The glitz and glamor of the catwalks has long masked the fashion industry’s low carbon footprint.
In its race for fast fashion, 85% of clothes are thrown away every year.
The sector is responsible for 10 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions – more than shipping and aviation combined – and the pressure to find sustainable solutions is increasing.
It is doubtful, however, that many of the expected answers lie in the sunny pineapple plantations of the Philippines.
But it was in these areas that Dr. Carmen Hijosa had the original idea of using the leftover leaves as an alternative to leather and created Pinatex.
The eight stages of Pinatex production – in pictures
After industrial processing, the sheets are made into a mesh textile, similar to leather and used to make clothes, shoes and bags.
“It does not use water, soil or fertilizer,” said Dr Hijosa The National.
“It has characteristics similar to leather. For example, it is water resistant, it is breathable, light and strong.
“The fiber from the pineapple leaf has been used for centuries for hand-woven clothing in the Philippines. I realized that this could be a basis for an alternative to leather, and I looked at the technology and found people who could help me.
“We use dead leaves that would either be left to rot or burnt. “
She worked as a consultant in the leather industry, and after witnessing the atrocious conditions of tanneries in the Philippines, she vowed to never work with leather again.
Dr Hijosa, who was shortlisted for the 2021 European Inventor Award, looked for other options. She had heard that it was used to make ceremonial shirts, the Barong Tagalogs, and began her research.
Today, more than 3,000 brands in over 80 countries use his Pinatex creation, including big names such as Hugo Boss and H&M.
“We are unique in that we use plant waste from agriculture,” she said.
“It is really a driver of change, for a change in the system that is already there, and at the same time, it gives work to really poor people. It is an opportunity for our planet to regenerate itself.
“There is a will to change and we see it when we work with our clients like Hugo Boss and H&M. They really try to do whatever they can. Fast fashion is very complex and difficult to approach, but we are a light at the end of the tunnel and a role model for how things can be done. “
Start green fashion
Dr Hijosa is not the only pioneer of change in the industry. Fashion label Elvis & Kresse uses old London fire hoses, which were previously landfilled, to create designer bags and belts.
“I fell in love with the Duraline hoses the moment I saw them in 2005 piled up on the roof of a fire station in Croydon, awaiting imminent and outrageous death in a landfill,” Kresse Wesling said. The National.
“Fire hoses are taken out of service for one of two reasons. Either they are reaching the end of their 25-year health and safety lifespan, or they are too damaged to repair.
“We weren’t entrepreneurs looking for an idea, we didn’t get into luxury accessories manufacturing. We just wanted to save the pipe.
“Elvis learned to sew. We started out with a simple line of belts and slowly grew from there.
“We have saved all the pipes that have been taken out of service in London since 2005, and have donated 50 percent of the profits to the Fire Fighters Charity.
“For over a decade, none of London’s fire hoses have been landfilled and over 200 tonnes of materials have been recovered. So these pipes are still working hard, long after their first life.
The company also signed a five-year deal with Burberry to use 120 tonnes of its leather scraps to create luxury items.
Primark recently made a commitment to make all of its clothing more sustainable by 2030 and to manufacture clothing that can be “recyclable by design” by 2027.
Its chief executive, Paul Marchant, has called on the industry to do more by announcing that it will work with suppliers to halve carbon emissions throughout its supply chain.
“We don’t have all the answers and we know we can’t do it alone,” he said.
“We are committed to working in partnership with industry to drive real change at scale.
“Our ambition is to provide customers with affordable prices that they know and love us for, but with products made in a way that is better for the planet and the people who make them,” he said.
“We know this is what our customers and colleagues want and expect from us.
Last month, French luxury fashion brand Saint Laurent announced that it would stop using fur from next year.
Recent research in the Netherlands has found that the greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the production of a kilogram of mink fur are at least five times higher than those of the highest performing textile, wool. Much of this was due to the production of animal feed, the emissions of their feces, and the treatment of their skins.
The clothing industry contributes £ 32bn ($ 43.41bn) to the UK economy every year and every year around one million tonnes of clothing is thrown away.
British researchers are developing a way to make textiles from household waste such as leftover food and paper towels.
Teams from Cranfield University and the University of York used bacteria to break down waste into cellulose, then dissolve it using solvents with low environmental impact. The final product is then spun into fibers.
“The global clothing industry is responsible for 10% of all greenhouse gas emissions – more than flights and shipping – and 20% of all wastewater,” said Dr Sameer Rahatekar, teacher-researcher at Cranfield University.
“Our work with colleagues at the University of York offers a low environmental impact solution that could transform the way we make textiles and reduce the amount of waste going to landfill. “
Research uses less aggressive solvents that will have a significantly lower environmental impact than those used to produce rayon.
“This process is the result of the work we have done over the past 10 years,” said Dr Alexandra Lanot, University of York.
“My hope is that soon we can wear garbage-derived clothing instead. “
Fashion designer Stella McCartney is set to put the industry’s environmental legacy in the spotlight when she addresses Cop26 delegates to raise awareness of the “damage” that has “gone under the radar.”
She is ready to call for action to put the sector on a more sustainable footing.
Update: October 6, 2021, 12:00 p.m.