In the Market / Trade Show Scene
Material Evolution
Savian by BioFluff is a plant-based fur that is biodegradable and offers customization possibilities. It is dyed using natural and synthetic dyes.
Cutting-edge sustainable fiber and materials alternatives were shown at the Winter 2024 edition of Texworld New York City at the show’s first Next-Gen Innovation Hub.

We’ve all heard of the surprising — and sometimes kooky — new material ideas for apparel. While many are far from being implemented in the masses, Thomasine Dolan and her team at Material Innovation Initiative (MII) have identified materials that have migrated from concept through product development thanks to science, technology and investors. Cutting-edge sustainable fiber and materials alternatives were shown at the Winter 2024 edition of Texworld New York City at the show’s first Next-Gen Innovation Hub.

Prior to Dolan’s presentation at the show, entitled “Next-Gen Materials and Fiber Innovation: The Journey from Concept to Pilot Lab and Beyond,” we asked the MII Director of Materials Innovation + Design about what she’s seeing in development.

Next-Gen Innovation Hub at Winter 2024 Texworld NYC.

What does MII offer executives/brands in the textile, apparel and footwear industries?

“MII offers unbiased information to brands about next-gen materials and fibers coming into the market. Many of these innovators are inundated with brand requests. As a partner; we are able to make serious introductions for brands. Additionally, we have a database of innovators from all over the world to help zero in on a brand’s needs.  

In February we will be publishing our annual ‘State of the Industry Report.’ It captures consumer habits and opinions on sustainable next-gen materials. We track where the money is going – from investors to brands to consumers. We talk to key stakeholders across industries. We also put out ‘Brand Engagement with Next-Gen Materials’ reports showcasing collaborations between brands and innovators. Throughout the year, we host free webinars to keep the community informed and engaged.”

How did your partnership with Texworld for the Next-Gen Innovation Hub arise?

“MII is a non-profit dedicated to the development and adoption of sustainable, environmentally preferred, animal-free materials. Texworld reached out to us as the experts in next-gen materials in order to bring together a specially curated group of material innovators to showcase the existing beautiful, environmentally preferred and animal free materials brands can use in their collections. We wanted to make it easy for attendees at one of the biggest sourcing shows in the world to experience these materials.  Many next-gen innovations are still under the radar for a lot of people in the industry. Last year MII gave an introductory presentation at Texworld’s Textile Talks and it was a packed, highly engaged audience, so we knew there was interest.”

Tell me about a couple of exciting new materials that are relevant to apparel or footwear. What makes each special and innovative?

“All of the next-gen innovators we track at MII built their technology to be sustainable. They have worked laboriously on sourcing inputs that are renewable and use less energy than incumbent materials. Innovators have baked sustainability into their technology. That was a starting place for them, unlike many incumbent fibers and materials that are now trying to retrofit. With more next-gen fibers and materials proving their viability (via scalability, performance and aesthetic range) this new industry will be normalized in less than 10 years.”

Here are a few examples, from Dolan:

Kintra Fibers has developed a versatile fiber that can drop into existing polyester weaving and knitting machines resulting in textiles that mimic silk, polyester or high-end cottons for apparel and athletic wear.”

“Nanollose has made a lyocell that behaves like a luxury silk jersey when knitted, with the added bonus of not relying on trees to create their fiber. Their fiber Nullarbor can be used in standard operating equipment. They are building out a production facility in India this year. The tree-free fiber takes less than one month to grow and requires very little land, water or energy to produce.”

Modern Synthesis uses bacteria to create super strong nanocellulose to grow their next-gen leather. Their co-founder came from the athletic footwear industry and wanted to make uppers that offered high performance with low environmental impact. They are currently growing their production capabilities.”

BioFluff innovates fur made totally from renewable plant fibers and agricultural waste. This innovation can be seen in Stella McCartney’s latest sustainable collection. BioFluff’s next-gen fur can be developed to mimic shearling, fleece and fur in a variety of lengths and color.”

“AMSilk has developed a protein fiber that mimics silk. Originally based on reproducing spider silk, it is soft, superfine (more delicate than mulberry silk) and their lightweight fibers  are suitable for apparel and strong enough for uppers on a sneaker. Their tech uses renewable raw materials, is biodegradable, fully recyclable, has a lower carbon footprint and offers superior performance compared to petroleum-based and animal-based alternatives.”