It’s easy to dismiss the outpouring of circular textile innovations we’ve seen over the past few years. While they promise a much-needed alternative to the wasteful take-make-dispose model of consumption, they frequently lack the financial wherewithal or operational know-how to scale outside lab walls.
Swedish startup Re:newcell is proving itself an exception; Infinited Fiber Company (IFC) might be another. The Finnish manufacturer, which claims it can turn textile, cardboard and agricultural waste into new cotton-like material “infinitely,” debuted Tuesday a proof-of-concept garment in collaboration with Weekday, an H&M Group brand.
Modeled by “Game of Thrones” actress Maisie Williams, the two-piece ensemble comprises a denim bustier, buttoned in front with laces in the back, and a pair of jeans with above-the-knee cutouts and exposed front-pocket linings.
Williams praised the outfit, saying it looks and feels like “any other denim.”
“I’m so excited to work with a fashion brand that is taking a conscious step forward,” she said in a statement. “For Weekday to create the first custom piece of its kind, for me, leaves me flattered.”
Weekday is the first brand in the world to employ IFC’s “reborn” material, which the company produces by liquifying the cellulose in its feedstock and respinning it into fiber.
The company has been plotting its commercial expansion for a while now. It runs a 50-ton-per-annum pilot plant in Espoo, Finland’s second-largest city. In August, IFC raised 3.7 million euros ($4 million) in funding from investors such as H&M Group, Fortum and Virala.
“IFC has a really interesting new recycling technique that has potential to help Weekday in our goal towards 100 percent recycled or sustainably sourced materials,” Ulrika Jakobsson, sustainability coordinator at Weekday, said. “For us, this material is extra-interesting because of its cotton-like appearance and durability.”
The project began as a trial run within H&M Group’s Circular & Renewable Innovation Lab, which interrogates innovations in early stages of development. That, in turn, was sparked by H&M Group’s investment in IFC.
There exists a “strong market” for a fiber with high sustainability performance at an affordable cost, according to Erik Karlsson, investment manager for sustainable fashion at Co: Lab, H&M Group’s investment arm.
“IFC’s innovation perfectly aligns with H&M Group’s sustainability goals and our vision to become fully circular,” he said. “IFC has proven significant potential to accelerate the journey from a linear to a circular fashion industry. We look forward to being part of developing and scaling this technology in the coming years.”
So far, H&M is two-for-two on its circular textile investments. It has a minority stake in Re:newcell, which recently feted the world’s first garments made from Circulose, a new “climate-friendly” material derived from old jeans, T-shirts and other discarded cotton clothing. The garments will be available to buy in stores next year, albeit from as-yet-to-be-named brands.