Climate advocate and writer Sophia Li believes the fashion world is on the cusp of an “innovation boom”. Li, who attended the 2023 Green Carpet Fashion Awards in March, wearing an architectural corset by vegan sister brand Felder Felder made of leather-like material made from mango waste from Fruitleather Rotterdam, sees lab-created synthetics and biomaterials pioneering the new wave of fashion as we know it.
For stylists and consumers alike, figuring out what sustainability means to them can be a process, whether it’s the carbon footprint of materials, whether natural fibers are organic and ethically sourced, or whether production is transparent. The process can be even more difficult with the shiny materials expected on the red carpet.
“There are a lot of nuances to this conversation,” says Mary Fellowes, founder of GreenWith Studio, a London-based fashion, sustainability and technology consultancy that has worked with Stella McCartney, Balenciaga and Calvin Klein. (Also a stylist, Fellowes helped Olivia Colman instill in her mindful dressing Favorite awards season.
For his part, Li finds the arrival of synthetics and lab-created biomaterials exciting. For alternatives to leatherette, he looks to sources like Bolt Threads, which make Mylo, a leather-like material made from fungal root systems using renewable energy, as well as yeast-based Microsilk.
Last year, Stella McCartney, a Bolt Threads contributor since 2017, introduced the chain-adorned Frayme Mylo handbag ($2,650), the first luxury handbag made from mushrooms to hit the consumer market.
In February, biotech company Modern Meadow, which focuses on protein-based technology, collaborated with Tory Burch on the brand’s first plant-based handbag. The Ella Bio outer shell ($298-$348) is made from USDA-certified BioFabbrica Bio-Tex, derived from non-GMO soybeans grown in North America and developed in a joint venture with Italian textile and materials supplier Limonta. “Their own DNA is actually about sustainability,” says Modern Meadow CEO Catherine Roggero-Lovisi, highlighting the closed-loop production at Limonta. The new production uses Modern Meadow’s Bio-Alloy dyeing technology, which provides high-performance options in bold colors on an expanded range of textiles, also by “reducing water by 95 percent and energy use by 65 percent,” he adds.
Fellowes and her team checked a list of “materials that we believe are much cleaner and greener” than petroleum-based synthetics. For a silky draped look, “Tencel Luxe would be my first port of call if I wasn’t stocking up or out of season,” says Fellowes of one of Lenzing’s Tencel products made with cellulose fiber derived from responsible wood pulp. For the 2023 Oscars, Zac Posen used Tencel Luxe for a diagonal dress for the RCGD Global ambassador and Avatar: The Way of Water star Bailey Bass. (RCGD Global, founded by Suzy Amis Cameron, works with Tencel on an ongoing basis.)
Fellowes also suggests Global Recycled Standard (GRS)-certified Resilk, developed by the family-owned, energy-saving Italian factory Mantero. The delicate and soft regenerated silk fabric is made from silk production waste. They use really smart technology,” says Fellowes, pointing to emission-saving photovoltaic energy and an LED lighting system that saves over 65% of electricity use.
Fellowes hopes to see more innovation around “shiny, shiny, fabulous, glamorous stuff” for the red carpet.
He points to the biological sequins seen on the April cover Fashion, where Cara Delevingne teased the future in Stella McCartney’s shiny BioSequins jumpsuit, created in collaboration with start-up Radiant Matter. This alternative to environmentally destructive sequins is plastic-free, non-toxic and biodegradable – but not yet available on the market.
In addition, Kering Group’s Materials Innovation Laboratory (MIL), opened in 2013, continues to research and develop sustainable luxury materials, including alternatives to lurex through biodegradable glitters with women-owned BioGlitz.
However, as Livia Giuggioli Firth, founder of the Green Carpet Fashion Awards and Eco-Age consultancy, warns, “when discussing this topic, it’s very important not to focus solely on materials.” With the eco-fabric sector in its early stages of consumer scalability, Firth says the focus on these high-tech alternatives is “almost a distraction.” Furthermore, one-off, high-profile, sustainable collaboration projects may even seem “symbolic,” he argues, while failing to fully account for the social consumption of fast fashion, which leads to 34 billion pounds of used textiles being dumped each year in U.S. landfills – landfills that are It is 2.8 times more likely to be near communities with a higher percentage of BIPOC residents, according to a Boston University study.
Often the most sustainable red carpet materials already exist: unused, leftovers or remnants of fabrics and furnishings. For the SAG Awards, stylist Laura Sophie Cox dressed Ayo Edebiri in an Emilia Wickstead plaid dress made from scraps. She got dressed too Single writer-producer Stefani Robinson in an elaborate, flower-applied corset dress by Ronald van der Kemp made of dead fabric. “You stand for a brand that provides full transparency to its supply chain,” says Cox.
At the previous Academy Awards, Patricia Voto, founder of One/Of, a custom-made line in New York City’s clothing district that uses dead stock, custom-designed a stunning white silk satin and chiffon tuxedo for Hannah Einbinder made from 100% recycled materials. from recycling. Voto, a Rosie Assoulin and Altuzarra alumnus, regularly uses her network of mills and retailers for untapped luxury fabrics and embellishments such as Swarovski for rich crystals to adorn Madison Beer’s emerald gown at the 2021 MET Gala.
“It’s something special,” says Voto. “There is a lot of art to using what you have and just breathing life into it.”
A version of the story first appeared in the May 10 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.