The Future of Fashion: Algiknit – Kelp Fibre

Future of Fashion Article Series @Amberoot- Innovative Fibre - AlgiKnit, Copyright Kew Gardens

Kelp is one of the fastest growing organisms on earth and is readily available worldwide. By creating knit yarn from kelp (Laminaria Digitata) Algiknit aims to build a sustainable biodegradable fiber alternative to today’s domineering petrochemical textiles. Meet AlgiKnit.

1) So, what is AlgiKnit and how do you create it?

AlgiKnit grew out of BioEsters; the first national winning team of the 2016 Biodesign Challenge. The Algiknit team, is a collaboration between scientists and designers, with a nature-inspired approach to the exploration of divergent ways to design a new set of materials that operate within a sustainable framework, respecting planetary boundaries limits and a social justice foundation.

AlgiKnit is our brand name. The name was inspired by the first BioYarn we created using bioplymers derived from kelp, the yarn which we then knit into a textile.

As designers we wanted to put this fiber into the realm of our expertise, textiles. Textiles are comprised of two major material structures: wovens and knits. We chose knitwear because this was our area of expertise and also an area that has not been widely explored in BioMaterials world. Knits are comprised of a series of interlocking loops, and because of this, knitting lends itself to a great deal of stretch, flexibility and strength not found wovens; properties we felt would benefit our biomaterial.

The AlgiKnit team members and company co-founders are: Tessa Callaghan, Aleksandra Gosiewski, Aaron Nesser, Theanne Schiros, and myself, Asta Skocir.

2) Why are you creating AlgiKnit?

As consumers living in a wasteful, “throw-away” society, we purchase far more clothing than we need. As a result, we are not wearing our clothing until it degrades; most clothing is discarded because it is no longer useful. RealReal’s founder and CEO Julie Wainwright states that, “more than 80 billion pieces of clothing are produced worldwide every year, with 75% percent ending up in landfills.” In a world where consumption continues to increase, and with retailers feeding into this fast fashion model, we wanted to create textiles that are non-toxic, non-hazardous, and are a compostable alternative to petrochemical textiles.

By using rapidly replenishing organisms like alginate, and traditional processing and manufacturing methods, we aim to develop products which biodegrade at the end of their useful life to provide nutrients for the next generation of materials.

Algiknit - Textile Fabric from Kelp on Amberoot

3) What other projects in the sustainable textiles/fashion space are you are excited about (done by you or others)?

I am fascinated by the sustainable initiatives that other BioMaterial companies are developing. There are several companies that have genetically engineered a spider silk that mimics the properties of natural spider silk, but with the tensile strength required to knit the fiber on industrial knitting equipment. Stella McCartney recently partnered with the biotech company Bolt Threads, to create a vegan-friendly knit shift dress, currently on exhibit at The Museum of Modern Art. Adidas unveiled their biodegradable sneaker, made from AMSilk’s lab-grown spider silk, at the 2016 BioFabricate Conference. Orange Fiber, that produces sustainable fabrics from citrus by-products, is another company whose work I admire, and whose progress I follow.

These sustainable initiatives, some of which are collaborations between biotech companies and fashion companies, have culminated in the successful creation of biodegradable products, important factors in “closing the loop” in the fashion industry.

4) How do you see the future of fashion?

There is a global need for change. Fashion is cited as the second most polluting industry in the world, but the fashion industry lags behind other industries in advancing sustainability and creating transparency in the fashion the supply chain. Every stage of a garment’s life threatens the future of our planet and our natural resources.

For example, the demand for synthetic materials continues to grow because synthetic fibers like nylon and polyester provide an inexpensive option for fast-fashion garment production. These man-made materials are environmentally toxic and pollutive, requiring significant energy, water and chemicals to produce. AlgiKnit hopes to address these supply chain issues. Our biomaterials have the mechanical strength and flexibility to create textiles that are non-toxic, non-hazardous, and are a compostable alternative to petrochemical textile. And because our BioMaterial is a yarn, we have the ability to knit a textile “to shape”, eliminating waste in the garment production phase.

What do you think of AlgiKnit? Share your thoughts by tweeting us @Amberoot, or in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you!

You can also follow Algiknit (@algiknit) and Asta Skocir (@knitgrandeur) on Twitter!

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