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The Rise of Sustainable Fashion & Plant-Based Textiles

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5th Oct 2021

Since the age of antiquity, fashion has been a powerful means of expression. Across many cultures worldwide, style is a way of telling the story not only of an individual but often that of an entire nation and epoch. Although this type of expression may be beautiful it often comes with a cost. With technological advancements over the last decades, the fashion industry's manufacturing processes is hurting the Earth more than ever. Based on reports from the UN, the global fashion industry is estimated to produce 3 - 10% of the greenhouse gas emissions causing climate change. In addition, this industry is responsible for many other environmental impacts such as:

intensive water use, water pollution through dying and textile production, and pesticide and herbicide pollution through the agricultural production of cotton. Microplastics, which are shed primarily from synthetic textiles during washing, are also polluting the oceans, potentially negatively impacting human health and natural ecosystems.

--(Climate Feedback, December 2020)


Consumers worldwide are beginning to understand how severe our impact upon the Earth has become. Not only are masses of people learning of our careless damage to this planet but many are taking a stand by demanding ethical improvements from fashion brands large and small. In efforts to create more consciously, many brands are integrating less harmful manufacturing processes.

Take Stella McCartney for instance, a trailblazer in introducing sustainable materials to high fashion and luxury markets. She and her namesake label have deep roots in sustainability (read the label's sustainability timeline here.) Her label features advanced and sustainable fabrics such as Econyl® regenerated nylon, Mylo® mushroom leather, and KOBA® bio-based faux fur. Stella McCartney is one of the major brands pushing the envelope on what's possible for fashion and textiles.

Most recently McCartney spoke at the G7 Summit in June 2021, calling for more sustainability in fashion. As part of her call to action, she passionately and boldly stated,

“One of the biggest problems that we have in the fashion industry is we’re not policed in any way. We have no laws or legislations that will put hard stops on our industry…. We need to be incentivized, [and] we need to have taxations looked at to work in a better way.”

Furthermore, after the summit, McCartney went on to sign the Terra Carta Transition Coalitions, a collective devoted to global sustainable efforts, endorsed by HRH The Prince of Wales. Seeing big names create big waves is not only inspiring but reaffirming that change is within reach so long as we demand it!

Though the public notoriety of these green innovations is more often than not accredited to the brand/designer using them, we really owe it to the founding teams of these ethical advancements. Some startups and initiatives experimenting with plant-based textiles to demonstrate the beautiful cohesion of nature and technology include:



Based in Mexico, Desserto creates plant leather made from cactus. They've won many awards (Green Product Award, PETA Compassionate Business Award, Good Design Award) and just celebrated their 2 year anniversary. So far their textile has been used to create collections for top fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld as well as fast fashion heavyweight H&M.



Piñatex, by Ananas-Anam, is a bio-fiber made from pineapple leaf fibers left over from agricultural waste. Collaborations include H&M, Hilton Hotels, Hugo Boss. This year alone they've had amazing progress as they've officially become carbon neutral and teamed up with Dole to scale their production. They are now officially a Certified B Corporation®.



This is a textile made from mycelium, a network of fungal threads. Backed by powerful names and figures, Mylo's consortium of large global fashion brands is composed of Adidas, Stella McCartney, Lululemon, and Kering. The first ever Mylo garments were debuted in March 2021 by Stella McCartney. A month later Adidas debuted a shoe the first ever shoe made with Mylo.


Thanks to the aforementioned initiatives and more like it, we are that much closer to creating a circular fashion industry. With the UN's 2015 enactment of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development fast approaching, there is little time left for the industry to clean up its act. So much has been developed in those first 6 years, one can only imagine what is to come. As scientists look to plants and recycled waste for answers, what emerging bio-technologies and sustainable advancements might you forecast over the next 9 years? And how might our self-expression and outward ways of communicating change as we integrate nature and science more deeply into our lives?