Sustainability trend focus: Natural performance
Natural raw materials provide innovation opportunities for new types of trims, colouration and finishes
As previously reported, the concept of natural performance is a compelling trend for lifestyle, sportswear and outdoor brands and in this article, sustainable design expert Anne Prahl dives deeper into some of the most promising new textile and product innovations.
Plant and organism-based textile innovation
Ever since German company SmartFiber launched SeaCellTM, which is produced using the Lyocell process, in 2003, there has been interest in seaweed-based fabrics. Seaweed is often described as boasting inherent substances such as vitamins, amino acids and minerals, which could potentially have well-being benefits for the wearer. A number of sports and underwear brands have used seaweed-based textiles over the years but as the benefits are hard to prove scientifically, commercial breakthrough has been lacking.
Partially inspired by increased innovation activities in the food, pharmaceuticals and biofuels industries, seaweed and algae based materials are now attracting much attention from a new generation of material, apparel and footwear start-ups and innovators. Following in the footsteps of artificial spider silk and leather-like materials grown from mycelium or collagen, seaweed and algae also offer environmental benefits, such as the reduction of carbon footprint and non-renewable resource depletion, as well as the opportunity to create biodegradable products as part of a circular design strategy. In addition, the removal of algae bloom from the sea and other waterways can contribute to reducing water pollution and maintaining a healthier ecosystem. The conversion of algae bloom into sustainable foam for footwear, accessories and components for surfboards is already revolutionising the sportswear and outdoor industry.
Materials science collective Pangaia have recently developed seaweed fibre for a range of t-shirts, as they are impressed with the material’s performance benefits and sustainability credentials. The company believe that the fibre is preferable to pure cotton in an activewear context, as it can absorb sweat much faster while being light, breathable and soft to wear. The fabric is produced in the same way as Lyocell, benefitting from a closed-loop process, where zero chemical are released and the seaweed is firmly embedded within a GOTS certified organic cotton. The styles are also treated with natural peppermint oil to keep it fresher for longer to reduce the need for washing.
With a view to providing thermal regulation and anti-bacterial properties, Ashford & The Fabric Workshop (TFW) presented its first fabrics to use a regenerated cellulose and algae fibre called Celp at ISPO 2020. The company’s Climate Solve TM Lyocell is a phase change material that absorbs excess body heat and releases it again to the body when needed and is further enhanced by the infusion of it’s Celp anti-bacterial sea algae. Pima Cotton, Climate Solve TM Lyocell, antimicrobial polyester and spandex are combined to make the fabric suitable for sports underwear and performance t-shirts.
Algae has also inspired the manufacture of new, sustainable colouration and finishing processes, which will be critical to developing the circular fashion system efficiently. British Outdoor brand Vollebak’s Plant and Algae t-shirt utilised fabric that has been made from eucalyptus and beech from sustainably manage forests and instead of dyeing, the company decided to print the front of the t-shirt with natural pigments created from algae grown in bioreactors. This means the colour of the print will naturally change and fade over time, while the entire t-shirt is biodegradable at end-of-life.
Swiss-based textile chemical producer Beyond Surface Technologies (BST), presented their collection of plant and microalgae based performance finishes at OutDoor Ispo last year. The company’s miDori® bioWick and miDori® bioDry are both microalgae based and engineered to wick away moisture and be quick drying on synthetics, blends or cotton, while miDori® bioSoft is a plant seed based softener for cotton and cotton blends. Brands including Patagonia, Adidas, Levi’s, The North Face, Tommy Hilfiger and Lululemon have already adopted some of the company’s technologies.
As demonstrated at ISPO 2020, concept collections are a great way to experiment and test potential new textile technologies and design approaches to generate industry and consumer feedback to advance innovation. Two pieces that stood out at the show were the adidas Terrex Futurecraft.Loop Anorak and Bergans cellulose-based backpack, as both products are designed from mono-materials and are therefore infinitely recyclable.
In order to explore sustainable textile manufacturing alternatives for the future, PUMA has been working on three bio-design projects, which focus on the innovation of biodegradable lifestyle and performance apparel. The most recent collection, ‘Design to Fade’, is a collaboration with Dutch project Living Colour and Swedish design studio Streamateria and investigates the use of bacteria-generated dyes. In addition, the pieces are constructed from a printed mesh-structure, which is coated with a bio-plastic.
Garment manufacturer LTP’s conceptual lightweight outdoor jacket was created for the April 2020 edition of functional fabric fair Performance Days, which took place under the theme ‘Inspired by Nature’. This innovative piece was selected to be part of the Forum area, which highlighted the latest performance fabrics, trims and treatments that took their cues from nature, while providing functions and features such as thermoregulation, moisture management, water repellency, anti-bacterial, odour control and UV protection.
To create a clean aesthetic for both outdoor and lifestyle use, the jacket was designed with minimal lines seams. The innovation team chose a 100% organic and GOTS certified cotton fabric from HERMIN Textile Co., Ltd., which provides water-repellency thanks to an eco wax treatment. The classic styling is complemented by a clever use of laser-cut branding on the collar to offer a ventilation zone, as well as a unique heat transfer printed logo, which consists of skin and eco-friendly 30% natural Matcha tea and 70% water-based PU ink.
LTP’s 360° Innovation Book
All the latest material innovation trends are featured in LTP’s 360° Innovation Book. This resource is available to all existing customers as part of the companies Value Added Services which are strategically developed to provide brands with the tools to drive new and exciting product developments.
LTP is a Danish owned garment manufacturer for +60 premium brands within active sportswear, outdoor, athleisure and sustainable fashion. LTP was established in 1991, and is probably the biggest Sport & Outdoor garment manufacturer in Europe with bluesign & GOTS setups in Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine and Vietnam.
LTP consists of two divisions; LTP Garment and LTP Contract Furniture producing in nine fully-owned factories. For more details visit www.ltpgroup.com
About Anne Prahl
New sustainable design expert at LTP, Anne is a London-based, independent design professional specialising in sustainable design, research and innovation for the sportswear and fashion industry. You can find out more about her work via Linkedin or get in touch at: firstname.lastname@example.org