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Published: Mint Lounge, February 10, 2018 Edition

Seaweed dresses, pineapple handbags and pantyhose made of recycled plastic—a lexicon of innovative eco-friendly fabrics

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From reclaimed fishing nets to algae biomass, and fungi fabric to banana fibre cloth, fashion has a new yarn to spin, and it’s singing a biodegradable tune. Eco-friendly fabrics are not only good for the environment, they also feel great because they are natural, non-toxic and breathable. Eco-fashion stems from sustainable sources, it includes fibres that do not require the use of pesticides or chemicals to grow, as well as biodegradable or fabric spin-offs from the non-biodegradable waste that is choking our planet. Lounge lists 13 fabrics that make the cut.

Bamboo Fabric

Bamboo fabric has come a long way from corset bones of the past. The fabric is durable, drapes well and absorbs moisture, while harvesting of bamboos is sustainable for the planet. London-based Thought and Asquith, Australian brand Shift to Nature and Vancouver-based Lululemon Athletica use bamboo fabric; locally, it is used in Naushad Ali’s designs. A variant called Bamboo Charcoal is created by processing the charcoal from heated bamboo and mixing it with fabrics using nanotechnology.

Bionic Yarn

It is recycled polyester made from recovered waste, particularly from the oceans. Plastic bottles from trash are collected, broken down, shredded into fibres and spun into core yarn; then, this is woven into an eco-friendly fabric. Musician Pharrell Williams joined forces with the team behind Bionic Yarn and it led to initiatives like “Raw For The Oceans” with G-Star Raw denims.

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Ultra Bloom shoes.

Bloom Foam

Algae in your shoes? No fear, Bloom has the world’s first plant-based, performance-driven foam formulated with algae biomass, using renewable feedstock. Noticed in a capsule collection of shoes by London-based Vivobarefoot, which states on its blog that each pair of these Ultra Bloom shoes will also help recirculate 57 gallons of filtered water back into natural habitats.

‘Cork Skin’

It is extracted from the cork oak tree, what Portuguese brand Pelcor calls “cork skin”, a natural, biodegradable and recyclable resource. The company offers accessories like bags, hats and shoes made out of cork.

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A Falabella Go backpack by Stella McCartney.

Econyl® Yarn

An innovative regenerated fibre, “Nylon 6” is made from 100% regenerated waste material, including reclaimed fishing nets. From Swedish Stockings’ pantyhose to luxury brand Stella McCartney’s Falabella Go Backpacks, a number of brands use this yarn in items like swimwear, sportswear and hosiery. Bloni showcased a line of Spring/Summer wear glorifying Econyl® at the recently concluded Lakmé Fashion Week (LFW) in Mumbai.

Hemp

It’s an ancient fibre dating back to 8,000 BC, but it has remained on the fringe. A decade ago, Donatella Versace used a hemp-silk fabric for a gown, while Calvin Klein created a hemp-based pantsuit for the FutureFashion show at the New York Fashion Week. The durable and strong fabric comes from the fibres of the herbaceous plant of the species, Cannabis sativa, a high-yield crop. A hemp blend would look like linen, softening over time. Currently seen in American apparel brands like Bad Decision Adventure Club and Patagonia.

Linen

One of the earliest fibres known to man, the Europeans’ favourite textile was at one point used as a form of currency. Made from the fibres of the flax plant, it has been favoured for bedsheets and tablecloths. There is a value attached to vintage linen as it softens over time—it is stronger than cotton and can last for decades. Anavila Misra has made linen a hero with her handwoven saris, and Padmaja Krishnan uses linen in her handwoven fabrics.

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Products using Pinatex.

Piña Fabric

Made from the discarded leaves of the pineapple plant, it is malleable, and can be combined with silk or polyester to create a textile fabric. A cheaper alternative to leather, it can morph into anything from crocodile skin to glittering gold. UK-based Carmen Hijosa’s textile line Ananas Anam has made “Piñatex” chic; the ivory, glossy fabric is also used by Filipino brides for wedding dresses.

R | Elan™

Showcased in designer Anita Dongre’s Songs Of Summer collection at the LFW, R | Elan™ GreenGold is a fabric innovation from Reliance Industries that uses specially engineered fibres. GreenGold is made from 100% used plastic bottles and has a low carbon footprint.

Recca®

Made from pre- and post-consumer waste, it stands for recycled cotton and is manufactured by the Tamil Nadu-based Anandi Enterprises. Sohaya Misra’s label Chola showcased Recca® for the LFW Winter/Festive 2017 initiative “Restart Fashion”, with a monochrome palette and soft, layered silhouettes.

SeaCell®

It’s a fibre made from a mix of ground natural seaweed and wood cellulose, which locks the nutritious properties of seaweed into a wearable fabric. While manufacturers claim that the skin can absorb these nutrients, it depends on the quantity of seaweed in the mix. Made by German company Smartfiber AG, it can be seen in Lululemon Athletica’s VitaSea line of sportswear.

SoyBean Fabric

Also known as “vegetable cashmere”, it is made from fibres that are spun from the waste of the soy food industry, like the hulls of soybean. American designer Linda Loudermilk, considered a pioneer of eco-luxury, used this biodegradable fabric in her brand Luxury Eco years before it became cool to do so.

Tencel®

Last week, the LFW had a gently floating Tencel® chandelier installation in the heart of JioGarden in Mumbai that will be recycled. Produced by Austrian textile group Lenzing, the fabric is commonly known as lyocell. While viscose, rayon, modal and lyocell are all made from plant cellulose, the same fabrics produced by Lenzing are made from sustainably-harvested trees in a “closed-loop” production cycle that recycles almost 100% of solvent. It has a soft, smooth finish, drapes well and absorbs moisture. Skinny denims by Los Angeles-based DSTLD, mini-dresses by American slow-fashion brand Reformation and Rajesh Pratap Singh’s androgynous garments flaunt Tencel®.

We are watching out for the next-gen Refibra™ fibres that will go a step further in recycling cotton scraps left over from the lyocell production process, in a bid to eliminate all waste.