We’ve often heard negative remarks about fast-fashion brands that claim to have sustainable practices, and consumers are getting more tired everyday of hearing fake promises. World renown fashion brand H&M has launched a new sustainable collection featuring three innovative biomaterials. The company has gone under scrutiny several times in the past for their allegedly greenwashing campaigns and initiatives. Consumers worldwide hope that this collection marks the end of that era and signifies the beginning of a truly sustainable H&M.
The collection, dubbed “H&M X PETA” due to the partnership with the NGO, combines innovative animal-substitute fabrics and sustainably sourced materials. The fashion company has worked alongside pioneering innovations such as FLWRDWN, an alternative to animal down made using wildflowers, VEGEA, a plant-based substitute for oil-based and animal-derived leathers, and ECONYL, a regenerated nylon made entirely from ocean and landfill waste.
Let’s talk more about these materials.
VEGEA was founded in 2016 in Milan with the goal of promoting integration between chemistry and agriculture through the development of new eco-sustainable products. According to the company, “the name VEGEA comes from the combination of VEG (Vegan) and GEA (Mother Earth). It was chosen to identify the next generation of alternative materials to totally oil-based and animal-derived ones”.
The company develops plant-based alternatives to fully synthetic oil-derived materials, the former being characterized by a high content of vegetal/recycled raw materials such as vegetable oils and natural fibers from agroindustry. Their production processes are based on the exploitation of biomasse and vegetable raw materials. The final product has many different applications, such as fashion, furniture, packaging, automotive & transportation.
VEGEA itself is a vegan coated fabric that works as a fantastic alternative to oil-based and animal-derived leathers. It’s produced in several different versions that differ from each other based on technical and aesthetic properties, such as thickness, elasticity, weight, finishing, and texture. It can also be made in any color, upon the specific customers’ request.
VEGEA’s products are compliant with the European regulations (REACH). Meanwhile, the company has dedicated a part of its lifetime to work on collaborations between public and private sectors allowing partnerships to grow within the local industry and research players.
On the other hand, we have FLWRDWN. This innovative material comes as the substitute material for our current-day lightweight, thermal-insulating outerwear which is made from animal feather or synthetic down –mainly polyester– which is made using non-biodegradable and finite petrochemical resources.
FLWRDWN is PANGAIA’s ethical alternative to down jackets. It’s a patented technology that offers a plant-based, animal-free and resource efficient alternative that’s equally as breathable, warm and cozy as mainstream down materials. As the name suggests, it’s made using wildflowers, which, additionally, support habitat conservation managed by a NGO. These wildflowers are grown without any artificial irrigation or pesticides.
PANGAIA’s FLWRDWN biopolymer is made from corn and is fully compostable. When combined with the wildflowers’ down-like microstructure, it efficiently brings out the thermal-warming properties.
Another amazing feat by the company is its patented biodegradable aerogel. According to the company it took researchers over a decade to create, making it a first-of-a-kind. It provides FLWRDWN products with enough strength to increase their performance and durability.
Last but not least, H&M’s newest collection works with ECONYL, a regenerated nylon product. ECONYL puts a different spin in the circular economy of fashion. Because of its physical properties, it can be recycled, recreated and remoulded again and again. Essentially, it can be recycled infinitely, without ever losing its quality, meaning that companies can create new products and buy new products without having to use new resources.
ECONYL can be seen in high-end designer handbags, stylish clothes, hosiery and lingerie, as well as high-performance sportswear, swimwear and outdoor apparel.
To make the ECONYL regenerated nylon, the company first starts by rescuing fishing nets, fabric scraps, carpet flooring and industrial plastic. It’s then sorted and cleaned to recover as much of the nylon as possible. The nylon waste is recycled to its main form through a radical regeneration and purification process. Finally, it’s processed into yarns and polymers for the fashion and interior industries.
While all these innovative biomaterials exist, it’s important that big brands such as H&M start involving them in their products, raising awareness for biomaterials and promoting a healthier bio-circular economy.