Should we move from sustainable fashion to regenerative fashion?

What is sustainable fashion?

The mission of sustainable fashion is to stop only focusing on trends and take a more mindful approach to what we wear every day, in order to sustain our world.

But “sustainability” has become a buzzword in the fashion industry. Fast fashion brands have integrated it into their marketing plans, hiding the damage they cause the environment for the sake of staying “on-trend.”

Can we take sustainable fashion a step further; ask not only what we need to do to maintain our Earth, but how can we breathe new life into it? This is where regenerative fashion comes in.

What is regenerative fashion?

Regenerative fashion includes remaking clothing into something new (upcycling), recycling materials into clothing (note: beware of recycled plastic — it’s not as innovative as always marketed) and finding natural alternatives for fiber production.

The earth is full of natural elements perfect for fiber production. Let’s explore a bit, shall we?

Alternate Possibilities: What natural elements are we starting to manufacture clothing from?

What natural elements are we starting to make clothing from? Fruit skins, sea weed, cactus, algae and more.

Vegan, mushroom, and food-waste-based leather?

Vegan leather sounds appealing, but is usually a sneaky way of referring to a plastic-based alternative. That said, bio-based materials are on the rise, with mushroom and plant leathers starring the show.

Mushroom leather stems from the root-like system of fungi. Major designers and brands such as Stella McCartney, Adidas and Lululemon have collaborated with this innovative fabric, designing purses, sneakers and workout wear alike.

Plant-based leathers put food waste to good use. Brands like Prota Fiori and Allegorie take leftover fruit skins from wine and apple juice production, along with wasted mangos, and transform them into shoes and leather goods.

Green, fresh and cut up apples on a plain background. Regenerative fashion blog post on Ocean Generation

Photo by Estúdio Bloom on Unsplash

Desserto uses the fiber from cactus leaves for their plant-based leather production. Cacti are a great alternative as they absorb the CO2 produced by farms, removing it from the environment.

What about algae and seaweed?

The most innovative alternative I have come across is the 3D printing of biological materials - such as algae - into fabrics. These materials can be reused to develop new fibers in the future.

Seaweed is amazing too, as it is filled with nutrients and antioxidants that can help the body fight free radicals and prolong the effects of aging.

SeaCell fabric is a mixture of plant-based cellulose and seaweed woven together. This material is optimal for workout wear and underwear as the nutrients from seaweed can be absorbed by the skin. The seaweed itself is unharmed in production, as only the regenerative parts of the algae are harvested, allowing it to continue to grow and thrive.

All-natural materials? Not always.

Beware! Many fast fashion companies claim to use all-natural fibers, when in truth, lab tests reveal little to no amounts of natural fibers within these pieces. Always read clothing tags for the materials – and amounts of materials – actually used.

What can I wear now?

You may already be wearing eucalyptus

Tencel Lyocell and Modal materials are widely available. Sourced from natural raw material wood (eucalyptus trees) these fabrics are soft yet durable, biodegradable, and unfavorable for bacteria growth.

Tencel can be found in everyday clothing from lounge and sleepwear to workout clothing and jeans. Patagonia and Boyish are two of the pioneers making this fabric mainstream.

Forward-thinking fashion

Researching alternative materials has left me with a few burning questions — does the future of fashion consist of photosynthetic t-shirts and carbon-fixing jackets? Will clothing be an alternate way to get our daily nutrients?

As far-fetched as this may sound, this is the kind of forward-thinking needed to push the boundaries of fashion as we know it into a new realm of designing in harmony with our planet, for our Earth and Ocean are living beings with resources to be repurposed and shared — not taken and exploited.

About Lydia

Lydia Dupree is a degreed biochemist and lifelong devotee of fashion who explores the science behind fashion and seeks innovative clothing and brands to curate a health-conscious wardrobe. Her mission is to raise awareness the implications the fashion industry has on our health and the health of our world and show how to easily implement healthy fashion into our lives.

Connect with Lydia via her website or Instagram page. Read her article about how to transition from fast to slow fashion.