• Dan Pontarlier

Introducing the 14 Fabrics of the Future

Updated: Jan 26

While in July I wrote a post about the less sustainable fabrics for us, the environment, and animals, today I want to share an interesting article on the fabrics of the future that I have been researching on.

It is not the first time I share that I don’t believe in organic cotton as a sustainable fabric. Of course, it is better than other fabrics, but at production levels, it is still the same thing. I’m a firm supporter of recycling and upcycling, and the thing I love the most is when companies are committed enough to sustainability to take these steps and improve their level of positive impact.

In the following text, you'll find information on the fabrics and textiles that have caught my attention. Hope you enjoy it!

  • Bionic Yarn, obtained from recycled plastic.

One of the most innovative materials is Bionic Yarn, an ecological and resistant thread derived from recycled plastic, created by two young New Yorkers. The plastic they use is recovered from marine and coastal environments, addressing sea pollution.

The used bottles are collected, melted together, and divided into fibers before being spun. The yarn is obtained through the union of recycled plastic together with synthetic or natural textile fibers. The fabric made with these fibers was launched in 2009 and has also been used by major fashion brands.

  • Orange Fiber, made from orange waste

This innovative project was conceived in 2014 by two girls of Sicilian origin, Milanese university students, who developed the idea of the orange fabric in collaboration with the Polytechnic of Milan, where they also filed the Orange Fiber patent. The fabric, made from what is called in jargon "orange paste", is very similar to cellulose acetate.

In the production process, cellulose is extracted from what remains of the oranges used to produce juices and is transformed into thread for clothes and accessories. It also has beneficial effects on the skin because microcapsules with citrus essential oils and vitamin C have been inserted into the fibers.

  • Soybean Protein Fiber

Soybean Protein Fiber is a textile fiber made from soy. The liquid extracted from the post-oiling soybean is first subjected to polymerization operations that modify its compositional structure and is then cooked to produce the wet yarn.

The material thus obtained is cut and thermoformed. The auxiliary polymerization substances of the base material are natural and the resulting scraps are used as feed, therefore it is 100% ecological and eco-sustainable. The fabric obtained has the luster of silk, dyes well, and is very soft and shiny; it is perfect for functional underwear and swimwear.

  • Ingeo, Corn Fiber

Corn Fiber is an ecological fiber obtained from corn sugar, created by Cargill, the food giant, as a project for alternative usage of its food waste. Thanks to a particular manufacturing process, polylactic acid, a polymer that produces fabrics resistant to humidity and heat, is obtained from corn. INGEO also has high transparency qualities with the only drawback being that the fabric is slightly rigid.

In addition, the processing residues are used to transform into fertilizers, therefore the fabric derived from corn is also 100% green. Thanks to its particular breathability it is also applied in the construction field. In clothing, it is used to stuff mattresses, cushions, and sofas.

  • Pellemela or Apple Eco-leather

After discovering that the leftovers of this vegetable can completely purify contaminated water, Alberto Volcan created after deeper research, first, the paper bag, and then a material able to perfectly replace the skin and the leather used in the production of fashion and furnishing items.

This is the "Pellemela" or Apple Eco-leather containing 76 percent of apple flour obtained from the powder of dried skins and cores mixed with water and natural glue having been compacted inside a typical machine for pulling pasta. Starting from this material, the “Pellemela Shopper” was born, a natural, resistant, and completely biodegradable bag.

The use of this vegetable leather obtained from the recovery of organic waste is an excellent solution to reduce the polluting emissions produced by incinerators during the waste disposal process. Moreover, it also represents a valid alternative to real skin by remedying ethical issues related to the killing and mistreatment of animals.

  • Muskin from mushrooms

We have talked about the ecological skin made from the scraps of oranges. In line with this we have Muskin, coming entirely from the hat of the Phellinus ellipsoideus, a species of inedible giant mushroom originating in the subtropical forests that draws nourishment from the trunk of the trees causing it a sort of white rot.

Muskin is 100 percent mushroom, unlike the fabrics obtained from mushrooms and then combined with other textile materials. Thanks to its natural composition, Muskin is an ideal resource for the production of shoes, hats, bags, inserts in clothing but also in furnishing products. Its touch is similar to suede with a consistency that varies from soft to stiff typical of cork.

This vegetable skin also acts as a thermal insulator that absorbs moisture and releases it quickly, limiting the proliferation of bacteria. It is breathable, water-repellent, and non-toxic. In essence, it can be safely applied in all those products that are used in direct contact with the epidermis because it does not cause any type of allergic reaction.

  • Atlantic leather from fish skin

A non-synthetic and sustainable leather created from a food by-product: fish skin. The idea came from an Icelandic startup called Atlantic Leather, which came to Rome to show her "exotic, luxury and eco-friendly" leathers at Maker Faire. To create the product they use waste that would otherwise end up in the garbage.

To color the hides, the hot water from geothermal sources is used, which is not lacking in Iceland, while the energy comes from a hydroelectric plant. To create the hides, the skin of various fish is used, each with its own characteristics: salmon skin, for example, is resistant and takes color well; perch skin is thick and rough, while cod skin is thin and flexible.

  • Desserto from cactus leaves

Cactus leather (or nopa leather) is made from the leaves of the Opuntia cactus plant. It has a lovely soft texture and can be used for purses, shoes, and even clothing. Two Mexican entrepreneurs came up with the idea for Desserto, which is the name of the leather.

On their ranch in Zacatecas, they harvest every 6 to 8 months to best leaves, which are dried for 3 days under the sun. Not only is this leather cruelty-free, but the process also uses less natural resources as no irrigation is needed. In fact, Opuntia cacti only need 200 liters of water to produce 1 kilogram of product, whilst corn, for example, needs at least 1,000 liters.

  • Econyl from nylon waste

ECONYL is a transformation of nylon waste from landfills and oceans around the world. It is identical to brand new nylon and can be recycled endlessly. It is part of what we call a closed-loop regeneration process as it is made from waste, is infinitely recyclable, and unleashes infinite possibilities for creators and consumers.

As an illustration, for every 10,000 tons of ECONYL material made, it spares 57,100 tons of carbon dioxide being emitted into the atmosphere and 70,000 barrels of crude oil from being used. The fabric is commonly used for carpeting and apparel, especially in swimwear and activewear.

  • QMONOS synthetic spider silk

QMONOS has been