As we outlined in our trends to watch in 2018, sustainability continues to be on the top of the agenda for fashion companies. Now, one of the WEAR funded projects on creating a more ethical industry has come into fruition by none other than our favourite fashion-tech innovation agency BRIA and forward-looking fashion brand SABINNA.
The teams at BRIA and SABINNA have collaborated to transform a fashion capsule collection of wardrobe “staples” into new 100% biodegradable materials for use in garment packaging and shop interiors. By developing innovative processes for transforming garments into new biodegradable materials, they have successfully demonstrated that without compromising on design, it is possible for brands to create commercial fashion that is circular and that never needs to go into landfill, with the potential to avoid millions of tonnes of garment landfill waste every year.
“We started discussions to team up with Sabinna in August 2017, as we have known her for a while now and we share a common passion for sustainability and for changing the status-quo in the fashion industry in terms of current practices,” tells us BRIA Co-Director Moin Roberts-Islam. The teams set out to develop processes for transforming end-of-life garments made from cellulose-based materials into new 100% recyclable and biodegradable materials. The new materials which were created are similar to paper, card, plastics and even wood, and can be used for garment packaging, tags, building shop interiors and many other applications.
In order to demonstrate their new developments to the fashion community, the teams at BRIA and SABINNA worked together to co-design and produce a capsule collection of garments made from solely cotton and viscose, which can then be processed in different ways at the end of their use. The resulting fibres can be reclaimed via their new processes and recycled into other new materials, which are 100% cellulose-based and therefore biodegradable. Importantly, the collaboration has been equally led by textile design and materials science throughout, with no compromise made to the aesthetics of the garments or recyclability of the end product.
The aim was to produce a capsule collection that maximises the circular aspects of production and recycling, whilst choosing the most ethical and non-toxic chemical processes to dissolve the garments and reconstitute the fibres into new usable materials. “The idea requires input both from brands and their consumers. It would require the consumer to identify the point at which the garment will no longer be used and to return it to the brand for recycling. However, we would also hope that the brands would have systems in place to make this as easy and painless as possible for consumers, with the added possibility of “incentivising” the consumers to participate in the process by way of rewards, in the form of “loyalty points” or a potential discount on future purchases from the brand, for example,” explains Roberts-Islam. “Most brands already have robust systems in place for customer returns, including printing postage labels or identifying local collection points, so it would be a case of incorporating the end-of-life returns into these existing processes.”
The capsule collection will be used as a “proof-of-concept” to demonstrate to other brands within the fashion industry that these new processes can be used to transform any garments made from cotton or viscose into packaging materials and shop interiors at the end of their use, rather than adding to the millions of tonnes sitting in landfill sites around the globe. “Producing new materials from end-of-life garments which are already sitting in landfill, means that we can start to work on reducing the amount of garments in landfill sites, whilst converting them into useful, potentially longer-lasting materials which can still biodegrade or be recycled again at the end of their use. This avenue would not require any consumer engagement, but would still be an environmentally beneficial way for brands to produce packaging or store material,” says Roberts-Islam.
By using chemical, not mechanical recycling, these methods require less water, generate less waste, require no bleaching and have a lower carbon footprint. The range includes garments made of cellulosic materials, selected depending on which material is the easiest to recycle with the minimum environmental impact.
The BRIA x SABINNA team are now looking to partner with global fashion brands to implement these processes to produce brand-specific recycled packaging/store interiors and improve sustainability practices across the industry as a whole.”We are looking to work with brands on a consultancy basis, researching the different types of materials which could be made from their specific garments and which suit their particular brand style or ethos, and then helping them implement the necessary processes into their existing supply chain, to create bespoke packaging materials or materials for building store interiors, and others,” says Roberts-Islam.
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