From Trash to Treasure
Though past mechanical limitations made fleece the sole byproduct of this process, new incarnations are beginning to come forward. This is good news for Oakes, who explained that the manufacturing of thinner, more delicate recycled fabrics is an area of opportunity for lingerie and swimwear companies. “They need finer fabrics and [are] looking to be more environmentally friendly. There hasn’t been advancements in those areas,” she said.
To fill the demand, P.E.T. is getting a make-under. “We are now able to make finer fabrics such as sheer chiffon or polyester georgette,” Johnson explained.
Partners in Wine
“Finer things” can also refer to the origin of the next alternative fabric that is still in its infancy. Save
the Chianti-stained remnants from the last wine-and-cheese party. Cork is poised to pop out of obscurity (sorry).
The material’s inherently eco-friendly harvesting method is its most desirable benefit. According
to the World Wildlife Fund, a multinational conservation organization, “Because cork is the bark of the cork oak tree … which renews itself after harvesting, commercial exploitation is environmentally friendly, as not a single tree is cut down.” New
bark grows back every nine years, so with proper farming techniques, it’s a renewable resource with exciting potential.
The majority of cork is grown in Portugal, but a few companies on the opposite side of the pond have gotten the jump on this durable, flexible and lightweight material. Ontario-based Jelinek Cork Group, for instance, has an entire line of handbags and accessories made from cork, and at 2006’s Fall Fashion Week, a soft-as-leather cork sport coat was featured in a special presentation by DDC Lab, a New York-based design studio that specializes in fabric technology. Only time will tell how cork will fare once it hits the masses, but as Oakes stated, the time is ripe for a breakthrough. “I think everybody’s looking for the next new fabric or fiber to tell an interesting story,” she said.