The Surprising Searches for Sustainable Raw Materials at the Service of Fashion


As Surpreendentes Buscas por Matérias Primas Sustentáveis ao Serviço da Moda

Fast fashion gained strength in 1990. New collections placed in stores weekly and at an attractive price, triggered unbridled buying among consumers. The need to be unique and different led fashion followers to buy and combine their outfits in an “exclusive way”, which guaranteed them the admiration of others and the consequent increase in self-esteem.

A piece of clothing leaves a large environmental footprint during its life process, from cotton planting, harvesting, production, processing, transport, use, and finally reaching abandonment. To minimize the harmful impacts of these procedures, the complete life cycle of the part we consume should be rethought and waste avoided.
Production should be done and thought out in a conscious way in which new technologies were applied so that all waste could be recyclable.

It is indisputable that the fashion world is increasingly looking for alternatives for the conservation of the environment.

It is imperative that the culture of the “conscious consumer” is increasingly promoted, who is concerned with environmental and social problems, favoring items of natural origin. Also be careful not to have in stock, occupying the closet, items that you know you will no longer use and with them you can give rise to a circular economy, being able to put the pieces for sale on clothing and accessories websites in 2 .th hand such as the RETRY.

The creation and dissemination of these platforms for the sale of second-hand items created, in the public, a change in their perception, as it brought access to the luxury market, at an affordable price. The unreachable is now closer! Social networks are also responsible for the change in Fashion consumption, directing customers towards the immediate consumption of the latest trends presented on the catwalks.

Undoubtedly, real life is increasingly intertwined with the digital world, so that younger generations who want to stand out from the crowd navigate the bowline looking for products that can adjust to their needs and preferences.

One of the first changes are the projects that they are trying to implement in the future of Fashion and that will be guided by computer data, because using this data on consumer trends, brands can create the pieces that will be more likely to be sold or not. .

The benefits of using this data in industry are many and good: it starts by producing only parts that consumers will actually use, which inevitably leads to reduced waste and connection between consumers and the parts they will like. Data also helps brands function more efficiently, giving them room to innovate and balance supply and demand.

The second change has to do with the sustainability and implementation of a slow Fashion that is expanding and being increasingly appreciated and the proof of this is that more than 80% of consumers want brands to help them to be friendlier to the environment. Technologically innovative fabrics and methods are becoming more and more common. Any sustainable measure is a breath of fresh air for the environmental footprint.

And this is where the big brands like:

- RALPH LAUREN was one of the first to use leather made from cork in his collections;

- HERMÈS launched in July this year (sylvania model) a bag made of “MIRUM” leather produced from mycelium (mushrooms). These have a resistance and softness very similar to animal skin but are not composed of any type of product synthetics or plastics. (MIRUM is already a successful reference). MERCEDES and BMW also adhered to this material for the interiors of their cars.

- Stella McCartney also earned a top spot with “Fallabela Mushroom Bags” in a limited run of 100.
In 2019 S. McCartney contributed yet another surprise with the Koba collection (faux fur) made from corn and recycled polyester.

- PANGAIA produced a collection essentially using grape leather, as well as LE COQ SPORTIF, which also presented white sneakers made from grape must.

- LOEWE delighted consumers with a new technology developed by a Spanish “scientist” showing the planting of catnip and chia in sneakers and clothing. The model changeover was superb.
PLANT SHOE opted for shoes made from pineapple.

- SALVATOR FERRAGAMO came up with fibers made from orange peel that are super similar to natural silk. the collection was a success.

- HM was also enthusiastic about this new orange “silk”.

- SAMARA looked for another organic material, apple peel, to make bags with a softness almost equal to animal skin.

- TOMMY HILFIGER also used apple peel leather on Sneakers

- ALLBIRDS used sugar cane to make slippers.

- PINATEX has developed leather from pineapple.

- RECOFFEE presented a collection of jewelry and household items made from coffee grounds.

According to the NIT, a text by Daniel Vidal dated 01/12/2021 that I will now transcribe:
But what is vegan skin anyway? The definition encompasses several compositions. Basically, it is a material that mimics the texture of skin, although it is not made from animal skin but from synthetic or plant-based products.
The truth is that most of the vegan leather that is on the market today is made of plastic, be it polyurethane or polyvinyl chloride, chosen for its rough texture that allows you to create copies that are almost impossible to distinguish. Then there are the exceptions, vegan skin made from natural materials like corks, apple peels or recycled plastics.
The bet on plastic compounds guarantees that animal skin is not used, but does this make the choice more sustainable and ecological?
From the outset, there is an essential point: the durability of a piece made from these materials is significantly lower, which will lead to these non-biodegradable materials ending up in the trash more quickly.

Of course there are environmental concerns [in using polyurethane vegan skin], Sandra Sandor, Nanushka's creative director, tells Harper's Bazaar. Even so, there are valid reasons to say that the environmental impact of its production is lower than that of real fur . A 2018 report seems to confirm it.

If you buy fake fur, you have to take into account that you are buying plastic , reveals to “The Independent” Amy Powney, creative director of the sustainable luxury brand Mother of Pearl, who chooses to use real fur. This is because most alternatives use synthetic materials.

Powney explains that he prefers leather that complies with best practices — which, for example, do not use natural materials in the treatment, rather than harmful chemicals —, not least because the products become more durable.

The consensus seems to be more or less generalized. There is no problem with betting on pieces with the “vegan leather” seal, as long as they are not made of synthetic materials. They will, in practice, be vegan, but they can hardly be called environmentally friendly.
These polyurethane pieces start polluting as soon as they reach our hands, with microfibers that are released with each use and each wash — NiT had already revealed the impressive numbers of microfibers that pollute water and are released every year by parts of synthetic materials.

The skin story is one of love and hate , explains Jourdan Norcose of Boyish Jeans in statements to “The Independent”. Vegan leather can be made from plastics that take years to degrade in nature, so it's even more harmful to the planet than real leather.
People think it's better simply because it has a label saying vegan, but that's because nobody is wasting the time they should be figuring out what they're buying , he concludes.

So, vegan skin, yes or no? It depends. It will make sense if it is an alternative that does not use plastics and other synthetic materials. If the issue of animal cruelty doesn't bother you, you can always opt for real fur pieces, always taking care to ensure that the treatment and production process avoids the use of toxic products and complies with all environmental rules.

The pertinent question arises, what is the future of sustainability? Evidently, with a sick planet, it will be necessary to continue and put into practice less polluting procedures. But the cause and effect relationship needs to be better refined in order to be able to substantiate and make consumers more objectively aware. Otherwise, we will witness sporadic practices that are not rooted in the culture as it should be.
These are all questions that are still unanswered.
In any case, continuing with awareness policies informing consumers as best as possible of the options they have to help the environment, that is indeed very pertinent.
Explaining how water resources are being affected, how forests are weakened, etc. is a civic obligation and putting this action into practice is a duty.

And, despite many doubts arising, there are those who take positions such as Jean Paul Gaultier, Burberry, Gucci, Versace, Coach, Diana de Fustenberg, among others, who decreed the abandonment of animal skin. Balenciaga, among other initiatives, bet on recycling, which is why he presented completely destroyed sneakers (see the RETRY blog, “Lixo ao Luxo” of 06/08/22). And, continuing to surprise, look for the fascinating Loewe video that delighted consumers with a new technology developed by a Spanish biodesigner, presenting, this month, in a fashion show, a plantation of catnip and chia in sneakers and clothes. The model changeover was superb. The men's fashion week that took place in Paris brought a show that was unusual to say the least. The Spanish luxury brand Loewe, which today belongs to the LVMH group, planted and watered chia seeds, catnip and other plants in shoes and clothes for three weeks.

According to the official profile of the brand, whose stylist is the Englishman Jonathan Anderson, the idea is that over time the pieces merge with nature. It took 20 days to reach the desired level of growth in a specially built polytunnel on the outskirts of Paris. They required regular watering and maintenance to ensure the runway-ready look , explained the brand on social media.

The work was developed by Spanish biodesigner Paula Ulargui Escalona, ​​24 years old. Coats, sweatshirts, jeans and shoes came with the sprouted plants fusing with fabric. According to the website El Diario, from Spain, the English designer said that the brand should sell the clothes with the seeds. Let's play with the idea that you can buy seeds with your clothes and try planting them yourself, like a child.

I think the idea was to show an ecstatic and sustainable collection and to warn that there is still a lot to do and that creativity is infinite and that sometimes out of bizarre ideas are born projects for the future that are absolutely exceptional and useful for the development of society.

However, technology does not stand still and researchers are working on creating tissues capable of self-regeneration. It is a screen with a coating that melts again when placed at a very low temperature, making it easier for an opening to close again after the fabric has suffered accidents or alterations.

Another great novelty is the water-immune fabrics that make them repellent to liquids, being unable to get wet and at the same time avoiding stains.
Also noteworthy are products with ultra-violet protection. With the depletion of the ozone layer, the sun's rays reach the earth's atmosphere more easily and quickly and it is urgent to protect ourselves.
Furthermore, this technological innovation can be mixed with others, with the aim of maintaining a pleasant temperature and reducing the production of sweat. In this way, the customer has a feeling of freshness and maintains a pleasant smell, in addition to being protected.

The color of the season is one of the biggest concerns in the fashion market, however, the time will come when customers will forget about it, since the same clothes will easily change color using photochromic technology, which progresses more and more every day. .

In the 1990s, heat-sensitive T-shirts appeared, but the science continues to improve in many different ways. And, in the future, not only the temperature, but also the electric currents, the sound waves, the light, and other aspects will alter the fabrics that will change color according to the conditions of the environment that the person is in.
All these technological innovations in the fashion industry show how infinitely capable we are of reinventing ourselves, devising new ways of designing, marketing and wearing garments…

But there is no beauty without but! Consumers are not yet prepared to leave traditions and rush to embrace new technologies. After Gucci has invested years in research to develop a non-toxic production process for leather, is the brand prepared to expose this novelty to customers in its newest stores? The answer given is obscure and inconclusive:

- Perhaps.

Consumers look to luxury brands for exclusivity, quality and status. Sustainability does not yet fit into this hierarchical order .

In fact and after scandals (such as the collapse of a factory in Bangladesh in 2013), they are interested in knowing the conditions of the workers, if they are being paid according to the price that the piece costs….but when the stock market speaks, it is the low prices that constitute the choice and purchase decision.

Environmental awareness still cannot overcome the fashion industry. And aware of this attitude on the part of buyers, luxury brands do not react with as much emotion and haste as would be desirable.
Kering CEO François-Henri Pinault: We don't work with sustainability to please consumers and sell more bags. We do this because we have no other option. This is a business and leadership opportunity .

The predominant image of green fashion is still connoted with rough fabrics and the “vegan” style continues to be seen as dull. All this undermines the message that luxury fashion wants to convey.
And he goes on to say, luxury goods consumers are drawn to the romantic sight of skilled artisans at work wearing handcrafted oxford shoes. Hearing someone bragging about their new eco-friendly sweater is as exciting as a conversation over popcorn.

On the internet, discussions about new sustainable fabrics do not cause the same frenzy as the launch of new “Balmaim” shirts that are super sophisticated in concept and traditional in construction. The role of luxury brands is to start the conversation and create desire , and at this point, tradition is still what it was.
Brands have a lot to use marketing to educate and advise customers for a new reality.

More news….nothing stops fashion.
In summer 2020, Burburry invested in upcycling innovation and invested in clothing and accessories made from nylon recycled from fishing nets, fabric scraps and bioacetate. All parts have at least one sustainable quality seal and are produced in factories that invest in water and energy consumption reduction programs.

Ending any production with animal skin, Alexander McQueen begins to open up to the sustainable universe. Together with Balenciaga, both will adopt the use of vegan and cruelty-free faux fur. In addition, Alexander McQueen adheres to circular fashion, and has announced a partnership with “Vestiari Collective” - where all pieces already worn by customers, models and pieces from vintage collections, will be for sale on the “Vestiari” app as a kind of luxury shop.
They also recently started donating fabrics from their inventory to students and universities, benefiting not only the planet, but academic issues as well.

What if we say that nettle can become a sustainable textile fiber? It's one of the innovative materials for the future of fashion, do you believe it? Yeah, this information is the purest truth. The plant, commonly seen as a pest, makes amazing clothes.

Another novelty is coffee.
S.café is the name of the sustainable technology created by Jason Chen, also president of a large textile company, which develops fabrics using coffee grounds as raw material. Chen's idea came from a relaxed moment with his wife, where from an unassuming comment he had a genius idea. Coffee has deodorizing properties and incorporating its grounds into textile fibers has become a brilliant and sustainable idea. The entrepreneur signed a partnership with one of the most famous coffee shop chains in the world, collecting and recycling the coffee grounds that were previously thrown in the trash to produce fabrics that are beyond technological.

And now the silk. Many years ago, more specifically in the 1930s, there was a super chemical, polluting and highly toxic attempt, by the way, to produce a fabric based on milk. But the German designer and biologist Anke Domaske, inspired by that first experience, discovered a use for those tons of liters of “spilled milk” and invented and put into practice the manufacture of fabrics based on QMilch milk. The most interesting thing about this fiber is that it can only be produced from sour milk, and the end result resembles silk.

But the launch of these products is essentially aimed at testing consumer interest in new products. And to be successful, the products need to be as good as animal leather, so that "people don't see any difference in touch, feel or usability," McCartney said during an in-studio interview at his shop.
There is an underserved market segment that wants high quality natural materials that are in line with their values. This is a segment the industry is very excited about , said Matt Scullin, chief executive of MycoWorks, the California-based startup that convinced Hermès, a powerhouse of high-end leather goods, to break with tradition and experiment with its projected mycelium. That's where we have the biggest impact to help luxury brands grow in the short term but it can be disruptive in the long term , we'll see .

But the real barometer at the end of the day will be customer reaction – sales will be our ultimate litmus test , says Julie Gilhart, meaning if the product is quality, stylish and not more expensive than animal leather, then it could be an element decisive and potential in the choice .

We consumers are very demanding and, as a result of many years of experience as buyers, we have an idea of ​​what the pieces are worth. We evaluate and demand quality, timeliness, comfort and durability. And it is in this context that everything I have presented may or may not succeed.

“Earth is really dying”

Maria Pia

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