What are you going to wear in the future? – highlights from the Future Fashion Expo

This week, the 8th Future Fabrics Expo organised by the Sustainable Angle took place in London and drew a bigger than ever crowd of fashion Buyers and Designers.
Having attended several of the Expo’s in the past and found them incredibly useful in terms of sourcing suppliers of sustainable fabrics, we, of course, had to check it out too.

It was genuinely brilliant seeing so many people there and the air was filled with excitement about new innovations and all the opportunities we have to make a positive impact on climate change etc through our design choices.

Amongst the newest innovations were a material called beLEAF™, a bioleather with an amazing handfeel made from large Brazilian palm leaves. It was still at the experimental stage and I didn’t see any garments made up in the fabric. It did however look very promising and with me being a sucker for anything tropical I instantly started visualising cool palm leaf leather skirts and tote bags.

Another innovation was the Kombucha leather-like fabric, which is basically made from green tea. And the most exciting thing about it; you can make it yourself by following this recipe. Again, this is at the initial stages of development, but it demonstrates how easily we can make materials from a huge variety of plants. As examples, fabrics made from apple, algae and mushrooms are already a reality and I am eagerly waiting for the VEGEA wine leather made from grapes to become widely available.

Another incredibly interesting item was the arrival of biodegradable plastic in the shape of biodegradable polyamide fabrics and compostable bio-material 'plastic' bags. While I am a great advocate of reducing the amount of plastic we use, especially single use plastic, these inventions address the one thing that bothers me about the debate about not using plastic; that is that we are currently missing some sustainable alternatives. Substituting all plastic bags used to protect the garments against moisture and mould during transport with paper alternatives is not really a viable option and it would put enormous pressure on forests. The same goes for substituting all synthetic fibres with natural ones; the amount of land we would need to grow the crops would result in some serious deforestation, which in turn would impact climate change negatively. We need to come up with new sustainable alternatives to both synthetic and natural fibres and this feels like a big step in the right direction, as was the innovation in fabric finishes.

Most fabrics today have undergone some kind of chemical treatment to make them softer, antibacterial, waterproof etc, and we heard from one supplier how they are now in the process of developing finishes that are plant based rather than based on crude oil. Better for the planet – and much better for us too, who at present are being exposed to lots of invisible chemical finishes when we buy new garments.

The things that excited me the most was all the talk about creating a circular economy; the sheer number of fabrics made from recycled materials; and thoughts on how we can be better at designing for recycling/upcycling.

I strongly believe in reusing materials that we have already created from nature’s resources over and over again instead of depleting the planet from natural resources and polluting when transforming them into textile fibres. Planet Earth is such a beautiful place and we really should leave it like that for future generations to come :-)


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