Designer and entrepreneur Jalila Essaïdi went about to completely deconstruct manure and use derived cellulose as raw material for new products, including haute couture clothing. Essaïdi sees herself as a pioneer looking for solutions for major social issues, and Mestic is a manifestation to all of her works.
The California company Bolt Threads has launched a product called Engineered Silk. In developing the fabric, the creators bioengineered a process use fermentations of sugar, water, salts, and yeast. The resulting liquid protein undergoes further processing with wet-spinning that turns the liquid into fiber, in a process similar to the way that acrylic and rayon fabrics are made. The firm states that its Engineered Silk has the identical chemistry to naturally occurring silks from spiders or silk worms.
Bolt Threads touts the “Made in America” theme. All production is currently in the U.S. and the firm indicates they plan to keep it there, using domestically grown crops and manufacturing. The company says that Engineered Silk was motivated by the fact that the textile industry is among the dirtiest industries on the planet. According to the World Bank, 20-percent of water pollution globally results from textile processing. The firm says it is committed to developing products with the lowest possible environmental footprint.
The waste from kombucha tea forms the grist for a line of wearable products created by several designers, including Young-A Lee, an associate professor of apparel, merchandising, and design at Iowa State University. Kombucha tea is a fermented drink, formed by symbiotic bacteria and yeast, and often touted for health benefits. The bacteria-yeast complex creates cellulose once the brewing process is complete. The finished product is cellulose-based fabric for clothing, handbags, and the like. The kombucha culture can also be combined with yeast to create a curd, which is then stretched and dried, becoming a sort of “vegan leather.”
In Australia, Peter Musk heads the country’s kombucha bio-textile research program at Queensland University of Technology. He has described kombucha fabric as smelly and unpredictable but sustainable. His colleague and department head, Dean Brough, says “In principle you could actually make a garment out of kombucha fabric, put it in a blender, re-blend it and make another garment because it’s just a cellulose fabric.”
The “kombucha-clothes” concept was pioneered in 2003 by London-based fashion designer Suzanne Lee. The downside is short shelf life. Normal wear and tear will cause the fabric to decompose since the fabric is somewhat hygroscopic. Treating the fabric with oils or similar hydrophobic substances help to increase shelf life, and research continues.
Another effort to turn food waste into fashion comes from a Philippines firm, Ananas Anam, which has the patented process to convert pineapple leaves into an environmentally friendly leather alternative. The textile, Piñatex, in addition to doing away with the fruit refuse, additionally provides a new revenue source for pineapple farmers.
Fibers from the pineapple leaves are extracted then woven by hand, creating a glossy but stiff, material that is breathable and comparable to raw silk. The fiber takes natural dyes very well. The firm makes several types of fabrics from pineapple fiber. Piñatex has been used commercially to make sneakers, bags, laptop cases, and similar consumer goods.
Piñatex is the creation of Carmen Hijosa, who left her work in the traditional leather industry and spent seven years at the Royal College of Art in London, developing the material into a patented product while she earned a PhD. Hijosa is now running the start-up from her London base–at age 64.
Plastic Bottle and Coffee Yarn
Singtex, based in Taipei, Taiwan, is the inventor of S.Café an eco-friendly yarn, made from plastic bottles and coffee grounds, created in 2008. The firm advertises that their yarn has de-odorizing properties, is fast drying, and UV-resistant. Made from discarded plastic bottles and coffee grounds, this green, high-tech yarn is not used is an individual fabric, but is applied to other textiles. There have been applications with sports clothing, outdoor recreation clothing, home clothing, casual clothing, underwear, bed ware and accessories. Clothing brands Hugo Boss, Timberland, and Warrior have created products using S.Café. A new development by the company, a fabric called Stormfleece was launched in 2017, as a weather-resistant fiber for ski wear and similar outfitting.
Fish Skin Leather
Canadian firm Sea Leather Wear Fish produces leather and suede from the waste of the canning industry. The Calgary-based company purchases from the canneries the skins of non-endangered fish such as cod, salmon, carp, sturgeon, catfish, and perch. Normally, canneries would dump skins in the oceans where they become another pollutant.