5 of the Best Alt-Fabrics on the Market Right Now!
Graphic created by Josh Stevenson (Fullest Media)
Alt-fabric may be a term unfamiliar to many of you, and understandably so, as it is not in use in the mainstream at present. An alt-fabric is a fabric made using alternative and unusual materials and/or processes. Many of these are created with the idea of sustainability in mind, but before we get stuck in to the list, let’s just run over some facts.
Why are Alt-Fabrics necessary?
The fashion industry is the second largest polluter in the world. It has large impacts on several areas of the environment including:
- Water pollution: Toxic waste water from clothing factories in developing countries gets dumped into local rivers
- Excessive water consumption: 1.5 trillion litres of water are used by the fashion industry each year
- Microfibers in our oceans: 190,000 tons of microplastic fibers end up in the oceans each year
- Waste accumulation: Only 15% of clothing is recycled or donated
- Chemical addiction: These chemicals cause disease and death among cotton farmers
- Greenhouse gas emissions: The fashion industry is responsible for 10% of carbon emissions
- Soil degradation: 90% of Mongolia’s surface is facing desertification primarily due to the breeding of goats for cashmere
- Rainforest destruction: 70 million tress are cut down every year for clothing
Of course, all of these consequences have huge consequences for the earth, and all life on it. But there has been a rise in popularity in recent years in companies looking into sustainable and eco-friendly alternatives to traditional fabrics and clothing production methods, and I’m bringing you 5 of the best (in no particular order)! So, let’s get to it…
Okay, I might’ve lied and this company might be my personal favourite, but that is mainly because I am addicted to coffee and I could probably provide the raw materials for the company single-handedly!
S.Café, founded in 2009 by Jason Chen, takes waste coffee grounds, puts them through a low-temperature, high-pressure energy saving process and combines them with yarn to create a material with benefits far superior to cotton.
The natural properties of the coffee grounds means that the material has excellent odour control, dries 200% faster than cotton, UV protection and cooling properties! It also resists changes to the material caused by washing or wear and tear, meaning that you are getting much longer lasting garments for your money!
Agraloop was debuted at the 2019 Global Change Awards, and was invented by Circular Systems, a company that uses materials science to create technology designed to have a positive impact on the environment.
The Agraloop takes agricultural waste such as oilseed hemp, oilseed flax, wheat, rice, corn, pineapple leaves and banana trunks to create BioFibre which is then applied to yarn to create fabric. The product is highly durable and versatile. And, on top of all that, the process is regenerative, meaning that as a bi-product it creates bio-energy to power the mill and local community, organic fertiliser for the farms, and bio-fibres for making packaging and building materials!
The company has also pioneered two other innovative, eco-friendly materials called Orbital and Texloop, which have the same goal as Agraloop, but have different material properties.
The EDITION collection, created by Canadian company Quartz Co., was launched in 2018 to provide practical, but fashionable and highly-innovative outerwear. Almost everyone who works at the company is a millennial, and they wanted to make a collection that was specifically designed with their generation’s needs and ethics in mind.
The coats replace the usual down-filled lining, which uses a cruel and painful process to obtain, with Milkweed. Milkweed is a wildflower easily grown in most gardens and can even grow in ditches and along roadsides. The hundreds of seeds inside the pods are adapted for wind dispersal, making them largely renewable too.
The benefits of Milkweed are that the hollow fibres it contains make it a perfect insulator, and its soft structure make it a good stuffing for jacket lining. Cosy and stylish coats that are environmentally-conscious, it’s a win-win!
If you are looking for a company that is highly aware of every item they put into their products, then Allbirds is it. Started in New Zealand by Tim Brown and Joey Zwillinger, Allbirds uses natural processes and materials to offer you hardwearing shoes, at low environmental cost. By using merino wool, the processes used to make Allbirds shoes use 60% less energy than synthetic materials, with the added benefits of being naturally breathable.
But where Allbirds really have the monopoly is in fabric innovation. When traditional materials just didn’t meet the cut in terms of requirements, they went out and made their own!
The first is called SweetFoam, made using sugarcane which is entirely renewable and fast-growing. It is a crop that is so efficient that it can also be used to power the mill and fertilisers on site. Plus, as the name suggests, the material has the added bonus of contouring to your feet for extra comfort!
The second is TENCEL Lyocell, a breathable, soft fabric made from trees using a closed-loop process. Using this fabric instead of cotton, Allbirds reduces water usage by 95%!
And finally, Allbirds have invented Trino and TrinoXO which they call ‘nature’s super-yarns.’ Again, it uses renewable materials in Merino wool, tree fibres and chitosan fibers to craft a breathable, odour-reducing fabric.
They make sure their raw materials come from responsible sources where they use rainwater, not irrigation, and the farmers and workers are treated equally. AND, every other material they use from product to packaging is at the very least made from upcycled materials. That is a whole lot of planet protection!
nat-2 is a luxury footwear designer based in Germany. They are creating shoes made from an eco-friendly material invented by Nina Fabert at Zvnder, a company that specialises in creating vegan materials.
By replacing traditional leather with leather made from Tinder Fungus, a little-used parasitic fungus found on weakened deciduous trees, it creates an alternative material that is soft and unique-looking, but also environmentally-friendly, natural and chemical-free.
It has the advantage of not needing any extraneous chemicals or energy sources to complete the process from raw material to usable product. The soles are all made from recycled materials that would otherwise be dumped and produce microfibers that are harmful to the environment.
Alt-Fabrics All the Time!
Even though I have only mentioned 5 companies here, there are dozens of companies putting good work into sustainable and renewable materials that can be used for a wide variety of purposes. Fullest Media’s own Gabriella Tallafus extolled the virtues of pineapple leather just a few weeks ago!
Alt-Fabrics are the innovation that the fashion industry needs to be able to keep on going whilst also maintaining the health of the planet. So next time you want to grab an outfit for your next night out on the town, think about purchasing a mushroom leather jacket, and you’re sure to be a fun-gi!