What will tomorrow’s fashion look like? It is worth noting that fashion-conscious and tech-savvy millennials not only care about uniqueness but also sustainability. In a recent study done by Nielsen and Deloitte, of the respondents who look out for sustainability, 51 percent were millennials.
The fashion industry is the second biggest polluter of freshwater resources on the planet, and a quarter of the chemicals produced in the world are used in textiles. Vincent Djen, co-founder of FashionEx, a fashion accelerator based in Shanghai, believes this needs to change.
“The hot topic now is sustainability. Since two or three years ago, the fashion industry has been really pushing forward sustainability, to use less water in the whole process of making a garment in order to lower the impact on our environment,” Vincent said at Fabernovel Shanghai Talks on September 22nd.
As an example of sustainable fashion, Vincent introduced a jacket co-developed by Odd Molly, Spindye, and himself. The jacket uses recycled polyester from used PET bottles, cuts down water usage by 80% and saves 30% carbon emission in the making process. Most of all, it uses new solution for dyeing textile. Traditionally dyeing fabric is very water and energy intensive. To dye a T-shirt, a factory uses tons of water and up to 120 – 140 degrees Celsius. This wastewater becomes a pollutant so the factory needs to use a lot of water and expensive water treatment process to turn the dirty water into clean water again.
“Our dyeing solution starts with mixing color with the recycled polyester chips before spinning into yarns form. Think of turning clear lego bricks into color with pigment. This dyeing technology is also used in other industries, too,” he said.
That way, companies don’t need to use water to dye the fabric after the fabric is weaved. The filling is made with Sorona yarn which uses about 40% less energy and cuts down about 40% of greenhouse gases compared to petroleum-based yarns. The jacket will be sold in the Europe first, Vincent said.
“How do you close the loop? We can do it by creating a timeless design jacket and extending the life of the jacket. Recycling the jacket and turning into insulation or new fibers can also be an option,” he said.
Currently, Beijing, Shanghai, Zhejiang province in China, parts of US, Germany, and Canada offer garment recycling services.
Vincent says smart garments can be divided into two categories. First is data collecting and functional garments, such as a sports T-shirt that tracks your activity and ECG, monitors user’s blood and oxygen level and notifies the user in case of an emergency.
Second is functional garments such as the heated garment or lighted garments for safe biking at night or for clubbing.
“Heated garments are getting popular because we don’t want to wear too many layers of clothes and look like a fluffy bear. We want it light but also warm,” Vincent said.
The jacket that uses smart dyeing solution also has seamless detachable heating modules to make it both warm and light. Recently PolarSeal, a heated base layer top raised 4.6 million HKD on Kickstarter and Ravean, a heated down jacket that also charges mobile phone raised $1.3 million.
“It’s fashion tech, not tech fashion. It should come from fashion with help of technology in making something people want to wear and something people want to buy,” Vincent said.
Another Shanghai-based company that combines fashion with technology is X suit. They make suits that support high mobility and are liquid and odor resistant, and wrinkle repellent. It allows each fiber in the lining to attract, isolate, and neutralize odors immediately, and helps to reduce the amount of dry-cleaning and overall maintenance necessary for the suit.
“Classic suits are formal and elegant but uncomfortable, while sports suits are comfortable but too casual. We try to combine the strong parts of the two, making a formal and comfortable suit,” Max Perez, co-founder & creative director at X Suit said at the event.