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Achieving the Trendy Metallic Look without Harmful Heavy Metals

Fashion is all about metallics right now. The high-shine trend has made an appearance on the red carpet at the Academy Awards and Grammys, at couture and ready-to-wear runway shows and in everyday casual clothing.

Metallic sparkle was taken to new heights at the recent spring couture shows in Paris. While silver and gold are to be expected, designers shrewdly injected color into the mix,” wrote WWD in January.

But are those playful golds, silvers and new vivid metallics all harmless fun? Sustainable chemical company Verdant Innovations says no. Satish Hodage, vice president of product development for textiles and nonwovens at the firm, is focused on greener and cleaner products for the industry, and he noted the conventional materials used for metallics and glitters are harmful and unsustainable. “The environmental impact of metallics is often overlooked in the broader sustainability conversation, but sparkly fashion comes at an environmental cost,” he said.

The challenge for fashion, textile manufacturers, retailers and consumers interested in cleaner and greener products is that metallics and glitter are harmful to aquatic life, our environment and humankind. The heavy metals and plastics used to create this beautiful fashion statement break off into harmful particles that are released during wash cycles and normal wear. Metallic fibers and textiles are made up of metals, metal-coated plastic or a core fiber that is covered by metal—typically aluminum.

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In production, the fibers go through a lamination process which involves applying layers of aluminum with polyester or acetate. The fibers are then threaded onto bobbins to use as yarn. Yarns are colored and encapsulated with the metal in a film that is colored, or metallic fabric is made by using “metalizing processes,” which when heated to a high degree transforms into a vapor. Glitter is a microplastic—it consists of small plastic particles that are covered with aluminum. All these known processes using plastics and metals involve harmful ingredients and are far from meeting the sustainability initiatives of brands, retailers and manufacturers. 

It’s time for fashion to consider greener metallics and glitter.

A new generation of ready-to-print metallic pastes will enable the industry to move away from heavy metals and plastics while achieving the shiny materials and glitzy trends that consumers love. Brands can use greener chemistry solutions for metallics production to create products that are sustainable and safe for everything from childrenswear to couture—protecting future generations and the environment. The natural chemicals also have an application for specialty paper products, including wrapping paper and gift cards.

Verdant Innovation’s newest line of solutions consists of naturally altering raw material-based pastes, pigments and colors, providing proven alternatives that are highly washable, durable and sustainable.

The company’s Fibre-Print™ metallic inks and pastes are all free from restricted heavy metals, phthalates, formaldehydes, APEOs (alkylphenol ethoxylates), NPEOs (nonylphenol ethoxylates) and biocides (chemicals or microorganisms meant to destroy or control a harmful organism). The inks are water-based and contain no heavy metals or plastics. “Our solutions are proven and certified with Oeko-Tex 100, GOTS 6.0 and ZDHC 2.0 level 1,” said Hodage. “We felt that adding safer metallics with the Fibre-Print™ line was the right timing for an industry obsessed with sparkle.”

Verdant Innovation’s green chemicals are suitable for rotary printing, automatic screen printing, flat bed printing and coatings, making them highly versatile for all textiles and papers.

“Customers are experiencing multiple benefits with these cost-effective green chemicals, including zero waste of fabric, faster cleanup of machinery, higher coverage and improved productivity,” said Hodage. “This line of metallic inks and pastes is the most exciting line of green chemicals yet for Verdant, and we are working with innovative brands and textile companies currently with amazing results.”

Click here to learn more about Verdant Innovations.