Sustainable Innovation: Will Clay, Fish Skin and Pine Be The Material of Choice For Designers?

We discover some wonderful material options at the Sustainable Innovation stand at Munich Fabric Start's KEYHOUSE.

While at Munich Fabric Start I met Simon Angel. He was the curator for the Sustainable Innovations space at Munich Fabric Start’s KEYHOUSE. Walking onto the stand, I was amazed by the variety of eco-friendly materials on show. Curator, Simon Angel, proudly showed me around the collection of mindblowing materials he brought together, and he spoke about each one, I must admit there were three that stood out and wowed me.

Material made out of CLAY

The possibility of transforming a rigid material like ceramics into a textile surface opens up new scope for the future. Justina Monceviciute makes this possible with her project “Claything” and presents traditional craft s in a new context. Beading, weaving and knitting are centuries-old textile technologies based on logical arrays. By crossing, knotting and weaving threads textile surfaces are created. For her project “Claything“ the designer Justina Monceviciute uses clay pearls that she subsequently joins to form a surface using a special knotting technique in conjunction with stretch yarns. This technique gives the ceramic pearls new dynamism and suppleness while retaining their stability. “Claything” extends the possible applications for clay thereby allowing ceramics to be integrated into fashion and interior design as well as architecture.

Sustainable Innovation
Photo Credit: Munich Fabric Start

Clay is a natural, environmentally friendly material with many positive characteristics. When burnt it is very strong, resistant to high temperatures and easy to recycle after use. Since the clay pearls are handmade, they differ in shape, size and colour. The designer’s vision is to challenge the industry to reproduce the look and feel of handcrafted products with mass-production technologies in the future.

At present, Justine Monceviciute is working on new material compositions capable of improving indoor micro-climate. Her idea is to create ceramic objects that contribute to cooling rooms without a motor/engine or external source of energy. With this in mind the designer analyses the original material and experiments with pottery making and 3D printing techniques. Although clay has been used for millennia already its potential is far from being completely exhausted.

Material made out of  FISH SKIN

Thin, flexible, strong – and, of course, water-repellent. These properties make fish skin attractive for fashion and interior designers. Thanks to its interwoven fibres fish leather is more resistant than cowhide – despite being so much thinner. Nyvidd’s fish skin comes from Iceland, which is not only known for its impressive landscapes but also for that Icelandic proximity to nature. The name of the label is composed of the Icelandic words “ny” and “vídd”, which roughly translates as “New Dimension”.

Sustainable Innovation

Fish leather, however, is anything but new. In Iceland, fish skins were already used for making shoes centuries ago. But the know-how associated with the scaly skins of sea creatures got lost over time. For some years now the fish skin is being increasingly used in fashion again –Nyvidd has sold it since 1994. The commercial agency wants to bring about a change in perspective, to re-develop existing resources. As a waste product of the fisheries industry the skins of salmon, grouper, cod or seabass are not used – although their individual, exotic textures constitute a real alternative to luxury leather gained from endangered reptile species.

Recently, the company established the Visleer Foundation with the aim of making fish leather more popular as a sustainable alternative. The Foundation, therefore, researches in the field of sustainable tanning and dying also in collaboration with designers. The long-term goal is to create an expert network to promote improvements in the value chain for fish leather.

As part of a Foundation project, Nyvidd has cooperated with students from the Technical University of Eindhoven. Here the first fish skins were subjected to bacteria-based dyeing processes. Fish just on a plate? Too valuable for that.

Material made out of PINE

Vegan leather alternatives like renewable, biodegradable materials are enjoying increasing popularity. Latvian designer Sarmite Polakova also focuses on a natural resource: pines – the most abundant tree in her home country. After all, there are 500 times as many pines as people populating this Baltic state.

Sustainable Innovation
Photo Credit: Munique Magazine

From a food source to medicine – over the course of history pines have served many purposes. Today, the tree is predominantly appreciated for its softwood. Its other components are hardly used. This is not the case with Samite Polakova: this Latvian designer has discovered the inner skin with its leather-type properties hidden beneath the thick and hard outer bark. She coats this secondary product of wood production with a protective layer of wax and colour pigments thereby leveraging the full potential of this natural resource.

Also Read: Design Studio of Innovation in Sustainable Fashion Creates Biodegradable Capsule Collection

As a designer, it is essential for her to keep the material as natural as possible. Polakova converts the inner bark into everyday objects such as rugs or woven baskets. The design process always focuses on the material, and the Latvian designer describes her approach as follows: “Today we often bend and transform materials into shapes we envision. However, for me, that magic happens when the material determines what it wants to become.” She also takes into consideration here that this soft material has a maximum useful life of up to two years. Decay, therefore, becomes an integral part of the product: over time and with use the shape of the object changes. At the end of their lifecycle, these products can return to the soil enriching future growth with their nutrients.

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Founding editor-in-chief & WearableTechStylist of, Muchaneta has worked in the fashion industry for over 14 years. She is currently one of the leading influencers speaking and writing about the merger of fashion with technology and wearable technology and a regular contributor to digital news sites like Wareable.