Mushrooms and 3D printing: green fashion is here

Built to last: These clothes were made by designer Danit Peleg using a 3D printer.

Should we all be wearing mushrooms and pineapple leaves? Our fast-fashion culture is wrecking the planet, so innovative companies are creating sustainable fabrics from unlikely sources.

On Tuesday evening, a funeral procession marched through central London. “RIP LONDON FASHION WEEK,” read the black coffins. The protest was organised by Extinction Rebellion, who say the fashion industry is “complicit in [Earth’s] destruction”.

Wasted water, carbon emissions, chemical pollution and sweatshop labour… We are waking up to the huge cost of fast fashion.

But what comes next?

The hunt is on for sustainable fabrics that don’t waste huge amounts of water (like cotton), and don’t pollute the environment (like synthetic materials).

Many companies are turning to our food.

Mycelium, grown from the root structure of mushrooms, has been hailed as a “wonder material” because it can be grown into a fixed shape within a few days.

Bolt Threads, a US “materials innovation company” founded in 2009, uses mycelium to create its Mylo “leather”, which has graced the catwalk in designs by Stella McCartney.

Spanish brand Piñatex has developed a leather-like substance made from discarded pineapple leaves.

Should we all start wearing mushroom and pineapple?

Green is the new black

It is the only option. By 2030, the industry’s water consumption will grow by 50% to over 31 trillion gallons. Its carbon footprint will rise to 2,791 million tons per year. Efforts from brands to reduce water, energy and chemical use in traditional textiles is helping slowly, but we need a radical solution to avoid disaster. Biodegradable fashion is the future.

But there’s nothing really wrong with most of the fabrics we use now. The problem is when clothes are so low-priced and of such low-quality that they are thrown out the next week. The important thing right now is to practise slow, thoughtful fashion. Buy fewer clothes ⁠— be they cotton, leather or denim ⁠— but value them more, and for longer.

You Decide

  1. Would you wear clothes made of mushrooms?

Activities

  1. Design your own sustainable outfit. What would it be made of?

Some People Say...

“In difficult times, fashion is always outrageous.”

Elsa Schiaparelli (1890-1973), French fashion designer

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
The fashion industry is one of the most polluting industries on Earth. In 2015, it produced 1.2 billion tons of carbon emissions.
What do we not know?
What exactly fashion of the future will look like. Experts expect that we will move away from toxic chemical dyes. Expect fashion of the future to come in muted, natural tones like beige and white.

Word Watch

RIP
Acronym for Rest In Peace.
LONDON FASHION WEEK
Ran from last Friday to Tuesday. Each year, fashion designers from across the world come to exhibit their new collections at exclusive catwalk shows.
Extinction Rebellion
An environment protest group that cause public disruption to pressure the Government into taking action on the climate crisis.
Complicit
Part of something that is morally or legally wrong.
Sweatshop labour
A factory or workshop, often located in a developing country, where workers are employed with very low wages, long hours and in poor conditions.
Sustainable
When production of something can be maintained at the same level indefinitely.
Synthetic
Man-made fabrics containing microfibres which are released in washing machines and flow into the water supply.
Hailed
Met with enthusiasm.
Biodegradable
Something that can be broken down by bacteria or organisms, which then avoids pollution.

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