Trendsetting Solutions

Directional Developments


The upcoming Fall/Winter 2024/25 season is packed with possibilities. Innovation is rampant in today’s textile offerings achieving new levels of eco-performance as suppliers continue to create trendsetting solutions that feature functionality and maximum sustainability. Circular thinking is integral to new collections. More so than ever, material-wise companies lean into processes and systems that close the loop. Enthusiasm around recycled, regenerative and “re-everything” has the textile community more open to collaboration and investment in a collective effort to provide infrastructure for circularity. Many believe we’re experiencing a tipping point in textile inventiveness, a moment in time that looks to usher in durable, long-lasting environmentally-aware materials for uses that extend beyond apparel into shoes, bags and trims. In other words, cool ideas are becoming a reality.

“This is the most exciting era of material development in the last 30 years, there is so much interesting material development going at this point of time,” comments active/outdoor industry veteran and textile specialist Brian La Plante. In the three years La Plante has been with YKK, the company has created a non-toxic chemical finishing process for its product that is kinder to the environment, while taking a forward-thinking approach to innovation on garment recycling and the need for digital passports. According to La Plante, YKK is committed to a goal of being 100 percent sustainable textiles by 2030. 

Alexa Dehmel, textile consultant and active/sports designer, also characterizes today’s textiles as exciting. She highlights three major developments to watch: Converting end-of-life tires into recycled nylon in a process called pyrosis has an amazing future, according to Dehmel, who sees more suppliers entering the market; Catching gas from factories for carbon capture technology; and a shift away from bottle recycling to a future of fiber recycling in circular systems. Dehmel states, “It is so beautiful what happens when exhibitors and mills really develop these concepts into yarn.” 

To put this in context, of the 1000 fabric swatches submitted for consideration to be included in the Performance Forum at the Functional Fabric Fair, 316 fabrics were selected from 185 exhibitors along with 56 accessory items. Two award winning fabrications reflect what excites the textile community right now. Performance Award winner Long Advance introduced a monocomponent 2-layer fabric made from 45 percent polyester/ 55 percent recycled poly from recycled textiles, laminated with a PET membrane that serves as a great example of how fabrications will promote recyclable fabric based on circular design and construction. Pontetorto won the Eco Performance award with a midlayer fabric made with a blend of 23 percent hemp/69 percent recycled poly/9 percent recycled elastane. The takeaway here is that materials with low CO2 footprint during production and low release levels of microplastics into the environment are garnering attention. Additionally, the Pontetorto fabric offers 4-way stretch, fast drying and optimal breathability. 

Another indicator of the direction the industry is headed is that at Functional Fabric Fair and Performance Days trade shows, fabric has to have 51 percent sustainable content to feature in the Forum area. To be included in the specific Focus Topic category, fabric has to feature a low carbon emissions and a HIGG measurement. A new Suede quality from AX Materials, for instance, was described on the fabric label this way:  60 percent polyamide, 40 percent PU and highlighted a carbon footprint of 11.1 kg Co2e/kg and a HIGG MSI of 10.6.

“The trend is net-zero,” surmises Dehmel. “Today, as much carbon as you create you need to manage and store away.” Currently, in Iceland, a project is underway that involves sequestering carbon and storing it in blocks underground. The intent is that in the future synthetic materials will be made with this stored sequestered carbon.  

Consumption is increasingly included in conversations around carbon. “If we can increase the use of products by another seven months, we can reduce our carbon impact by 20 to 30 percent.” said La Plante. “Brands don’t have any responsibility for the product once it is sold and the challenge on the design side is a lack of cross-department collaboration  with execs siloed and not working together on solutions.” He adds, “Also, right now there isn’t a playbook for designing with circularity.” 

What Defines What’s Next

Plant-based technologies: expanding from clothing into footwear category and bags.

Circular solutions: textile to textile recycling: companies focused on new ways to renew, reuse, repair textiles and garments. 

Carbon Capture innovation: still in pilot stage, yet making strides in functionality and aesthetic value.  

Regenerative: elevating the role of the farmer, and emphasis on climate-focused land management.