The Five Latest Technologies in Fabrics & Materials

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