Continuing with our analysis of circular fashion – I leave here for you the two previous articles that are closely related to the latter, so I recommend you read: The digital technology of circular fashion & The physical technology of circular fashion. Let’s go directly to this third and final post.
To protect our planet, we need to rethink what a fabric is and what it can be made of. It’s time to start using byproducts, previously discarded as waste, to produce sustainable materials. We have to turn to what Mother Nature has given us in terms of organic materials and make the most of it.
The biological technology of circular fashion
The biological concepts of fashion technology are characterized by the use of technologies rooted in biology. This includes the creation of products and processes for specific use based on biological systems, living organisms and their byproducts. Imagine wearing a pair of trousers made from citrus waste, viticulture residues or even cow dung.
Three fundamental biological concepts of fashion technology are drawn here: biological materials, renewable energy and bioenergy and biomimicry.
1. Biological materials.
Current technological advances make it possible to make biodegradable materials from biomass raw materials and other organic components.
Both bioplastics and cellulose fibers are examples of biomaterials. This concept of fashion technology uses what was previously considered waste to create biodegradable materials. The use of such resources rather than new materials to produce a garment can reduce the use of energy, water and raw materials throughout the fashion production process.
It increases recycling rates and reduces waste as garments are made from recyclable, intelligent and biodegradable materials.
More value is maintained in the system per garment due to efficient methods to capture the values involved in the recycling process and fashion production.
It reduces the need for new supplies with a significant environmental impact. For example, instead of traditional leather we can use leather made from remnants of wine making, as suggested by Vegea (Winner of the Global Change Award 2017).
Faster production processes reduce reliance on long-term forecasts, reducing the risk of overstocking of clothing and thus minimizing waste.
Challenges to overcome.
Using large amounts of land and water resources for biomass crops rather than, for example, food production.
2. Renewable energy and bioenergy.
Bioenergy is an example of renewable energy. Its energy comes from sunlight and photosynthesis.
In addition, bioenergy is derived from biomass or bioenergy raw material. Examples of biological materials used include plants, waste, animals, wood, alcoholic fuels and hydrogen gas.
The use of bioenergy throughout the fashion value chain can significantly reduce the negative environmental impact of this industry. For example, imagine that all transport and production of fashion garments is done with renewable energy obtained only from plants or sunlight.
Reducing total waste by obtaining biodegradable energy from biological materials, including those that would otherwise be considered waste.
Minimizing dependence on fossil fuels and their harmful effects on the environment, i.e. reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Challenges to overcome.
Bioenergy can be considered inefficient compared to fossil fuels. Today, there is not enough biomass and bioenergy to replace all energy from fossil fuels.
There is a risk of deforestation, as this approach requires wood from natural forests. A responsible approach is indispensable, for example, ensuring that replanting efforts counteract logging.
Biomimicry refers to solving human challenges in a sustainable manner by studying and imitating nature’s best designs and processes.
One main idea is that organisms have been optimized throughout evolution. In addition, biotechnology can also be applied directly to manipulate an organism’s genome. For example, biomimicry can lead to increased crop yields and reduced need for pesticides. Examples of this fashion concept include spider silk to produce biodegradable garments, synthetic leather made of wood and alteration of cotton crops to allow faster growth and less need for water.
Let’s move from non-renewable materials to a circular fashion value chain with a closed-loop production process.
Increased crop yields allow the fashion industry to use less land.
It reduces the need for toxic synthetic chemicals in the dyeing process by using natural pigment-producing organisms.
It reduces the need to use non-environmentally friendly and non-biodegradable materials as spider silk can be used.
Approximately one third of the pesticides currently used could be eliminated by genetic engineering.
It reduces the need for non-environmentally friendly and non-biodegradable materials.
Challenges to overcome.
Manipulation of ecosystems and natural resources provided by Mother Nature can have unintended consequences. In addition, experts from various fields, such as biology, product development and sustainability, must come together and collaborate across traditional boundaries.
How to unleash the full potential of fashion technology.
Historically, fashion and technology have been approached separately. To harness the full value of circular fashion technology, a whole new mindset is needed. Players in the fashion industry need to radically adapt their marketing strategy and ways of working.
The transformation of the marketing strategy includes reviewing the business model, customer experience and channels. The same applies to internal operations, including organization, capabilities, and processes. Traditionally, consumers and designers of a garment have been separated from each other.
In that sequential and isolated way of operating, manufacturers, suppliers and distributors have been the most powerful, both in terms of influence and negotiation power. Today’s new technological and digital advances bring about a shift in which power is transferred through the fashion industry’s supply chain partners.
These technological and intra-sectoral partnerships constitute one of the fundamental pillars of the neo-relocalization of the fashion industry.
Let’s meet again in the next article. Thank you for following the blog!