Dutch consortium Textiles4Textiles has recognized the glitches in recycling textiles and developed a machine that can sort textiles for re-use.
It’s no secret that the sustainable benefits of recycled textiles far outweigh those of using completely new materials, especially when it comes to producing a fashion line.
So why aren’t we all using reclaimed fabrics in our collections? The fact of the matter is it’s simply easier to purchase materials from a supplier.
Finding the right look, fiber content, and fabric quality can be an issue as recycled fabric options may not offer up that perfect shade of coral.
There is also the problem of consistency, you need to consider that though you found a dream fabric for your next collection, you will hopefully need far more than three yards to fill all those orders you’re going to receive.
This is where Textiles4Textiles comes in.
Currently, all discarded textiles to be recycled must be sorted by hand. This is an arduous, inexact procedure that doesn’t yield particularly high-quality results.
However, Textiles4Textiles’ incredible technology contains sensors that can recognize fabrics based on visible traits such as color as well as factors that may not be so visible such as exact fiber content.
So now the fabrics are categorized, but they are still piles of unusable pieces. What next?
The fabrics are pulped (reduced back to their stage as pure fiber) and re-spun into brand new yarn. This yarn can then be made into anything from home textiles to clothing. Any fiber that isn’t long enough to be spun is recycled as insulation.
Cotton has served as the guinea pig for the process, quite a feat considering cotton is naturally one of the shortest in fiber length and is subsequently one of the most difficult to recycle.
Regardless of difficulty, cotton is by far the most widely used fiber in the textile industry, and the idea that the huge amounts we produce can be reused is an intriguing one.
The Textiles4Textiles machine is set to be unveiled in November.
Cotton is a fashion industry staple; perhaps the most widely used material for garments. With so many designers and companies using the fiber, it comes as no surprise that it is one of the most difficult textiles to regulate. As of late, cotton’s impact has been a big one, both socially and environmentally. In this contemporary world of sustainable fashion, steps are being taken to find alternatives, however, coming to these solutions is a matter of trial and error and still a work in process.
One such example is Bt Cotton. “Bt” stands for bacillus thuringiensis, a bacterium used by organic farmers as a pesticide. Scientists have introduced it into cotton crops by genetically altering cottonseeds. While this can certainly be considered a triumph from a scientific standpoint, the pros and cons are still being weighed.
BT cotton is a pretty out-there concept, and the benefits are certainly interesting to consider. For starters, the bacterium Bt is much gentler than most pesticides, as it is poisonous only to a select few bugs. Since the seeds already genetically contain a pesticide, it largely reduces the need to do sprayings. This saves us a lot of resources, including water and fuel oil. There is also the fact that it eliminates waste, such as the disposal of insecticide containers. Additionally, without the costs and process of pesticide application, farmers are better able to manage their time and expenses. This is especially beneficial for smaller farming businesses.
However, there are those who are skeptical about Bt cotton. As mentioned, in order to grow it, the seeds must be genetically altered, which is a cause for alarm to some. It is difficult to pinpoint exactly what future consequences of altering natural seeds could be. For example, there is a gene contained in the plant that is resistant to certain antibiotics, and there are concerns that this could transfer to humans. There are claims overseas that Bt can be linked to crop failures as well as disease.
As with any scientific development, we must consider whether this will seamlessly integrate into the natural world or whether we’re playing with something of which we cannot know the real consequences.
What do you think of the debate? Would you use Bt cotton in your collection?
Whether you’re a weekend warrior who’s scraped up a favorite pair of jeans, or a nine-to-fiver who’s just spilled coffee down a blouse, we’ve all had our share of wardrobe malfunctions. Clothes bear the brunt of the wear and tear of our daily lives, so rips and stains are to be expected. But it’s such a shame to simply throw something away all because of a little rip. Many people (especially those of us who sew!) are totally game to try and salvage their beloved garments. In fact, this need to renew and repurpose has its place in cultures all over the world. In India for example, the process of up-cycling is rooted deep in the nation’s customs through a practice called Rafoogari.
Rafoogari is the name for the Indian tradition of darning textiles. A bit of a background: as India is a textile hub, and the fabrics made there are incredibly precious, throwing them away is simply out of the question. So, as with the restoration of a painting, “Rafoogari” mend and restore works of art in the form of textiles. Their skills are such that once they have finished a piece, the repair is essentially invisible. Through this practice, beautiful antique textiles and the traditional techniques used to create them can be admired today.
Though recycling and repair are nothing new to our culture, we have to admit nothing quite as sophisticated as Rafoogari exists in our daily lives.
Or does it? New York-based company Denim Therapy is taking this process and applying it to your favorite pair of jeans. From frayed cuffs to holes, simply mail your denim to them and it’ll be taken care of. The repairs are nearly seamless (check out their before and after photos!). Rather than patching over the hole, the company takes a cue from Indian tradition and genuinely reconstructs the fabric for a perfect repair.
Summer is in full swing and we are experiencing the hottest time of the year right now; the warm weather has made for some great beach days! Unfortunately, too much sun isn’t the best for your skin, a lesson my friends and I were painfully reminded of after spending a little too much time seaside. Lucky for us, we keep an aloe vera plant in our apartment, and the gel made us feel much better. Aloe has become a pretty hip commodity as of late, being used not only as a skin treatment, but also in drinks, hair products, and cosmetics.
Most recently, the fashion industry has been taking notice of the aloe plant and it’s potential for use in textiles. Already, it has been incorporated into sheets for bedding with positive results. It’s a well-known fact that aloe is good for the skin and general health, so it is an intriguing idea for the plant to be incorporated into something worn on the body.
To create a textile that is soothing to the skin, fabric can now be infused with aloe vera “capsules.” These capsules are microscopic, airtight and waterproof. They open to release the gel only when the fabric is touched or rubbed. Essentially, every time an infused garment is worn, the aloe is applied to the skin. In addition to the skin benefits, aloe also adds a few interesting features to the fabric itself. It is naturally anti-bacterial; and so not only does it keep clothing cleaner, it also combats body odor.
Though aloe-infused fabrics are still a relatively new material within the industry, a few companies have begun to experiment with the idea. YOU Intelligent Clothing is a sportswear company that currently has two lines- one using silver-infused textiles (as in what jewelry is made of) and one with aloe. The skin and anti-bacterial benefits are especially ideal for active wear. Additionally, lingerie label Simone Perele released a line of bras and underwear featuring aloe-infused lace! Called “Carresence”, the collection seamlessly combines beauty and comfort- the (usually irritating) lace is better for the skin than any other part of the garment.
Aloe Vera is proving to be an exciting and beneficial textile. Is this a fabric you would consider using in your collection?