Is Biodegradable Fashion Good?
Biodegradable fashion is gaining more and more traction among big brands like Bottega Veneta and Stella McCartney. Clothes that don’t pollute sound great, and so does a fabric made from food waste, but like any other innovation, we are here to interrogate it. Most clothes are destined to become fabric waste, although some of them may get recycled, they will reach the end of their lifespan sooner or later. In response to this ugly truth and to the massive environmental and social impact clothes have, some brands and designers are turning to biodegradability as the solution, designing and manufacturing apparel and footwear which will decompose into nothing when discarded.
Throughout SS23 shows Gabriela Hearst made shoes with biodegradable soles, Peter Do used TomTex, a biodegradable leather alternative, and the Coperni spray-on dress can, on request, be made from biodegradable fibres and binders. Back in 2020, Bottega Veneta debuted its 100% biodegradable rubber boots and Stella McCartney launched biodegradable stretch denim.
Billi London, for example, is the brand who designed the first biodegradable tights, made from Amni Soul Eco, a nylon which will biodegrade in approximately five years, compared to the almost-100 years conventional tights take to break down. These tights are actually supposed to go in the bin because landfill provides the perfect, oxygen-free conditions for them to biodegrade into biomass and biogas.
The brand KENT, makes biodegradable underwear. Every product they introduce to the market has to meet all criteria to be compostable: everything from materials, washes, dyes, and component parts for ease of compostability. These products break down in approximately 90 days, and act as a source of nutrients for the soil so they can even be buried in your garden.
The differences between KENT and Billi London highlights just how varied the biodegradable fashion landscape can be. Some items should go in the bin, some can be buried in your garden, others need specialist treatment. The biodegradability of a product is only one component of its huge life-cycle, which is the part we need to focus on, if we want to apply a more circular economy to the Fashion Industry. It makes sense for brands solving specific problems, like huge numbers of tights and underwear going to landfill for lack of other options, to use biodegradability as their driving force, but like any sustainable solution, we should expect it as one of multiple measures as it is still not okay to encourage people to ditch their clothes or shoes at the earliest opportunity just because they won’t pollute the environment. In fact, the brands mentioned above are actually starting to market campaigns to make the most of these products before ditching by following the motto “wear slow, compost fast”; or by showing how to darn holes and turn worn out tights into plant hangers, ensuring long-term use before disposal.
[Info sourced on dazeddigital.com
All images sourced on canva.com]