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Chemistry, Materials & Packaging
Wood Pulp, Kelp Shaping New Crop of Plant-Based Textiles

While it might be cliche to say that plant-based fabrics are the latest trend in fashion, the recent emergence of luxury textiles made from everything from kapok tree fibers, apples, orange waste and coffee grounds, to a vegan wool alternative made from hemp and coconut fibers suggests these innovations are more than a seasonal blip.

Throwing its hat into the plant-based fabric ring is Eastman, which last month at the Premiè****re Vision show in France launched Naia™ — a versatile cellulosic yarn made from sustainably sourced wood pulp — into the womenswear market. According to Eastman, Naia creates comfortable and luxurious fabrics with superior breathability and moisture management. Garments made from Naia are easy to care for, can be laundered at home, and have excellent wrinkle recovery and pilling resistance, all without compromising its luster and silky hand.

With Naia, Eastman says it aims to demonstrate how sustainability can be an integral part of clothes that not only feel good but look good, too.

Meanwhile, New York-based biomaterials startup AlgiKnit — which creates durable yet rapidly degradable yarns extruded from kelp — recently won €100,000 in the 2018 Postcode Lottery Green Challenge.

The concept for AlgiKnit started when 26-year-old co-founder and Chief Innovation Officer Tessa Callaghan began researching the latest developments in biomaterials. She found out that most of these biotextile innovations come in sheets, but she felt that knittable yarns would be a better option, as knitting allows for zero-waste manufacturing. Callaghan and her team joined forces with a team of researchers from Columbia University to develop chemical processes and compositions that would produce the biopolymers from kelp that could be extruded in yarn form for knitting; the result was AlgiKnit. The infographic below explains the process (click to enlarge):

  • Rapidly renewable — kelp is one of the fastest-growing organisms on earth, up to 10 times faster than bamboo.
  • Farmed worldwide — kelp is grown in aquatic farms around the world in coastal communities, providing income to fishermen and -women during the fishing off-season.
  • Improves environments — kelp absorbs nutrients from agricultural and sewer run-off that can alter coastal environments.

After use, the seaweed textile can serve as compost or animal feed. It also reduces the carbon footprint of the clothing industry, because no harmful microfibers are lost during washing, as is the case with polyester. The company is working on a prototype of a T-shirt, and says sneakers will be next.


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