Innovation That Matters

Sustainable clothing can reduce fabric waste, carbon emissions and water usage | Photo source Cam Morin on Unsplash

10 innovative ideas in sustainable clothing

Innovation Snapshot

Sustainable innovations in clothing that reduce fabric waste, carbon emissions, water usage and much more

The idea of sustainable clothing represents a combination of processes that include how clothing is produced, distributed, consumed and recycled. By reformulating some of the practices most commonly used until now, like reducing carbon emissions yielded during production, making clothing sustainably can go a long way in having a positive impact the planet.

Each year, 60 million tonnes of clothing is produced. As a result, even the smallest of changes in this colossal industry are significant. At Springwise, we continue to spot innovations aimed at making the production and consumption of clothing more sustainable. From reducing fabric waste, carbon emissions and producing textiles from recycled materials, here are ten of our favourite sustainable clothing innovations we’ve seen in recent months.

1. Platform matches second-hand shops with customers

Photo source Pixabay

UK startup Upright Labs helps second-hand shops market their products to potential customers on a variety of online marketplaces. The company’s software products include a web-based app that allows stores to easily upload images, prices and descriptions of items, and analyses how many views each item is receiving. The firm uses the data to suggest improved product descriptions and prices. 

A second software helps stores list items in online marketplaces, ship merchandise and find specific items requested by customers. Both products are subscription-based, with prices based on the number of items listed.  Upright Labs also offers a consulting service to help companies optimise warehouse, fulfilment, e-commerce and store operations.

2. AI-platform finds clothes that truly fit to reduce fabric waste

Photo source Metail

Metail offers two services – MeModel and Composed Photography. MeModel takes a few measurements from customers and uses its machine-learning algorithm to suggest accurate and personalised style and size recommendations. For retailers, MeModel provides data analysis to help maximise inventory and supply chain efficiency and to help boost brand loyalty with insight into customer preferences.

Composed Photography adds another service for retailers, providing a much simpler method for photographing and publishing new collections. Models are digitally dressed, allowing for endless changes and different styling options without the high cost of reshoots and retouching.

3. Dylecious turns food waste into luxury wares

Hong Kong startup Dyelicious is turning food waste into high-quality clothing and other products through a process known as natural food dyeing. The company says its workshops use kitchen waste to make dyes that can decompose naturally and do not yield any pollution, unlike a typical garment factory that may emit toxins into rivers and oceans.

Natural food dying uses a series of processes that include extraction, liquid preparation and colouring. To improve the quality of the dye, additional mordants are included so that, “different hues can be transformed, the colour sharpness can be improved, and even different colours can be created,” the company says.

4. Fashion platform provides custom, sustainable designs

Photo source Unmade

Global fashion software company Unmade works to transform the industry through on-demand production. Sustainability is the goal and, using Unmade’s platform, can be achieved through customisation, short runs and collaboration.

Companies that work with Unmade provide consumers with customisation options. Via the customisation editor, shoppers see exactly what the garment will look like as they design their own. Unmade’s garment mapping technology makes sure that each bespoke aspect is reflected on-screen in full colour, with correct lighting and shading and accurate fit and style. On the production side of custom fashion, Unmade’s order management system (OMS) links directly with factories to calculate the best possible schedule.

5. Recycled t-shirts made without chemicals

Photo source Parker Burchfield on Unsplash

US clothing brand Marine Layer has partnered with Spanish textile factory Recover to produce T-shirts made from recycled clothing. The new Re-Spun line is made by breaking down and separating fabric blends, then extracting cotton fibres. These recycled fibres are mixed with sustainably-sourced cotton, hemp and recycled plastic fibres to add strength.

Because Recover separates fibres by colour, no chemicals or dyes are needed. The process uses ultraviolet light to clean individual fibres instead of washing the old clothes. Since it normally takes 15,000 litres of water to produce 1 kg of finished cotton fabric, this represents huge environmental savings.

6. H&M uses fabrics made from pineapple leaves and orange peel

Photo source Conscious Exclusive

H&M’s ninth Conscious Exclusive line introduces textiles made from fruit material that would otherwise go to waste. Working with three companies – BLOOM Foam, Orange Fiber and Piñatex – the global brand’s latest line should help raise further awareness of the now well-documented wastefulness in the fashion industry.

BLOOM Foam uses algae biomass to make a flexible, lightweight material used in shoe soles. Orange Fiber uses discarded orange peels from citrus juice production to create an environmentally-friendly alternative to silk. And Piñatex uses the leaves of pineapples, an agricultural waste product, for vegan leather.

7. Sustainable, self-washing underwear stays fresh for weeks

Photo source Shutterstock

A clothing company has developed underwear embedded with a product that kills odour-causing bacteria.

Danish startup, Organic Basics, claims its underwear remains fresh through weeks of wear.Organic Basics CEO Mads Fibiger explains the company’s underwear can go for days, or even weeks, without washing. They claim to have achieved this feat by treating their products with Polygiene, a product that uses silver chloride to kill the bacteria that cause bad odours. Silver has been known since ancient times as an antimicrobial, preventing infection as well as bad smells. It can kill up to 99 percent of bacteria present.

8. E-commerce platform makes sustainable fashion with true style

Antibad is an e-commerce platform set up by an erstwhile buyer at Burberry, Agatha Lingott. Launching in April 2018, her dream was to create “a hub for earth- and human-friendly fashion across both vintage and new labels”. She also specifically wanted to counteract the idea that sustainable fashion was not as glamorous or attractive as mainstream fashion. The site acts as an online platform for more than 25 independent fashion brands. These range from established American brands to less well-known brands as well.

The products are also diverse, from footwear to swimwear, denim to office clothing. What they all have in common, however, is their consideration for their environmental impact and sustainability. Antibad is highly selective with the brands they carry, doing an in-depth analysis to make sure every brand is truly sustainable. An issue that they often hit, for example, is companies that use part reclaimed fabrics, yet also part synthetic, thereby not being wholly sustainable.

9. Research collective uses 3D-scanning to reduce fabric waste

Research collective Synflux has come up with a way to reduce fabric waste by creating clothes that fit a person’s body perfectly. The Algorithimic Couture project uses 3D-scanning to determine the measurements and then runs machine-learning algorithms to find the optimum design pattern, bringing fabric waste to zero.

Synflux is a collaboration between fashion designer Kazuya Kawasaki, design engineer Kye Shimizu, designer Kotaro Sano and machine learning engineer Yusuke Fujihira. The team claims that current fashion design practices waste 15 percent of the fabric used while providing customers with poorly-fitting clothing.

10. A concept shoe that can change with fashion

Photo source Evan Stuart

Evan Stuart, a student at the Dublin Institute of Technology in Ireland, has designed a shoe that allows wearers to repair and customise footwear themselves. His project, called Layer, is made up of four parts: the uppers, soles, insoles and fastening lace. As different parts of the shoe become worn or as fashion changes, the wearer can order new shoe parts online. The shoes are held together by a lacing system instead of glue. The old parts can easily be unlaced, and the new parts laced on. All of the parts of the shoes are made from biodegradable plastics and recycled polyester fabrics. This means that even when users are ready to get rid of the shoes, they can be recycled.