring how to roll out this recycling capability more broadly over time.

To help unlock the sustainable benefits that the new digital capability can enable in the design and development of garments, Levi’s has worked with Jeanologia, a leader in eco-efficient solutions for fabric and garment finishing since 1993.