6 New Innovative Fabrics for Sustainable Fashion

In 2014, I attended a textiles expo in New York City. The 18th floor of Hotel Pennsylvania was host to dozens of fabric suppliers, as well as a series of seminars for designer entrepreneurs.

I went to network with suppliers and potential Factory45’ers and get an insider’s view of the “non” sustainable fashion world (it looks a lot different).

While there was a limited number of vendors selling organic cotton or recycled fabrics, I did attend a seminar that explored the future of textiles. Below is a nod to the newest wave of innovation coming out of the textile industry with a focus on sustainability:

1.) CRAiLAR is a flax fiber that drastically reduces chemical and water usage. It was named a 100% BioPreferred product by the USDA in April 2012. In fabric form, it looks and feels almost identical to cotton.

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2.) Qmilch is a 100% natural and renewable fiber derived from a protein in sour milk. (Yes, like the milk in your fridge.) The result is a fabric similar to silk, but less expensive, while being durable enough to withstand wash and care. Qmilch is naturally antibacterial and can regulate temperature, making it ideal for sports and activewear.

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3.) “Recyclon” is a recycled nylon from Unifi’s Repreve that uses pre-consumer and post-industrial nylon waste. While the makeup of the blend is not 100% recycled, the innovation has been widely celebrated by those who have been wanting a recycled nylon option since recycled polyester became available years ago.

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4.) S.Cafe is a new fiber coming out of Taiwan that uses recycled coffee grinds. Big names like North Face, Puma and Timberland are already using it, while coffee sellers like Starbucks and 7-11 are said to be some of the suppliers. Apparently coffee grinds have natural odor-masking properties without making the entire garment smell like your morning brew. It’s said that coffee grinds require less energy in the fiber-making process, making it an “earth-friendly” alternative to traditional fabrics.

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5.) EcoCircle Plant Fiber is a plant-based PET (polyester). The new fiber contains 30% sugarcane, which replaces 30% of the oil needed for traditional polyester. Teijin, the company behind the fiber, said it will have a closed-loop recycling system at the end of the fabric’s life. Nissan is one of the first companies to use the fabric for the car upholstery in the 2014 Nissan Leaf electric car.

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6.) Evrnu is an innovative new technology that recycles cotton garment waste to create a premium, renewable fiber. More than 12 million tons of garment waste is disposed of every year in the U.S. alone. Evrnu emerged from a new way of thinking about the apparel and textile industry, by textile specialists who love fashion. The Evrnu team is currently running an Indiegogo campaign to bring the technology to a larger scale.

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Interested in starting a sustainable apparel company with Factory45? Applications to the 2016 program open on May 18th.

Photos courtesy of Ecouterre, Napo Images, A Complete Waste of MakeupHack College, Green Building Advisor and Evrnu.