Feb 15, 2024
by Karl Smith
Next-Gen Material Innovation News You Need to Know this Month – Part One
by Karl Smith
Feb 15, 2024

Having already gotten off to a flying start back in January, February looks set to bring even more updates on the material innovation front – serious news of partnerships, funding, breakthroughs, and developments genuinely capable of making real, tangible change across footwear, fashion and design. So much so, in fact, that one round-up is looking likely to cut it and we’ve opted to split this bumper crop into two separate editions.

Which, of course, is great: the notion that there is so much progress happening in such a relatively short span of time feels like a tipping point – an inflection moment, where things really could shift in the right direction.

And so, from plant-based fur to pineapple yarn, fabrics made from Sicilian orange peel to a promising upgrade for cruelty-free leather and a serious boom for regenerative rubber, this is the next-generation material innovation news you need to know this month. Well, part one, anyway.

GANNI Debuts BioFluff Bou Bags, Spotlighting the Plant-based and Plastic Free Fur Alternative

Having mentioned BioFluff in our last material round-up, it’s great to see that innovation already being put to good use. Picked up by – no surprises here – forward-thinking Danish brand GANNI, the plant-based fur alternative has made its way onto a selection of bags from the Scandinavian fashion label.

Revealed during Copenhagen Fashion Week – which has, itself, become something of a destination for more progressive fashion over the last few years – the special-edition version of the brand’s Bou Bag use Savian’s plastic-free material, created from nettle, hemp and flax fibres.

Like other similar GANNI projects, the BioFluff Bou Bags are one-off pieces, not manufactured at scale, so they’re basically a prototype. The existence of these prototypes, however – the very fact that a brand like GANNI continues to test innovations like this – points to BioFluff’s promise as a material that could well make its way into the fashion mainstream fairly soon. (What you think of the bags themselves, however – well – that’s a matter of taste.)

Copenhagen Fashion Week Partners with Renewcell’s CIRCULOSE to Champion New, Forward-thinking Design

Staying with Copenhagen for a moment – and why not, you know, it really is a beautiful city – this partnership is something of a returning event, marking the official restart of the spotlight NEWTALENT scheme for emerging brands. Not so much about the material itself, this collaboration positions the Swedish material innovation outfit – beset, of late, by some serious issues – as a name to connect with serious, forward-thinking fashion.

In backing these up-and-coming labels – names like Rolf Ekroth, Nicklas Skovgaard, Alectra Rothschild and Stamm – Renewcell, under the banner of its flagship CIRCULOSE product, shines a much-deserved light on labels which are genuinely, tangibly, changing the game. And, of course, wins some much-needed cultural capital and good will in the process.

Circ® and PYRATEX® Collaborate and Combine Their Skills for the Greater Good

When it comes to fashion, to footwear, and to design, everything is a balance of form and function. Usually that means how something looks and how something works, but this partnership follows that same pattern in a particularly literal sense – material innovation and manufacturing knowhow.

Having provided a first-look at Première Vision in Paris, the just-announced collaboration combines Circ®’s next-generation material solutions with the mechanical infrastructure and craft specialism of PYRATEX® – experts in the spinning, knitting, dyeing and finishing innovative fibers. In uniting the two companies respective capabilities, this effectively opens the door to faster, smoother, and scaled production of next-generation materials for fashion, paving the way for a more progressive future.

Cultivated Leather Gets a Push in the Right Direction (Forwards) With New Qorium Funding

Having spent a decade pioneering cultivated meat, the latest venture from Dutch pharmacologist Mark Post also provides something interesting to chew over – albeit in a very different way. Qorium, founded in partnership with Rutger Ploem, Stef Kranendijk, and Maastricht University, takes the knowledge gained in the cultured food sector and applies it to leather for apparel, footwear and design purposes.

According to Silicon Canals, “Qorium claims that, compared to traditional leather, its cultivated leather is made by using 99 per cent less water, 66 per cent less energy, and without polluting the first two phases of the tanning process – most importantly, without any methane gas emitted by the cows responsible for the global 2 billion square meters/year conventional leather market.”

All of which explains operations like Brightlands Venture Partners and Sofinnova Partners might want to put their money – an undisclosed sum – into the project.

Haute Couture Gets a Taste for Pulp Thanks to Orange Fiber, TENCEL and PEET DULLAERT

Paris-based PEET DULLAERT may not be the best-known label in the world’s fashion capital, but – in bringing some semblance of an Earth-friendlier ethos to Paris Haute Couture Week – that may well be about to change. Collaborating with TENCEL – the material innovation company best known for its wood-based fibers – and Orange Fiber (which you might correctly assume works with the orange fruit as a material source), DULLAERT’s Spring/Summer 2024 collection featured hand-sewn pieces, crafted from TENCEL™ LUXE and the pulp of Sicilian orange peel.

Couture Week isn’t exactly famous for its Earth-friendlier credentials – more so than even other Fashion Week events across the world, owing to both the carbon footprint of its attendees and to the “exotic” nature of many of the materials on show – and any brand making an effort to change that deserves recognition. Doing it with this kind of style and this level of artisanal savoir-faire, however, ought to earn PEET DULLAERT considerable plaudits.

What this collaboration proves – and there is a fairly substantial subsection of the Fashion Industry which does need this proving – is that high-quality craft and progressive material choices are not, in any way, mutually exclusive. If anything, in fact, this proves just how compatible they are.

Natural Fiber Welding and Terra Genesis Give Regenerative Rubber a Serious Bounce

If you’re a regular here you’re probably familiar with Natural Fiber Welding. (If you’re not, the materials science company is responsible for needle-moving innovations like MIRUM, CLARUS and PLIANT.) You might, however, even as a frequent FVV attendee, be less familiar with Terra Genesis – a Regenerative Design firm, operating at the “intersection of agriculture, ecology, and enterprise,” and NFW’s latest partner in progress.

In a collaboration that intends to bring more regenerative rubber to the footwear industry, the plan (first set in place toward the end of 2023) is to develop a rubber supply chain for Natural Fiber Welding’s MIRUM(R) and PLIANT™ products, sources from farmer cooperatives in Thailand using Wanakaset regenerative practices. According to NFW’s Alan Lugo, “By using symbiotic polycultures, these Wanakaset rubber gardens come to resemble the native rainforest and create positive feedback loops for the surrounding ecosystems, restoring and supporting biodiversity.”

Which, essentially, means more of NFW’s wholly bio-based products available for an industry in serious need of new ways of thinking and new materials to work with. As Lugo says: “NFW creates only 100% Biobased materials, meaning that when we use Regenerative rubber, we are not mixing and blending it with synthetics which kills the materials ability to fit within nature’s circular ecosystem, the Ground Rules approach NFW follows is being realized here in a powerful way.”

BANANATEX Lines Up a New Project, Promising Positive Change

There are no prizes given here for guessing the source material of BANANATEX – the clue is very much in the name. Regardless, that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few surprises still to come, courtesy of the QWSTION-developed Swiss operation. Take this latest news, for example, which teases a collaboration between sustainable textile company POSITIVE MATERIALS, Earth-friendlier pigment innovators Nature Coatings Inc., and the aforementioned plastic-free fruit fiber company.

There’s little actual news, as yet, on what this three-way partnership actually entails – but, with all three being major players in the next-gen materials sector, and each bringing something interesting to the table, there’s every reason to hold out hope for the big reveal.

Ananas Anam Partners with Tearfil to Give Pineapple Fabrics Juice

And speaking of fruit fibers, Ananas Anam – the London-headquartered purveyor of pineapple-based textiles – is rounding out part one of this month’s need-to-know innovation news, announcing a partnership with the Portuguese spinning mill Tearfil.

According to Ananas Anam, “The partnership provides opportunities for Tearfil to develop sustainable yarns created from ANAM PALF® in a closed-loop production, using their dry spinning technology that ensures zero waste and uses zero harmful chemicals. Meanwhile we are able to offer our customers the best access to high-quality, dry spun yarns and help to bring new natural materials to the market and end-consumers.”

Like all good partnerships, it’s a symbiotic arrangement – a collaboration that will allow the two innovative outfits a chance to expand on their existing, mutually-beneficial relationship, and bring further developments in sustainable fabrics and forward-thinking modes of production. Not bad going for a pineapple.