CTRL + N Fashion
By Ai Harimoto
"New" is a big word in the fashion industry - what's the new trend, what's the new idea, what's the new product line, etc. Throw in perpetually evolving technology and fashion has a whole new creative playing field. But something important gets lost in the whirlwind of excitement and innovation: what's driving the next Big Thing?
Fashion is notorious for contributing to a multitude of problems, whether it's affecting people or the environment. Before we can get into all the new cool creations and processes people are coming up with, let's take a peek at some of these issues.
1. Synthetic Fibers
This is one of the problems we are probably most familiar with. Whether it's because of the texture or because we know of its environmental impact, more people are frowning down on synthetic fibers like polyester. They take a lot of energy to make, and they take even more time to degrade once they're discarded. Where does this leave us?
Solution: Amour Vert
Amour Vert is one of many companies that is looking for alternative materials. By using carbon neutral and water efficient plants like eucalyptus and beech trees to make tencel and modal, they can achieve the same soft drape of polyester. Aside from other organic fibers like cotton and wool, Amour Vert also takes discarded polyester and recycles it into new blended materials. Additionally, their linen and silks are devoid of toxic dyes and chemicals yet still retain their lightness and, in silk's case, vibrant colors.
2. Water and Chemicals
Image: Dye run off in Tirupur, India
Who has some good old classic denim shirts or jeans in their closet? They're great additions to wardrobes because they can be paired with anything. Not to mention, chances are, they're 100% cotton. Compared to all the clothes that are mixed with polyester and other synthetic fibers, that's pretty good. But is cotton really the best option? Even for organic cotton, millions of gallons of water are required to grow it. Then there's all the icky chemicals and bleach that go into washing the denim and giving it that faded and worn look we love so much. And where does the mess of liquids go after jeans are made? Probably into sewage or the environment directly, depending on the company. So how do we get around the problem?
Solution: Mud Jeans
The denim at Mud Jeans is absolutely incredible. Simply by using BCI (Better Cotton Initative) cotton, better known as recycled cotton, Mud Jeans can already cut down the amount of water used for their jeans by 78%. Furthermore, they use mill partners that recycle 85% of their water in order to achieve a zero waste standard. Let's not forget to mention the new and super cool washing techniques they incorporate that include lasers and ozone, a true showing of technology and fashion coming together to create something we all know and love.
Image: Vivienne Westwood overlooking the Dandora dumpsite near the slums of Korogocho.
By now, a lot of people have already seen a picture like this, especially those who are members of sustainable groups or communities. One part of the problem is obvious: there’s too much clothing going into landfills. What isn’t so clear is the blame. Consumers are the easiest to point the finger at; if the demand exists, the industry has no choice but to provide the supply. It’s not a wrong accusation but it does leave out the fact that 15% of the fabric used by the industry in manufacturing processes is wasted. Furthermore, while recycled clothing and donating to charities are becoming more prominent, their efficiency rates and actual helpfulness are questionable, especially with the rate of fast fashion production.
Solution: Tonlé and Deux Mains
Recycling fabric is a tricky business - breaking down clothing doesn't necessarily mean that the material left can be used to make something new. Tonlé gets around this problem by using large scraps of discarded fabric for garments, smaller strips for creating handmade yarns for accessories, and the remaining tiny scraps combined with recycled office paper and sticky rice for making hangtags. It's a slow process but it totally nails down the spirit of "zero waste fashion" and we're excited to see how many other ways simple scraps can be used.
Image: tire soles
Deux Mains is another innovative brand that is putting the new back into fashion. By taking tire soles and combining them with locally sourced leather and fabrics in Haiti, Deux Mains brings handcrafted shoes and accessories to life. Furthermore, by employing artisans in Haiti, each piece not only contains a distinct boho flair, they also bring employment and empowerment to marginalized communities.
While none of the solutions may be perfect, we're starting to get a taste of what the future holds and how fashion intends to transform not only the way they impact the environment but also the lives of the people they employ.
It's a new page for brands to bring their innovative ideas to life, a still unexplored area in the supply chain where technology meets creativity and fashion. We can't wait to see what these brands and many others will have in store for us to discover!