Fast fashion giant H&M has named the five winners of its latest Global Change Award, who are harnessing the power of technology to rein in the fashion industry’s extensive environmental and social impacts. This year’s winners include dissolvable thread, sustainable algae-based dye and clothes made from mushroom roots.
Launched in 2015 by the H&M Foundation, the Global Change Award is designed to spur early-stage innovations that have the potential to accelerate the transition to from a linear to a circular economy by reducing waste, optimizing resources and eliminating toxic chemicals and materials.
The five winning startups were chosen by an international expert panel with extensive experience and knowledge within fashion, sustainability, circularity and innovation. A public online vote is underway to determine how the €1 million prize will be divided among the five startups.
Crop-A-Porter is one of three innovations utilizing bio-based materials to create low-impact textiles. The company extracts cellulose from sugarcane, pineapple and banana crop waste — which are traditionally burnt or left to rot — and uses it to produce high-quality, compostable fibers.
The continued evolution of circularity
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Other compostable concepts include Algae Apparel and Fungi Fashion, both named in accordance with their products’ key components. Algae Apparel has developed a process to transform algae into bio-fiber and non-toxic, antioxidant-packed dyes that are actually good for your skin, while Fungi Fashion is using mycelium — mushroom roots — and 3D technology to create customized, compostable clothing that doesn’t need to be cut or sewn, thereby reducing textile waste.
The remaining innovations include Smart Stitch, a dissolvable thread that aims to simplify the disassembly, and therefore the recycling, of garments and The Regenerator, a process that uses mild chemicals to separate cotton-polyester blends so that the materials can be reused.
“This year’s Global Change Award winners are about disrupting business-as-usual to help transition us to a low-carbon and circular economy. Whether it is fibers from organic waste or algae, or new approaches to recycling, the winners showcase potentially transformative approaches from sourcing to end-of-use management,” said Vikram Widge, Head of Climate Finance & Policy, IFC, World Bank Group and member of the Global Change award expert panel.
According to Savers, around 26 billion pounds of clothing go into landfills each year, even though 95 percent could be reused or recycled. With clothing consumption projected to grow 65 percent by 2030, as 3 billion people enter the global middle class, these wasteful figures are likely to increase unless the fashion industry undergoes profound change. If developed at scale, the five Global Change Award winners could help drive this transformation.
“How we manage and consume resources will be crucial for the lives of present and future generations. All industries need to rethink, innovate and challenge the status quo. Creative innovations are key to make this shift and I congratulate the Global Change Award winners who all have the power to help reinvent the fashion industry, enabling products and resources to be cycled instead of just having one single life,” said Karl-Johan Persson, CEO of H&M and Board member of H&M Foundation.
The teams behind the forward-thinking fibers and technologies will be revealed at the Grand Award Ceremony in Stockholm on March 20. In addition to funding, winners will also get access to a one-year innovation accelerator provided by the H&M Foundation in collaboration with Accenture and KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. The accelerator takes the startups to Stockholm, New York and Shanghai providing a toolbox of skills, networks and exposure to help them leverage their innovations and grants.