Trends to Watch: Plant-Based Fibers

3 Key Things to Know Right Now

1. Hemp Processing Progress

The use of hemp by outdoor apparel brands has been growing over the past few years. And while the opportunity for hemp is on the rise, what’s still needed on the supply side is investment to develop an American hemp supply chain that would link farm to fiber to finished goods. The area of processing hemp, for example, is particularly problematic as there are few domestic spinners capable of working with the fiber, according to textile execs.

It’s important to understand that hemp plants grown for fiber are not the same as the plants grown for the CBD industry. Textile hemp fibers require a “cottonizing” process to become more consistent and stable to be spun into yarn.

Help may be on the way, however. Canadian firm Bast Fibre Technologies, has made significant progress processes hemp for the textile industry and looks to install machinery in North American sometime in the next couple years.

2. Footwear First

While clothing made with algae is still in its infancy, footwear makers are making good use of the plant. Bloom Algae Foam, which is harvested from invasive growth areas and is naturally odor resistant is featured in Adidas, Toms, Clarks and Vivobarefoot shoes. Oboz, in its Fall 2020 Bozeman collection of footwear, along with Repreve recycled materials, also uses an insole made with Bloom Algae Foam. And New York-based start-up AlgiKnit has recently developed a yarn that the company showcased in a prototype AlgiKnit sneaker.

The latest news from Reebok levels up the sustainable footwear category with the debut of the Forever Floatride GROW model. Following a three-year development process the Fall 20 shoe builds on the brands Cotton+Corn lifestyle collection.

Inside and out, the new footwear style advances plant-based performance. Castor beans feature as a lightweight, functional midsole material, eucalyptus tree wood pulp offers strength and breathability for the shoe’s upper, and the sockliner utilizing Bloom Algae Foam mitigates odors. The natural rubber outsole is sustainably sourced from real rubber trees, not petroleum-based rubber.

According to Bill McInnis, VP, Reebok Future, “We heard loud and clear that the idea of a plant-based running shoe resonates strongly with serious runners. But those same runners felt just as emphatically that they would never compromise on performance. The Forever Floatride GROW is the result.”

3. Belief in Biomaterials

The carbon sequestering properties along with an improved aesthetic, and inherent performance attributes, are helping attract an audience to an assortment of new plant-based materials. “Vegetable leather” made from mushrooms and “vegetable cashmere” made from soy are slowly gaining traction in the marketplace. Textiles made from Himalayan nettles and ginger plants were trending at trade shows this Fall, and innovation around materials made with abacá and pineapple leaves is also garnering attention. Abacá, is a non-fruiting plant from the banana tree family, and known as Bananatex or Manila Hemp. Either way the water resistant, woven fabric is a natural for packs.

Researchers studying carbon sequestration in forest soil believe that fungi such as mycelium are responsible for anywhere from 47 percent to 70 percent of soil carbon found in their samples. Mylo, a new branded product from Bolt Threads, is created from mushroom mycelium, and is currently used in bags by Stella McCartney.

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