Image credits: 2020-21 look by Mariam Al Sibai made from Piñatex.
What are next-gen fabrics?
Next-generation fabrics or “next-gen” materials are non-plastic, non-synthetic and vegan fabrics that serve as ethical and sustainable alternatives to conventional fabrics for use in fashion, home products and more.
Why do we need next-gen fabrics?
Next-gen fabrics serve primarily as replacements for animal-based materials such as leather, fur, wool and down. The current generation of alternatives – petroleum-derived synthetics – also have serious environmental and social problems, so innovation in these types of materials, which are more environmentally conscious and of higher quality, is growing.
What are next-gen materials made of?
As more companies get involved in materials innovation, the technologies behind next-generation fabrics are diversifying. Some 21.6% of companies specializing in next-gen materials develop these materials from microbes, while 8.2% use Mycelium, a fungus for the manufacture of vegan leather that is ideal when it comes to better replicating the performance and aesthetics of animal-derived leather.
Innovation in next-generation fabrics has also led to the creation of new fabrics, such as those made from pineapple. Piñatex, a pineapple leather, is one of the main alternatives to leather and, in addition to being animal-friendly, does not require the petrochemicals often used in fake leather.
Other examples of non-conventional materials are algae bioplastic (a combination of seaweed powder with fats from other species of algae), soy cashmere (made from soy protein from the surplus of tofu production), and rose petal silks (fabrics made from fallen rose petals, converted into thread and dyed with natural pigments), among others.
“Innovation in next generation fabrics has also led to the creation of other fabrics, such as, for example, pineapple.” Pictured: pineapple fabric from Recovo.
Next-generation fabrics, a market that is constantly innovating and growing
Brands are mostly opting for next-generation materials in the expectation of increasing their revenues in tandem with their sustainability and anti-animal cruelty policies.
According to a study by Material Innovation Initiative, out of 95 companies engaged in the manufacture of next-gen materials, 55 were created after 2014, and 10 have been established since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, demonstrating the high growth of the sector.
The study itself estimates that $2.3 billion has been invested in next-gen fabrics since 2015, with the amount of investment in 2021 being more than double that in 2020. Even at the height of the pandemic, the capital invested in 2021 alone is almost equivalent to that of the previous 4 years combined. It is also estimated that the size of the global wholesale market for next-gen materials will be approx. $2.2 billion in 2026, representing a 3% share of a $70+ billion market.
The only downside to materials innovation? Lack of supply. Unfortunately, there are more interested investors than investment opportunities, so more initiatives are needed for the creation of next-gen fabrics.
In conclusion, next-generation material innovation enables the use of more ethical and sustainable alternatives to conventional fabrics. Fortunately, there is more and more investment in these materials, however, the supply still lags far behind, so it is very important that more companies join the growth of this sector.
If you are looking for innovative fabrics for your next collection and you are thinking of doing it in a circular and sustainable way, you can find in our catalog fabrics that contribute to reduce textile waste and the environmental impact of fashion. You can also try to sell your leftover fabrics, maybe someone is looking for them!