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The future of fashion: wine leather, cow manure and solar textiles

Drapers travelled to Stockholm to find out more about the bleeding-edge innovations pledging to shake up fashion and backed by the H&M Foundation.

Hm global change award winners

Hm global change award winners

Leather made from grapes, dyeing new denim using old pairs of jeans and even fabric made from cow manure – they might sound futuristic, but all are closer than you think. The innovations were just three of the five ground-breaking ideas celebrated at last week’s Global Change Award ceremony, alongside a production process for making nylon that uses only water, plant waste and solar energy, and a digital thread woven into textiles to help identify what fabrics are made of.

Started by the H&M Foundation and now in its second year, the Global Change Award seeks to speed up fashion’s slow journey to becoming a circular, waste-free industry. A €1m (£860,000) prize pot is divided up between the five winning innovations. The H&M Foundation does not take any equity or intellectual property rights in the ideas, leaving their creators free to work across the industry.

And the process already seems to be having an impact. One of last year’s winners, a silk-like fabric made from citrus juice production waste, has been used in a limited-edition collection by Italian fashion house Salvatore Ferragamo.

“The fashion industry touches every person on the planet, because we all wear clothes,” says H&M Foundation project manager Erik Bang. “The biggest challenge is not only to come up with a sustainable innovation, but also one that’s commercially viable.”

Drapers travelled to Stockholm earlier this month to attend the awards and meet the winning teams, who impressed with their drive, intelligence and ability to find creative solutions. Fashion still has a very long way to go before it can be called green but, by supporting new innovations, it is moving one step closer.


Wine leather

Team: Rosa Rossella Longobardo, Gianpiero Tessitore, Francesco Merlino and Valentina Longobardo

Country: Italy

Awarded: €300,000 (£256,000)

This Italian team behind this textile are determined to create a new sustainable alternative to both traditional leather and existing vegan, synthetic leathers, cutting down on the amount of water, energy and chemicals used. The new vegetal leather uses the leftovers from making wine, such as grape skins and stalks. Because the wine leftovers would normally be burned, the vegetal leather also stops the production of planet-warming carbon dioxide. With the grant, the team plans to ramp up pilot production to an industrial scale.

Solar textiles

Team: Miguel A Modestino, Sophia Haussener, Daniela Blanco, Adlai Katzenberg and Saurab Tembhurne

Country: US and Switzerland

Awarded: €250,000 (£213,390)

Led by Miguel Modestino, a professor at the NYU School of Engineering, this innovation aims to create a nylon-like fabric using water and plant waste, powered by solar energy rather than fossil fuels. If successful, the material would look and feel like traditional nylon, but would be made in a sustainable way and created from renewable resources.

Content thread

Team: Anura Rathnayake, Natasha Franck , Peter Cockitt, Trevor O’Brien and Anna Kimmelman

Country: US and UK

Awarded: €150,000 (£128,000)

Blended fibres pose a real challenge to textile recycling, as it is difficult to know exactly what clothes using them are made of and how they should be recycled. The content thread team is looking to tackle this industry-wide problem by inserting a tiny RFID (radio frequency identification) thread, which contains information on what the clothing is made of, into the fabric during the manufacturing process. Designed to last over a garment’s lifetime, the thread aids the recycling process and thus helps cut down on waste.

Denim-dyed denim

Team: Professor Xungai Wang, Dr Rangam Rajkhowa, Dr Rebecca Van Amber, Dr Christopher Hurren, Dr Nolene Byrne

Country: Australia

Awarded: €150,000 (£128,000)

Denim manufacturing is well known for its intensive use of water and energy. Pollution from dyeing jeans is also a problem, contaminating waterways in producing countries. In this new process, old jeans are broken down into fine particles to produce a colouring powder. The powder can then be used to colour new jeans or even to create prints on other textiles.

Manure couture

Awarded: €150,000 (£128,000)

Team: Jalila Essaidi, George Johannes van Trier and Virendya Batja

Country: Netherlands

Manure does not usually spring to mind when thinking about the fashion industry, but the team behind this innovation is hoping to change that by using cow dung to create a new kind of biodegradable textile. Intensive cattle farming puts pressure on the planet and creates the greenhouse gas methane. By using cellulose from manure to create a new fabric, the team hopes to turn waste into something not only usable but valuable.





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