Miroslava Duma, CEO and Founder of Fashion Tech Lab, explores how futuristic fashion can help the planet
Growing up in Siberia – where the natural oil and gas industry is one of the largest in the country – I was always aware of the polluting effects of the fashion industry. What I didn’t know until recently, and what came as a huge shock to me, is that the fashion industry is in fact the second largest polluter in the world after the oil industry. For the sake of our planet and future, it’s becoming more and more important to make changes to the industry. So what can advancements in tech do to help?
1. Eco fibers
The rise of fast fashion means a huge increase of the consumption of raw materials, with 70 million trees logged every year and turned into the most used fabrics in fashion like rayon, viscose and modal. But some companies have found ways to lessen the need for new materials by using waste products from other industries to create innovative new fabrics. For example, Orange Fiber create their sustainable textiles from citrus juice byproducts – 700,000 tons of which are otherwise discarded in Italy alone.
2. Less washing and less waste
A third of garments produced globally end up discarded and wasted, adding to already over-capacity landfills and having a damaging effect on the environment. But what if your t-shirt had such strong antimicrobial and liquid-repelling properties that you would be able to wear it over 20 times before it needed to be laundered? It could be years before you’d need to throw it away. These fabrics are already in development and could drastically cut fashion waste.
3. Reducing chemicals
Cotton is the world's most pesticide-consuming crop. What if I told you that, instead of using cotton, you could make beautiful textiles out of milk protein? Yes, milk. Milk proteins can be used to create t-shirts and other garments, with the additional benefit that the fibers even moisturize your skin.
4. Human rights
The diamond industry involves bloodshed, conflict and corruption. Bloody civil wars in several African countries have been directly caused by the trade. So how can we escape 'blood diamonds'? The San Francisco-based Diamond Foundry cultivates beautiful real diamonds above ground in a solar-powered laboratory, meaning there’s guaranteed impeccable provenance of each stone and zero carbon footprint as a result.
5. Avoiding waste
Each year, at least 8 million tonnes of plastic end up in the ocean, and it’s predicted that by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the sea. But what if all the rubbish bags and packaging involved in fashion were compostable and took as little as six months to break down in your compost bin? A tech company in Israel is close to making this a reality.
6. Reducing raw material consumption
Across the globe, 70 million chemical dyes are used each year to color the clothes that we wear. Alternative solutions include natural dry dyeing techniques that save hundreds of gallons of water (5000 to make a t-shirt or a pair of jeans, for example), and using bacteria to achieve a 100% organic and sustainable coloring.
7. Animal rights
Leather can now be made from a wide variety of different materials. From grapes, to mushrooms, to being grown from stem cells in a petri dish, these animal-friendly leathers are helping to address some of the ethical issues in the fashion industry.
8. Making new clothes from old ones
Over 26 billion pounds of clothing gets thrown aways and ends up in landfills each year. What if we were able to eliminate textile waste from the fashion industry and reduce the need for virgin resources and dye usage by nearly 100%? There are companies out there who do just that by upcycling old yarns and fabrics.
Miroslava Duma is the founder of several innovative ventures, a digital entrepreneur and an investor. She is CEO and Founder of Fashion Tech Lab, a hybrid company that combines an investment company, a multinational accelerator and an experimental laboratory, all aimed at helping new technologies and sustainable innovations connect, collaborate and create products and brands that evolve the industry and improve its social and environmental footprints. Miroslava has been cited as ‘a force of the fashion industry’ by the Financial Times and as the ‘most connected digital entrepreneur in fashion’ by Vogue.