Today, humanity is almost exclusively dressed in polyester and cotton fibres, both with shocking environmental profiles. The last significant innovation in textile materials has been exactly polyester… we go back to 1943.
Today the situation seems to be changing. We are witnessing a plethora of projects and innovations that mark a new path towards a more sustainable future in the field of yarns, fabrics and materials in general.
An all-encompassing crescendo involving technical brands such as the Swedish brand Fjällräven that launches Bergshell: an innovative water-repellent, PFC-free and ultra-resistant fabric made of 100% recycled nylon certified according to the Global Recycled Standard. Up to fashion and the most prestigious brands, such as Fedon, which presents a collection of cases dedicated to the environment, called “ecological revolution”, which gives new life to fishing nets. Cases made of a special elastane deriving from recycled nylon of end-of-life fishing nets and fabrics. An elegant and silky material that becomes sinuous thanks to a soft padding made of recycled polyester fibres.
A push towards innovation coming also from government institutions of the various countries. In Italy, for example, F-Susy is the project supported by the Lombardy Region in the context of the Smart fashion and design program. It is produced by the Polytechnic of Milan, which is its leader, by the consulting firms Blumine and Nekte and by the manufacturing companies Besani, Maglificio Ripa and Tessitura Attilio Imperiali. The project’s objectives are the experimentation and the diffusion of textile processes with a lower environmental impact thanks to the substitution of dangerous chemicals with safer ones followed by a result verification. F-Susy focuses on the creation of tools able to facilitate relations between different subjects of the textile and fashion supply chain for a quick and efficient process and product monitoring according to chemical safety standards.
Elsewhere, biotechnologies are very much involved in this development process. The New York biotech start-up Modern Meadows compares its biologists with the creative director and fermentation engineers to bio-fabricate leather in the laboratory. A research that promises a future without the use of animals to make a handbag, a future in which fashion design intersects with biology.
Meanwhile, the Californian start-up Bolt
Threads has raised millions of dollars to bring its spider silk (already chosen by Stella McCartney) to the market and fashion entrepreneur Miroslava Duma has launched a fund of 50 million dollars to bring new sustainable fibres and fabrics onto the market.
Marchi & Fildi also invests in product and process innovation. They have just announced an investment of 2 million euro in highly specialized process technology, in order to improve ECOTEC® and its product range. ECOTEC® is the brand that represents an exclusive, totally traceable and made in Italy production cycle that uses 100% pre-dyed, pre-consumer fabric cuttings from the packaging, transforming them into excellence, into yarns suitable for the production of shuttle-woven fabrics for the clothing and furnishing sector, knitted fabrics, straight knitwear, hosiery and carpets.
In short, new materials that arise from waste or production waste. A sector of the circular economy in which many Italian companies have been investing for some time. Like Carvico, company operating in the textile industry and in the production of warp-knit fabrics, which recently won the Global Award for Sustainability, making it one of the top seven most sustainable companies in the world.
The Italian company, founded in 1962, produces Econyl, a 100% regenerated and circular polyamide yarn that comes from the recovery of fishing nets, but also from the reuse of fluff (shaved fur carpet) and tulle.
Next to the reuse there are also those who experiment with the creation of artificial textile fibres, but of natural origin. This is the case with Lenzing’s TENCEL ™ of Lyocell. A vegetal viscous extracted from the cellulose of eucalyptus trees and produced in an ecological way (with low environmental impact, provided that the forests of provenance are certified). An artificial fabric made in the laboratory through chemical processes, 100% biodegradable, which can be used in footwear, for every part of the shoe: both as textile fibre in the upper, lining, insoles and laces/ zippers/sewing threads, and as a not-woven fibre into insoles or paddings, or as powder in soles.
We conclude this review with the Fulgar case, an Italian company with over 40 years of experience behind it, which continues to invest in research and development for fibres and cutting-edge technical solutions. A structured program for sustainability and partnership with fashion brands, including the one with Sease, or with cutting-edge technology producers, such as Santoni are among its projects. The 200 million euro Mantuan company, leader in the production of polyamide (nylon) 6,6, has made its production system sustainable, on the one hand with the adoption of policies allowing it not just to be more eco- friendly, but also more efficient and then with products.
Amongst all the Q-NOVA® fibre, obtained from regenerated raw materials. Founded 5 years ago, it is an environmentally friendly fibre that in turn makes the company’s production processes more sustainable, allowing the reduction of CO2 emissions and a lower consumption of water resources. Q-NOVA® is obtained exclusively from raw materials regenerated through a mechanical process that does not require the use of chemical materials which would compromise the sustainability of the final product.
In 2017 alone, more than 11 million litres of water were saved through the Q-NOVA® recycling system. In 2018, if the increase in demand for Q-NOVA® yarn is around + 30%, it will be possible to exceed 15 million litres of saved water. This yarn has many functional and aesthetic benefits: lightness; good moisture management that allows you to keep your leather fresh and dry; the colour strength and brightness, which, thanks to the excellent dyeing yield, obtains solidity levels comparable to those made of virgin polyamide.
A product of considerable value that already in 2013 obtained the European Ecolabel EU certification and the international Global Recycled Standard certification: both certify the recycling system and the quantity of recycled product.
Furthermore, in 2017, after Fulgar submitted the entire realization process of its products through the LCA (Life Cycle Assessment) scientific method, carried out according to the PEF methodology, the Q-NOVA® yarn joined the Higg Index, which is an indicator based assessment tool to measure the environmental impact of a garment’s entire life cycle developed by the SAC (Sustainable Apparel Coalition).