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The low down on sustainable fashion textiles

The future of sustainable textiles is here: hemp, oranges, wool, and potatoes. As everybody knows that if we’d love to survive and protect Mother Earth, we should make a change in our lifestyle. Even if I’m talking about climate change, fashion change or changing ourselves.

We can choose to make healthier and more sustainable choices. Hopefully, there’s been invented fabrics made from 100% recyclable materials, from plants and microorganisms. And thus, there are lots of alternatives. It is just our choice to either becoming a part of the sustainability movement or not.

According to Forbes, the Future Fabrics Expo is the largest trade show focused on sustainable materials, opened in London. Now in its eighth season, Future Fabrics Expo has moved to a bigger venue to meet demand. Over 100 mills will be exhibiting their products which cut a new cloth for a more sustainable fashion system.

Versatile cotton alternatives: hemp, lotus and nettles.

Take hemp, for example, is a fast-growing plant that requires very little water and no herbicides, pesticides, synthetic fertilisers or GMO seeds. As an added bonus for the environment, the cultivation of hemp improves soil health by replenishing vital nutrients and preventing erosion.

Hemp fabrics kill bacteria, making them naturally anti-microbial, have the best heat capacity ratio compared to all other fibres, merge easily with dyes and do not discolour easily, according to Fashion United.

Like lotus and hemp, stinging nettle fibres are extremely versatile and keep the wearer of nettle clothing cool in the summer and warm in winter. Unlike with hemp, there is no legal issue with the cultivation of nettles, which has made the plant a viable and legal cash crop. Plus, like hemp, nettles use much less water and pesticides to grow.

Leather alternatives: apples, pineapples and mushrooms

Currently, on the market there are handbags that look like they’re made from real leather (except the smell) and yet, they are made out of apples, apple waste from juice production to be precise.

Even pineapples, their leaves to be precise, a by-product of the pineapple harvest, can be turned into a natural and non-woven textile known as Piñatex, which is remarkably similar to leather.

The centuries-old tradition of making a leather-like substance out of mushrooms has been revived because mushroom leather is organic, gluten and chemical-free and has a marbled, velvety surface. It also has highly absorbing, antibacterial and antiseptic properties, is light and has an insulating effect at the same time, notes Fashion United.

Orange Fiber

Orange Fiber aims to rescue some of the 700,000 tons of orange peel that are discarded to create juice in Italy every year and transform it into soft and silky fabric, ideal for clothes. The patented material is similar to viscose in that it is made from cellulose, and can be blended with silk and cotton, but doesn’t involve the cutting down of trees.

Salvatore Ferragamo has recently created a capsule collection using the material which has a premium finish to it, making it an ideal fit for the Italian luxury brand, according to Forbes.


Chip[s] Board make a range of materials from potato waste suitable for the interiors and fashion markets. Parblex is their bioplastic recommended for fastenings, buttons and accessories in the apparel world. With a beautiful textured finish Parblex comes in three colours, ‘smoke’, ‘tortoiseshell’ and ‘snow’, notes Forbes.

Their waste is currently sourced from McCain and one of the chip brand’s retired regional CEOs acts as an advisor to the company in manufacturing and operations.

Chip[s] Board has a zero-waste production system where even the offcuts from material production are reincorporated back into the process.


Seamless knitting and flat-knit technology from Santoni, STOLL, Shima Seiki and Karl Mayer are revolutionising the use of Merino wool for seamless apparel and whole-garment constructions.

Traditionally, wool base-layer apparel was made by cut and sew production with limited possibilities for variety. Now, however, circular and flat-knitting technologies are being employed to manufacture not only next-to-skin base-layers but an extensive range of mid- and outer-layer garments too in a seamless construction.

What’s so unique about seamless apparel is that it allows for a combination of different patterns and knit stitches in different colours on one piece of fabric. By engineering a garment to have features such as compression and breathability points on a single surface, it allows for greater structural diversity and comfort along with functionality zones designed into the garment with the body in mind, according to WoolMark.

“The beauty and sophistication of this natural fibre means we can create styles with an unparalleled level of fineness and softness, creating innovative patterns and structures on a single finished fabric.”- Leila Guo

Around 2013 “L’institut français de Bucarest” organised an exhibition presenting all the new forms of synthetic and organic materials. It was called “Futurotextile” and it was organised with other environmental projects for the ”Capitale Culturelle Européenne”, launched at Lille in 2006.

At “Futurotextile” I have seen fibres extracted from Lotus Roots, handmade lace made from Pinetree roots, a textile fibre with anti-UV and also fast drying properties extracted from the coffee grounds and also a whole dress made from the developed bacteria in the tailings of old wine in barrels.

From that point on, the technology developed and the big brands started using those organic forms of materials.

Textifood had a huge impact and so was incorporated in the “Universal exposition” in Milan 2015 called: “Nourish the planet, energy for the living” stated FuturoTextile.


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