As we enter 2019, we take a closer look at where exactly the fashion tech space is headed when it comes to taking a more sustainable approach to fashion materials and design. As the space evolves and shows a lot of promise, we sit down with founder and editor-in-chief Muchaneta Kapfunde to discuss how far emerging technologies will take fashion’s approach to sustainability in 2019?

Would you say that the Fashion industry is becoming more sustainable?

Yes, the fashion industry is definitely becoming more sustainable, thanks to the continuous advancements in technology. It is a change that has made the fashion industry not only more conscious, but it has also pressured brands and stores to adopt a more transparent approach to traditional practices. The good news is that the adoption of new and more ethical practices by brands has been made easier by forward-thinking startups who are coming up with various innovative ways that make sustainable fashion more attainable.

How has the merger of fashion with technology contributed to the ethical change that is taking place within the fashion industry?

There is no denying that the partnering of these two industries has proved to be the key to change. Starting a revolution, we are witnessing fashion tech innovators taking affirmative action when it comes to engineering the design of sustainable textiles into garments and in doing so fashion brands, are in turn, taking advantage of the technology currently being developed and using it to find better ways to tackle problems like plastic pollution.

Photo Credit: Altiir, C2C Gold Denim by C&A, Sydney Brown

What fashion tech products are successfully embracing a more sustainable approach to fashion?

For one thing there is Sydney Brown, a biodegradable footwear brand that takes a holistic approach to design. Continuing their work with sustainable material development the brand is now working towards developing ‘zero-waste’ technology that allows for the exact shoe pattern to be grown with cellular agriculture.
Also worth a mention is Altiir, who released their Neo-Classic biker jacket made of sustainably-sourced and cruelty-free material and the Very Good Bra who came up with the world’s first zero-waste lingerie that comes in compostable packaging.
Then there is Stella McCartney. The former creative director of Chloe worked with Parley for the Oceans on a range of Adidas trainers back in 2017, and she also collaborated with biotechnology company Bolt Threads on a one-of-a-kind custom dress made entirely of Bolt Microsilk™.

What smart materials that have combined fashion with technology have wowed you?

When I attended MUNICH FABRIC START’s KEYHOUSE last season, I was introduced to various sustainable materials, and the ones that stood out for me were the material made out of Fish Skin and Pine. In Iceland, fish skins were already used for making shoes centuries ago. Nyvidd established the Visleer Foundation with the aim of making fish leather more popular as a sustainable alternative.
Sarmite Polakova is a designer who has found use in natural resource pine. The Latvian native discovered that the inner skin has leather-type properties hidden beneath the thick and hard outer bark.

Photo Credits: MUNICH FABRIC START/ Nyvidd; Sarmite Polakova

Some say collaborations are vital in the space of fashion tech, has this been key when it comes to implementing sustainable practices?

Most definitely. Collaborations are great because they allow two companies to accomplish a goal that has the potential to influence the thinking and buying practices of a wider audience. Last year, more partnerships were formed than the previous year. Of the many, Stan Smith got a vegan makeover thanks to Stella McCartney, Fashion for Good and C&A launched a sustainable jeans line, and Parley and Corona collaborated to find eco-innovative approaches to marine plastic.

What innovative and game-changing solutions, coming from the fashion tech space, can we look forward to in 2019?

Well, I know that startups like Ecovative are working towards making mycelium biofabrication easily accessible for everyone and helping people around the world grow better materials for everyday products. Also, startup Algiknit has introduced a way of producing textile fibres extruded from kelp, a variety of seaweed. Using an extrusion process, they are turning the biopolymer mixture into a kelp-based thread that can be knitted, or 3D printed to minimise waste. The final knitwear is biodegradable and can be dyed with natural pigments in a closed loop cycle.
Then there is Natural Fiber Welding, which is another startup that is looking into scalable, high-performance options for recycling natural fibres. So far they have found a way of producing sustainable yarns and fabrics by using a closed-loop system that upcycles abundant materials that are today considered ‘waste’.