Sustainable innovation trends
focus on "considered Consumption", "Designing out waste" and bio Performance"
Recently LTP asked leading sustainable designer Anne Prahl to share her observations on inspiring sustainable innovation activities from sports and outdoor brands and in this follow-up article, she takes a closer look at the three distinct trends of 'Considered Consumption', 'Designing out waste' and 'Bio Performance'. "
Discussions, initiatives and collaborations around creating strategies and systems to achieve a circular fashion and sportswear industry are gathering momentum and although these solutions will take a lot of commitment and time to develop and implement, current innovation trends demonstrate that industry is already taking small but meaningful steps towards circularity.
This trend is all about the opportunities brands have to inspire and enable more sustainable use of their products. This begins with designing products for longevity and durability, so they can be used and reused, shared and repaired and will only be recycled, or composted, when all other routes have been exhausted. Designers are creating classic, multi-functional and versatile styles, whilst utilising durable fabrics and trims, so the product can be used beyond its first life.
In addition, repair services and self-repair guides are on the rise, as outdoor brands are making repair ‘cool’ through engaging marketing initiatives and events. Outdoor brands are also leading on the idea of selling gear second-hand, as well as the concept of renting technical clothing, so the customer has access to these items without having to worry about storage or maintenance. This business model has now also moved into the realm of sportswear, as online service Rent the Runway now offers customers complete outfits or single items of sportswear to rent, while New York based start-up Routinely provides a service where a premium workout kit will be delivered to any address in Manhattan. Once the customer has completed their workout, the company pick up and clean the items, ready for their next user.
Another way to encourage longer product live is the concept of customisation and co-creation. By creating unique products specifically designed in line with customers’ preferences, or allowing them to take part in the creation process themselves, it is likely that the product is more special to the user, who may therefore enjoy wearing the item for longer. UK-based start-up Catalyst Active wear offer their customers the opportunity to vote on which styles will go into production, while Adidas recently trialled the ‘Knit for You’ where customers were able to create bespoke 3D knitted sweaters made to their unique design and material preferences and individual body measurements.
DESIGNING OUT WASTE
Utilising pre and post-consumer waste materials to create new desirable fabrics has been popular for some years now but this trend is going from strength to strength, as fabric manufacturers are producing a growing range of recycled performance and wellbeing fabrics for sportswear. Recycling plastic waste, such as plastic bottles and ocean plastic is still high on the agenda and inspired by the success of the Adidas and Parley for the Ocean collaboration, other initiatives and innovators are following suit. This trend has resulted in an ever-growing number of recycled polyester and nylon performance fabrics but designers can now also choose from a new generation of recycled natural fibres, such as wool, cashmere and cotton and textiles created from up-cycled bio-waste, such as coffee grounds, fruit skins, spoiled milk and cow manure.
Another approach to designing out waste is 3D knitting and there has been a considerable increase of innovative products. Nike’s waste-reduction Flyknit footwear technology recently inspired the development of the Flyknit bra, which is made from two panels and a binding, compared to other high support Nike bras, which can have up to 41 pieces and 22 seams. At ISPO 2018, Santoni presented 3D knitted footwear uppers created on their Mecmor open panel circular knitting machine, which enables controlled and reduced material wastages.
There is a growing trend towards performance innovation utilising natural and bio-based raw materials. A perfect example is Cifra’s innovative warp knit capsule collection presented at ISPO 2018, which showcased styles with engineered body mapping and open mesh details, made from merino wool and Tencel®, or bio-based Evo by Fulgar yarn made from castor oil.
Recent revelations around ocean plastic pollution and microfiber shedding have no doubt inspired designers and brands to explore bio-based alternatives to 100% synthetic fleece. Tierra’s design team developed Rista, a 3D knitted merino wool and Primaloft blend, which provides excellent lightweight insulation and temperature regulation, while Vaude collaborated with fabric specialist Pontetorto to create Biopile. This fabric combines biodegradable 100% Tencel® on the inner, brushed side with 100% recycled polyester on the outer surface.
Biodegradability has become a buzzword for designers, who are not necessarily choosing these qualities to create compostable products but because of the perception of being cleaner, less harmful to the environment and potentially healthier to wear. One example is Fieratex’s biodegradable Nylon from their ‘second skin’ collection, this is made from Amni Soul Eco®, the first 6.6 polyamide biodegradable yarn, which is said to decompose in three years.
In line with the trend towards cleaner and biodegradable fabrics, there are also many emerging innovations for alternative colouration technologies; these include the use of natural extracts, enzymes and bacteria to re-invent conventional dyeing. Portuguese textile manufacturer Tintex Textiles are currently experimenting with the use of herbs, plants and mushroom roots for more considered colouration, while UK-based company Colorifix are developing and trialling a unique, low-water and pollution-free dyeing method based on synthetic biology.
About Anne Prahl
Anne is a London-based, independent design professional specialising in sustainable design, research and innovation for the sportswear and fashion industry. You can find out more about her work via Linkedin or get in touch at: firstname.lastname@example.org
LTP is a Danish-owned garment manufacturer for 60+ premium brands within active sportswear, outdoor, athleisure and sustainable fashion. LTP was established in 1991 and is probably the biggest functional garment manufacturer in Europe with bluesign® setups in Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine and Vietnam.
LTP consists of two divisions; LTP Garment and LTP Contract Furniture producing in ten fully-owned factories