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Sustainability in the Fashion Industry

Sustainable fashion is about producing clothes and accessories in an environmentally, socially friendly manner and changing how the consumer treats fashion by improving education, attitude and behaviour. It is also up to the fashion companies to change their production, distribution and overall practice to help achieve a sustainable industry.

Helping lead the way, The Sustainable Angle, a not-for-profit organisation initiating and supporting projects which contribute to minimising the environmental impact of the industry, showcased a huge range of sustainable materials at an exhibition held at the Discovery Lab at February’s London Fashion Week. The Discovery Lab showed existing alternatives such as post-consumer recycled denim, grape leather, low impact wools and organic knits as well as future fabrics that are currently in the prototype stage.


Lenzing, a fibre manufacturing company, has successfully produced fibres from trees, making textiles and non-woven products. Dubbed the ‘fibre of the future’, TENCEL™ fibres are created using replenishable raw wood, originating from forestry which practices sustainability. Pure pulp is extracted from the wood, which then makes fibres via an advanced 'closed loop' solvent spinning process, with minimal impact on the environment and economical use of energy and water. The solvent used in the process is toxic but 99% is recovered and continually recycled. The closed loop process received the “European Award for the Environment” from the European Union. TENCEL™ fibres are notably more absorbent than cotton, softer than silk and cooler than linen.

Transforming the future of eco-couture, TENCEL™ Luxe filaments produce lightweight, smooth fabrics, ideal for creating a flattering silhouette. TENCEL™ Luxe filaments are naturally breathable due to their wood-based origin and offer outstanding colour, enabling designers to create bold colour palettes without restriction.

Refibra™ is reinventing TENCEL™ fibres. Refibra™ fibres are made from pulp that contains cotton scraps left over from cutting operations and wood, reducing the need to extract additional raw materials from nature, in turn, lowering the impact on natural resources. Based on the technology of TENCEL™, Refibra™ fibres are an extraordinary revolution and most likely the most sustainable fibres from natural raw materials.


Piñatex is an innovative natural textile made from pineapple leaf fibre, the by-product of existing agriculture. No additional land, water, pesticides or fertiliser are required to produce the raw material, and its use creates a new income stream for subsistent farming communities. Designed for use as a low-impact alternative to leather and pollution synthetics, Piñatex is strong, flexible, breathable and versatile. It can be easily cut, debossed and embroidered for footwear, fashion, furniture and beyond.

The founder of Ananas Anam Ltd, Dr. Carmen Hijosa’s inspiration for Piñatex came about in the 90s whilst consulting on the Philippines leather export industry. Inspired by the traditional weaving of the plant fibre to form the Barong Tagalog (the national dress of the Philippines), she sought to create a new, non-woven textile that could be commercially produced, provide positive social and economic impact and maintain a low environmental footprint throughout its life cycle.

Orange Fiber

In Italy, the citrus industry discards one million tonnes of citrus fruit peels annually. While the peels are biodegradable, it still costs to dispose of them properly.

Orange Fiber, an Italian company founded by Adriana Santanocito and Enrica Arena, is the world’s first and only brand to produce a patented material from citrus juice by-products, repurposing them to create fabrics. The fabric is formed by spinning the silk-like cellulose into yarn that can be blended with other materials. In its purest form, the 100% citrus textile is super light-weight, features a soft and silky hand-feel, and can be opaque or iridescent.

Last year, Salvatore Ferragamo launched an exciting capsule collection in collaboration with Orange Fiber. Consistent with their motto ‘Responsible Passion’, the collection paid tribute to the Mediterranean with gorgeous prints designed by Mario Trimarchi.

Fashioned by Nature

Maryssa Cook-Obregòn and Laure Fernandez are MA Fashion Futures students at London College of Fashion, who collaborated on a project for the Welcome Trust. They developed a series of bio-materials from readily available food ingredients to exhibit and show the potential of growing your own fabric. The ingredients used were vegan, non-toxic and biodegradable.

Post-Carbon Fashion

Born and raised in the Taiwanese countryside, Dian-Jen Lin is an MA Fashion Futures student from London College of Fashion. She has an innate awareness of the symbiosis between humanity and nature, with a particular interest in science, technology and ecological ethics.

Selected by Stella McCartney as a winner of the 2017 Kering award for Innovation in Fashion & Sustainability, Dian-Jen Lin’s project was about developing and testing post-carbon materials to design garments that have photosynthetic or pollution-filtering properties. Whilst she is still in the preliminary stage, she has merged algae cultures with fibres and her initial results have been promising; one post carbon t-shirt can produce 4% more oxygen than a tree.

Sustainable Sequins

Today’s sequins are made from plastic and an alarming mix of chemicals, which stay in landfill for approximately 2000 years.

Rachel Clowes has developed organic bio-plastic sequins coloured with natural dyes as a sustainable alternative to the everyday shiny embellishments.

The life span of Rachel’s sequins is appropriate to the average use of occasion wear; two or three events. The sequins are designed to shimmer at special occasions before melting away to produce a new colour and pattern, leaving you with an everyday piece of clothing.

These sequins are currently at prototype stage, but Rachel is hoping to make them commercially available very soon. They will be available in standard pre-cut shapes as well as custom designed.

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