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„Plant Leather“, © 2021 Allbirds, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

The role that sustainable materials have in the fashion industry is growing. Allbirds, a footwear and clothing brand based in San Francisco, is a pioneer in sustainable fashion. It already uses a number of alternatives to conventional materials and has made it its duty to address carbon footprint in its design. Chitosan is a fibre that is made from the shell of Canadian snow crabs and can be processed into T-shirts; SweetFoam is derived from sugar cane and is used for the soles of trainers that have a knitted surface material made from eucalyptus tree fibres, for example. The label has now presented another material: Plant Leather, a plant-based, natural leather alternative. The smooth material is produced from vegetable oil, natural rubber and other bio-based ingredients. It aims to have a carbon impact 40 times less than that of traditional leather and 17 times less than artificial leather. This innovation was created thanks to the brand’s USD 2 million investment in Natural Fiber Welding Inc., a US company that is seeking to replace petroleum-based products in the soft-goods industry with circular, plant-based materials.

There is another project under way that concentrates on conscious luxury using carbon-neutral materials. It has joined together Phillip Lim (creative director and co-founder of the eponymous label), researcher Charlotte McCurdy and the companies Pyrates and One X One, which specialise in environmentally friendly materials. The result of the project is a dress lined with sequins made from algae, which are supposed to have a thermoregulating and antiperspirant effect. “We were inspired by shades of green and how photosynthesis happens, how light reflects and refracts,” says Lim, We imagined this whole ecosystem of marine life, from fishing nets, as the fabric which the sequins would go on, to pearls and crystals inspired by oysters, deconstructing and reconstructing this ecosystem.”

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