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Regenerative Fashion: Sustainable Clothes Revolution?

- Credit to Leah Traill

Covid-19 has had a tremendous impact on the world, one which is likely to drive permanent change. The fashion industry is no exception: the demand for fashion is expected to decrease this year. This presents a unique opportunity to change the industry for the better. That’s where regenerative fashion comes in: a sustainable fashion revolution that is currently rising in popularity. But what exactly is it?

Regenerative fashion is about sourcing sustainable natural fibres, such as cotton and wool, grown using a regenerative agriculture approach. This approach focuses on sustainable farming practices - by avoiding harmful fertilizer and pesticides, and instead composting and cultivating a variety of plants.

In doing so, carbon dioxide is drawn out of the atmosphere and biodiversity is improved. Regenerative practices have also been found to benefit farmers, by decreasing water usage and increasing profits.

Clothes made from crops or animals are also biodegradable, meaning at the end of their life they can be composted and hence contribute to the growth of new life.

Regenerative fashion is clearly a game changer, however the fashion industry is still far from being sustainable. The focus of regenerative fashion is naturally grown materials, however 60% of textiles are made from fossil fuel-based synthetic fibres. As the world commits to net-zero emissions (more than 110 countries to date), we will need to move towards other sources. And while regenerative agriculture is one such source, it leaves the question - what do we do with all the synthetic clothes already in circulation?

Another solution then, is to recycle clothes - i.e. extract their fibres to use once again in new textiles. But sadly, less than 1% of clothes are remade into new textiles. So, what makes recycling clothes so rare?

One major barrier to recycling is that our clothes are complex. Clothes are often made from a combination of fibres, fabrics and other materials. For example, clothes are commonly made from a mixed blend of polyester and cotton (even a ‘100% cotton T-shirt’ can contain polyester stitching). Cotton has absorbent properties that make it comfortable and easier to dye, while polyester has the durability that allows clothes to last longer - thus clothes are made from both materials to optimise both function and comfort.

This is where Phoenxt comes in - we are innovating new technology to concurrently recycle polyester and natural plant based fibres such as cotton, viscose, and hemp. This technology is solvent free and maintains the fibre quality, making it sustainable and environmentally friendly. Hence, we are also contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals, by reducing water pollution (goal 6) and waste via recycling (goal 12), while also committing to climate action by reducing CO2 emissions (goal 13).

Together with movements like regenerative fashion, we can create a sustainable world.

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