From Trash to Treasure
THEY’RE COMPLETE RUBBISH.
Well, that’s the rumor, anyway. Yet, for the latest in alternative fabrics, the distinction is not necessarily a bad thing. The items formerly known as garbage—cork, plastic bottles, seaweed, the list goes on—are having a bit of an identity crisis, and the fashion world is primed to reap the benefits.
“Not everything that every clothing company wants is necessarily [a] natural fabric,” said Summer Rayne Oakes, an independent sustainability strategist with an emphasis in eco-fashion and the spokesperson for Planet Green, the Discovery Network’s new enviro-centric channel.
In particular, she noted, performance-based companies such as Nike and Patagonia look beyond the organic-cotton stratosphere to maximize the environmental benefits of their lines. For example, a few old Diet Coke bottles create soft, lightweight fleece while also reducing landfill waste. As green-conscious practices continue to be integrated into the corporate model, it makes good business sense. “They’re looking into recycled P.E.T., they’re looking into fabrics that may not require dyes. There are a number of manufacturers—some out of Japan, some out of China—that are starting to produce really innovative fabrics,” she added. Clearly, it’s true how the saying goes, “One man’s trash is another man’s environmentally responsible, marketing-friendly, durable super-fabric.” Or something.
Hit the Bottle
Probably one of the most mainstream of the alternative fabrics is recycled P.E.T., or poly(ethylene terephthalate). The substance is commonly found in soda bottles and its alter-ego, polyester fleece, has already hit the promotional circuit.
In an October 2007 “Developments to Watch” Web video from BusinessWeek, Ingrid Johnson, a professor of textiles and marketing at the Fashion Institute of Technology, described the process. Once a bottle is recycled into little polyester chips, they’re melted down and extruded through a machine called a spinaret, which she said, “is more or less like a showerhead and it will force the solution through … and we create fibers from that.”