Ecologically sound licensed products have been gaining traction over the last two years or so as the cost has come down and consumer demand has gone up. This is particularly true in the apparel, accessories, and footwear industries, where many initiatives have involved using recycled materials such as plastic or rubber, creating products that are themselves recyclable, or upcycling vintage fabrics.
A strategy that has started to take off recently is to design items from natural and sustainable alternative fabrics and leathers made of plants and/or foods. Some recent ventures in the fashion industry, both collaborative and non-collaborative, have involved materials such as:
- Milk. A brand called Duedilatte, based in Italy, has produced clothing from sour milk, which contains a protein that is akin to the protein in wool and can be turned into fibers.
- Pineapple. A Spanish company called Piñatex has created a leather-like textile made from pineapple leaves. It has been used by almost 500 manufacturers; Hugo Boss’s sneaker line integrates the material, for example.
- Eucalyptus. Shoe marketer Allbirds has released footwear made of eucalyptus as part of various collections; it also utilizes other sustainable ingredients such as castor bean oil.
- Sugar. Adidas and Stella McCartney have offered a tennis dress made of Microsilk, a material from Bolt Threads that is protein-based and has sugar, yeast, and water in it.
- Beetroot. G-Star Raw has used upcycled beetroot waste as part of a collection called Dyed by Nature, which has also incorporated other materials such as saw palmetto leaf waste.
- Corn. Reebok has created an NPC UK Cotton + Corn collection that is 75% bio-based, with corn as a key ingredient in the soles.
- Mushrooms. McCartney and the footwear label Nat-2 are among the companies that have created items from mycelium, the mushroom root system, which can be used as a substitute for leather.
- Tree bark. Dolce and Gabbana has incorporated tree bark leather into bags and platform shoes.
Other materials being featured in fabrics and leathers range from already widely accepted examples such as bamboo, cork, and hemp, to lesser-known substances such as coconut, soybeans, apples, agave, wood cellulose, aloe, coffee, stinging nettles, teak leaves, fish, bananas, poppies, and wine.
Most of these ventures to date are more experimental than commercial. It will be interesting to see which ones, if any, manage to take off and become mainstream in the future.