Technology is changing the way that we, fashion designers, approach fabric sourcing.
There's a whole range of pioneering textiles that are not only groundbreaking in a
technological way but also push the fashion industry towards more sustainable practices.
This includes the development of fabrics and materials from the byproducts of other
industries, which is also a much-needed step into a circular economy.
Below are a few of the exciting new fabrics that are a result of combining textiles and
technology at the moment:
Synthetic Spider Silk: sugar, yeast, and water might sound like the beginning of a culinary
recipe, but it's actually the simple formula of synthetic spider silk. Developed by the
American biotechnology company Bolt Threads, their technological material is biodegradable
and promises to be especially effective as a performance fabric since it has the strength and
temperature-regulating properties of natural silk.
beLeaf™: created by a Brazilian company called Nova Kaeru (who also brought pirarucu
and salmon skin to the fashion and textile industries), beLeaf™ is not only a technological
fabric but also a pioneering technique. They developed a botanical tanning process that, in
theory, could be applied to any leaf, though their prototype is with the elephant ear plant.
Strong and resistant, it is a very interesting choice for accessories and footwear.
Ultra-fine Merino Fibers: wool is not exactly a pioneering material, but technology is giving
it innovative uses. At 17.5 microns, thinner than a single hair (between 50 and 100 microns),
ultra-fine merino fibers are still soft and can be used as an alternative for synthetic fabrics in
sportswear. Why? Because wool, especially when extra thin, will retain body heat when cold
and keep you fresh when it's warm, as it allows the sweat to evaporate quickly.
Frumat: this material consists of repurposed apple waste whose core and skins are worked
on in a cellulose process, extracting the fiber to create a paper-like material. The apple fiber,
however, can also be blended with other fibers, including polyurethane (PU), to create
leather-like materials for shoes, luggage, furnishing and upholstery. The material is
waterproof and breathable, and extremely versatile, available in a variety of thicknesses, and
textures. It can be produced on demand too! How would you use it?
Coffee Leather: to make a cup of coffee, only 0.2% of the coffee bean is used and the
remaining 99.8% goes to waste. Alice Genberg, a Central Saint Martins graduate, found a
way to give new life to that: coffee leather. The material is dried, grounded into even finer
particles, bound with natural agents, and then pressed into different textures (including
reptile print). Very versatile, this material invests in simple technology to achieve a circular
economy whilst providing the fashion and textile industries with a biodegradable alternative.
What other fabrics and materials do you know that invest in technology to create a better
balance between fashion and the environment?
This article was written by our partner Digifair, a free digital platform that gives voice to
fashion buyers' to request their needs on-demand, connecting them to fabric, material, and
trim suppliers worldwide. Access Digifair to register and find an online solution to your fabric