What to Watch in 2021
From Spiber’s Brewed Protein to Yakima Chief Ranches’ breeding of new hop varieties, innovation is brewing in the material world. While there aren’t yet game-changing textiles derived from beer, demand for highly-functional eco-alternatives along with wider acceptance of biotech offerings is opening the door to intriguing textile developments setting new standards in sustainable performance.
“In 2021/22 focus remains on sustainability, that will drive innovation through the next few years. Circular economy is overtaking sustainability in terms of what resonates with industry and consumers. Recycling is getting better. A push to remove plastics continues as bioplastics make strides,” states Dr. Andrew Dent, EVP research with Material ConneXion (MCX). “Also, very important: materials need to have a complete life story; Where the product came from, how it’s used best and what happens at the end of life/after its use,” concludes Dent, who spoke during a MCX-hosted webinar last month.
The presentation provided notable achievements in material science, curated by the MCX research team. Products offering strong crossover potential for the active/outdoor space, including:
1. Ecotach Biodegradable Fasteners by Avery Dennison, “unsung hero of waste mitigation,” these little tags are too small for recycling but are made to degrade into biomass, thus don’t create microplastics.
2. ECOcrete is used in marine environments as a “bio-enhancing” structure. The product promotes seaweed growth while at the same time offering improved structural strength.
3. MemorySil is an adaptive material that can be molded and tuned to different speeds to create increased and decreased cushioning. Its properties are similar to a Tempurpedic foam but MemorySil is silicone-based with extraordinary shape recovery speed that is adjustable and conforming.
Here are a handful of other textile standout ideas on our radar:
The field of biotech is ripe for the picking when it comes to modern fibers and future textiles. Japanese biomaterial manufacturer Spiber and San Francisco-based Bolt Threads are leaders in this category.
4. The Sweater is the newest development between Spiber and longtime collaborator Goldwin apparel brand. It is the first knit garment made from a 30/70 blend of Brewed Protein and wool. Brewed Protein material from Spiber is produced in a microbial fermentation process and consists of sustainable, plant-based raw materials. Considered a vegan fiber, it has the thermal properties of wool and with a corresponding wool-like handfeel. Brewed Protein can also be used as fur or leather substitute.
5. Mylo by Bolt Threads made from renewable mycelium (mushroom protein). In November, Bolt announced the launch of the Mylo consortium, a novel partnership with four global companies — adidas, Kering, Lululemon and Stella McCartney — that collectively represent hundreds of millions of square feet of potential demand for Mylo, and the largest joint development agreement in consumer biomaterials to date, according to the company. Mylo products are slated to debut in stores and online in 2021.
6. Renewables: The Collection of Tomorrow, a collaborative venture of Spinnova and Bergans of Norway, aims to develop products that consist exclusively of renewable resources and are recyclable. The material has just launched for use in the clothing sector in cooperation with new partner Halley Stevensons. The shirt, in the style of a Scandinavian blue-collar worker shirt, features Spinnova’s production technology for cellulose-based textile materials, with fabric made of a mix of Spinnova and Lyocell. The Spinnova process refrains from using harmful chemicals; no waste or side streams are triggered; and 99 percent less water is consumed than traditional cotton production resulting in material that can be repeatedly recycled.
7. Nettle fibers are gaining ground in an ever-expanding category of “new naturals.” Long touted, and around forever, nettles have never been brought to scale. However, it seems this ancient fiber’s moment has arrived. Like hemp, nettles are sustainable thanks to its lower environmental impact and also boast thermo-regulating properties. Other benefits include lightness, very good breathability and are suitable for use as an insulation as nettle fibers are not affected by moisture. Perhaps nettles will follow in hemp’s footsteps, gaining traction in active/outdoor as well as being used in blends to expand into new markets. For example, MOGU, a flooring material that is made with mushroom protein and hemp.
8. Hops: The hop flower, or cone, is used in the beer brewing process, however now new uses for hops waste are being explored as fiber for textiles. Research at the University of Idaho using hops waste from Yakima Chief Ranches, an integrated crop management company specializing in breeding new hop varieties, created a non-woven material to make an inherently strong paper. Next up is textiles. “If more people can get on board with using their byproduct towards a renewable product, it seems like we’d be able to become more sustainable in our practices and have locally sourced materials to create endless amounts of things,” says University of Idaho College of Agricultural and Life Sciences student Maggie Zee whose idea for using hops waste spearheaded the project.