Dec 20, 2023
by Karl Smith
The Next-Generation Material Innovation News You Need to Know
by Karl Smith
Dec 20, 2023

It may not be over quite yet, but we’re confident in saying that 2023 has been all about innovation. A quick glance at FUTUREVVORLD’s list of the year’s 10 best Earth-friendlier projects – itself just a snapshot of the last 365 days of progress – is proof enough of that.

Progress, of course, demands perpetual motion – constant change to keep things moving in the right direction. And, with that in mind, it ought to come as no surprise that, even with just over 10 days left in the year, things on that front show no signs of slowing down. Innovation, it seems, has no respect for anything so old fashioned as the calendar year.

So, as things keep on moving, we make it our business to keep up with those movements and to pass on the news we think you need to know. Some of these updates might seem small, at least in the grand scheme of things, but change isn’t just constant – it’s also cumulative.

Nothing is insignificant; every little thing adds up.

From shrimp shells to champagne, regenerated polyester to plant-based faux fur, here are the the latest ripples and waves in the world material innovation.

TômTex Lands Funding for New Biomaterial

When we talk about a new material made from shrimp, we expect that conversation to raise eyebrows – but there’s nothing ethically fishy here. (Sorry.)

Made from the biopolymer chitosan, TômTex – a versatile leather alternative – is crafted primarily from food waste, using discarded shrimp shells as its primary source of the base material. And, after a second successful round of funding – winning investment from Happiness Capital, SOSV, MIH Capital, and most interestingly, from Parley for the Oceans – the New York-based innovator has raised a total of $4.15 million USD to push its Earth-friendlier endeavors forward.

While it’s relevant to ask questions about whether the product is technically vegan – yes, it is technically animal-derived, yes it technically benefits from the machinations of the seafood industry – it’s also worth noting that, while chitosan is found across nature, including in mushrooms and in coffee, its abundant presence in crustacean cast-offs means making the best of a bad situation.

Or, as it’s otherwise known, progress.

Renewcell Sales Drop Once Again

In less positive (although somewhat unsurprising) news, it seems Circular textile leader Renewcell has taken another hit. Having not so long ago established itself as a strong contender to revolutionize the fashion industry, the Swedish outfit has taken a series of heavy knocks since going public in 2020.

This latest setback, though, is indicative of a broader issue – not with the quality of Renewcell’s flagship product, Circulose, but with the industry’s hunger for change. Or, rather, lack of it.

With sales now sitting at 11% of production – despite a commitment from Zara parent Inditex to buy the “first available” 2,000 tons of CirculoseRenewcell is sitting on a huge product surplus and an even bigger surplus of questions about the future.

BioFluff Raises New Funds to Take on the Fur Industry

Don’t let the cute name fool you, BioFluff is dangerous. Not a danger to the planet – and certainly not to the animals that its plant-based fur alternative is saving from harm – but a real threat to a fur industry already besieged by protest and legislation designed to curb its output.

Having raised $2.5 million USD in a fresh funding round, the biomaterials startup – based between New York and Paris – is looking to expand its operation. Working with manufacturers in Italy, BioFluff is working to end not only the archaic prevalence of fur in fashion, but also its environmentally detrimental replacement with virgin plastics in so-called “vegan” alternatives.

Ambercycle Partners with GANNI in Material Innovation Push

Danish brand GANNI has built its reputation on two pillars: affordable luxury and a focus on sustainability.

When it comes to the first of these two cornerstones, the idea is simple – good quality products at prices that allow people to own good quality products. The second, not unrelated, is a little more fluid: for GANNI, sustainability has meant (and continues to mean) many things, from transparency about the impact of its own production to collaboration with some of the most forward-thinking material innovators out there.

And – after working with Modern Synthesis earlier this year on a version of its Bou Bag crafted from bacteria – it’s that innovation aspect once again coming to the fore of GANNI’s process.

Teaming this time with material science company Ambercycle, GANNI is bringing the regenerated polyester product cycora into the fold of its Future of Fabrics program. First using the material, partially made from post-consumer waste, in its GANNI SPORT collection, cycora’s entry into the canon of GANNI’s progressive materials will likely see it back again to replace other plastics across the brand’s offering.

Living Ink is Scaling Sustainable Pigment

By anyone’s standards, Living Ink has had an impressive 2023 – a year best encapsulated by its success in continuing to convince Nike, a brand with near-unparalleled cultural (and financial) capital, that algae ink is an innovation worth investing in; a year in which the technology not only appeared m mom where you might expect – in a shoe like the Nike ISPA Mindbody – but also as part of Nike’s ongoing partnership with Billie Eilish.

Now, with all of that in the back pocket, the progressive pigment outfit is closing out the year with another success – the kind you can put a dollar value on. Having raised $3.5 million USD in a new round of funding, 2024 should see Living Ink taking its mission up a notch in terms of scale and scope, evangelizing for algae to anyone who’ll listen. (And they should.)

Stella McCartney Partners with Veuve Clicquot

As far as unexpected partnerships go, luxury fashion and high-end champagne doesn’t even rank – anyone that has been to a fashion week event or even a designer showroom can attest to the fact that this collaboration is a tale old as time.

Still, there are some surprises left in the world.

Rather than partnering to celebrate excess and extravagance in the time-honored tradition, Stella McCartney and Veuve Clicquot have connected to turn waste into want – transforming a mix of grape stems and recycled materials into VEGEA, a leather alternative that claims a “40% lower global warming effect” and which “slashes water usage by 50% compared to fossil fuel-based leather substitutes.”

Cheers to that.

Ambercycle Pulls in Capital for Decarbonization

Making its second appearance on this list, it seems Ambercycle has had a busy month. Having previously mentioned its new partnership with GANNI – and, before that, a new deal with Zara parent Inditex – the Los Angeles-based innovation start-up has now raised funds to deliver on the promise of those connections.

Receiving an injection of $5 million USD from DRIVE Catalyst – the Far East Group’s venture capital wing – Ambercycle will now invest in building a commercial-scale facility to deliver its textile-to-textile polyester, created from end-of-life material waste, at the necessary levels to meet increasing demand.

More than this, though, the partnership will draw on the knowledge of both parties – the Far East Group having a near-century of expertise and contacts in the production of traditional polyester – in order to affect a wider and much needed change in the fossil-dependant apparel industry.