Your next pair of booties could be made from lab-grown microorganisms instead of cow hide.
The H&M Foundation announced the winners of its annual Global Change Award this week, honoring five new ventures, like lab-grown leather, that are “improving fashion’s impact on the planet through innovation.”
The awards come with a 1 million euro ($1.12 million) grant meant to support notable industry disruptors in their early stages. While the winners often excel in material innovation, this year, the non-profit also sought out digital projects meant to optimize “efficiency, planning and resource use–all the way from producing raw materials to a garment’s end of life,” according to the Foundation’s website.
Here’s a look at this year’s Global Change Award winners.
Outdoor brands have struggled to reconcile the effects of the harmful weatherproofing chemicals used to treat their garments with their abiding love for the environment. Mineral-based solution, Sane Membrane, can be applied to virtually any type of gear to create a biodegradable waterproof membrane that won’t shed toxins into the ecosphere.
Despite their thorny reputation, stinging nettles could provide the next sustainable textile solution. The hardy plants grow in conditions that Sustainable Sting characterizes as “hard to access, thin-soiled steep slopes where irrigation is tricky,” and their fibers can be spun into a linen-like fabric. The group claims the business could potentially employ or support 200,000 Kenyan farmers in areas where the plants are plentiful.
Not only does conventional leather production send animals to slaughter, the toxic chemicals and heavy metals used in the tanning process release toxins into the environment. Not so with Lab Leather, which claims to capture the “unique properties of real leather” better than other vegan alternatives on the market. Derived from exotic Peruvian flowers and fruits, the 100 percent biodegradable compound was designed to mimic different leather textures, colors and thicknesses while promoting durability.
Clothes That Grow
Inspired by origami folding techniques and space engineering, Clothes That Grow are meant to do just that. With a range of sizes from nine months through four years, tops and bottoms for boys and girls are built to expand as children grow. “As children grow seven sizes in their first two years, there’s an appalling amount of children’s clothes that are bought but barely or never worn before they’re outgrown” the group said in a statement. These windproof, waterproof garments are built to adapt to their wearers’ changing bodies, and last through years of play.
The Loop Scoop
Digital platform, The Loop Scoop arms designers with knowledge about the materials they’re using along with tools to help them design garments with “recyclable intent,” the company said in a statement. Garments are given a “circularity.ID” with their environmental specs, which can be scanned by consumers to provide instruction on how to reuse, update or recycle their purchases.
In addition to sharing the 1 million euro grant, Global Change Award winners will be enrolled in a year-long accelerator program with Accenture and the KTH Royal Institute of Technology to help their products reach the greater fashion community. The H&M Foundation has also launched a crowdfunding initiative with Indiegogo, allowing consumers to take part in backing and even testing the products.
Karl-Johan Persson, a member of the H&M Foundation’s board, said in a statement that this year’s winners would make “great partners to any fashion company that wants to contribute to protecting the planet and our living conditions.”
Last year’s honorees included projects like Algae Apparel, which created both a bio-fiber and environmentally friendly dye from the abundant micro-organism, and Crop-a-Porter, which used harvested plant waste to create new biodegradable, sustainable textiles.