Future-generation technology is frequently associated with flying cars or human robots. Fashion is rarely mentioned because it has so much to learn from the past. Fashion can be a complement to traditional cultures. Fashion is not an industry that promotes the most modern or traditional views. Fashion is unique in that it blends creativity and the industrial process. Fashion’s primary function was to protect human nudity. How technologically advanced can that be? The answer is quite a lot. It is a lot.
Traditional fashion is notorious for its large waste problem. This results in a high cost for human and environmental health. The World Wildlife Fund estimates that the textile industry releases 1.7 billion tons annually of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. A kilo is a small amount of cotton. This is equivalent to making one pair of jeans. Nearly 40% of clothing produced each year contains cotton. Additionally, around 85% of all textiles in the world end up in dumps every year where synthetic materials are not able to degrade. Some fabrics are more prone to microplastics than others, and rely heavily on animal leather.
In the fashion industry, the search for sustainable fashion products has been fueled by the desire for a better environment. Because of their science and technology, these materials can be both innovative and mind-boggling. Pinite is a vegan leather made from pineapple outers, which would otherwise be considered food scrap. Recork transforms wine corks into sustainable materials like soles for shoes. Meanwhile, Bloom Foam by Algix turns green water (from alga) into clean water in order to make performance foams. Orange fiber fabric is made from orange juice pulp. Fruit leather is leather made from fruits. All these fascinating materials share one thing in common: They are all sustainable and good for the environment. Some materials can be biodegradable. Others believe it is because they are made of recycled materials. Future growth in next-generation material is good news for fashion industry because it can make future fashion more sustainable. This is a positive thing.
It is crucial to develop next-generation materials, but even more important is their adoption by fashion businesses. These factors directly impact their adoption. Fashion brands are at the top of this list. Fashion brands are a good indicator of what will work. These breakthroughs are in the forefront of technology, but they are still not mainstream. It is important that industry leaders like Adidas adopt these innovations. Adidas recently released the iconic Stan Smith sneakers made from Milo, a next-generation material derived from the root structure mushrooms. Milo is grown in sheets and then tanned and colored to make mycelium skin. This is a different process than traditional leather, as it does not involve animal slaughter. Adidas was already pushing the limits of innovative materials with the release of future Craft loop sneakers in.
The new Stan Smith sneakers may be a major milestone in the transition towards next-generation materials becoming mainstream. Adidas and other global brands are using next-generation materials. They will be an integral part of fashion’s future. Materials Innovation Initiative is a great example of this. MII works closely alongside brands to encourage the adoption of next-generation materials. Nicole Rowling, co-founder of MII, said that the organization has spoken with 40 top fashion brands and that all but two are actively looking for new-generation materials to incorporate into their supply chains. These materials may be amazing, but it’s not the responsibility of one fashion brand or organization to make them widely available. Consumers’ liking determines whether these materials are adopted. This process is influenced by buyers. The good news is that people are becoming more conscious of environmental issues. This increases demand for eco-friendly goods.
Another important aspect to consider is time. It is obvious that it will take time to develop and adopt new fashion materials. The fashion industry must make changes in all areas, including the supply chain, worker rights, recycling, and energy efficiency, if it wants to be sustainable. As I often do when speaking about the future, I will warn the fashion sector about next-generation materials. It is important that we don’t repeat past mistakes and set up safeguards right from the start. My childhood was surrounded by plastic-clogged drains and climbing hills made of fashion waste. I believe future business models should leverage excess inventory to ensure customers are aware of the fact that their clothes do not contribute to the waste stream. Although many in the industry don’t care about this aspect of sustainability, we can all work together and create a sustainable future.
The issue of equity investments is another. As I looked into the growth of next-generation materials startups, I discovered that they cluster around advanced countries with advanced technologies. This may seem true economically, but it is unfair when you consider that fashion’s most exploitative supply chains often fall upon the shoulders of advanced countries. Modifying the materials will not benefit us if the existing systems remain the same. Fair investments are necessary to spread this technology globally. The future fashion industry is already growing thanks to the advances in virtual reality and blockchain. To improve the fashion industry’s present shortcomings, we need to be able to use these technologies.