The Global Change Award is an annual innovation circular fashion challenge – aiming to close the loop for fashion. They are looking for disruptive early stage ideas that add circularity throughout the whole value chain of the fashion industry – changing the way garments are designed and produced, shipped, bought, used and recycled.
Each year, five winners share a grant of € 1,000,000 and get access to a tailor-made one-year innovation accelerator provided in collaboration with KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm and Accenture. The Awards are organized by the H&M Foundation, a non-profit global foundation, privately funded by the Stefan Persson family, founders and main owners of H&M.
The Global Change Award expert panel has crowned the five winners of Global Change Award 2016. By a public voting for favorite ideas readers helped divide their €1 million grant between them.
Winner 1: Content thread – A digital thread that lets us know what we’re wearing
One of the biggest barriers to textile recycling is that we often don’t know what the clothes are made of. This makes it very difficult to recycle them correctly. Today, we have to guess what materials are in our clothes and when a garment is sorted incorrectly, it can obstruct the whole recycling process. So, things need to change.
Sorting and separating our clothes by material type is an essential first step. By attaching a digital tag to each garment at manufacturing stage– we can create a digitized ‘ingredients list’ that gives recyclers all the information needed to recycle the garment. This tag is in the form of an RFID thread, and looks and feels much like a normal thread. This digital thread lasts over the garment’s lifetime, driving economic improvements that reduce waste throughout the entire supply chain, and powering the recycling process at end of life.
A prototype of the threads has been produced and is successfully being introduced by manufacturers. More research is needed to advance the technology and to produce at scale. Read more.
Winner 2: Denim-dyed denim – Letting used denim give colour to new denim
Jeans are one of the most iconic styles in fashion. Therefore it’s no surprise that denim is one of the most widely used textiles in the fashion industry. Unfortunately, the traditional process of dyeing denim requires large amounts of water and energy, and produces substantial amounts of dye waste which can contaminate waterways.
However, through this innovation, old jeans can be broken down and used to colour new undyed jeans. This reduces both the water and energy used in production and dyeing, and reducing dye waste. By using old denim and breaking it down into fine particles, a colouring powder can be produced to colour new denim or make prints on other textiles. This way the denim is recycled instead of going to landfills, and it also significantly reduces the amount of water and energy being used. The result is a cost saving eco-friendly production process.
Today, there is already a prototype of this process. Scaling up and finding denim producers and fashion brands that will adopt this idea on a large scale is the next step. Read more.
Winner 3: Grape Leader – Using leftovers from winemaking to create fully vegetal leather
Producing animal and synthetic leather is water, chemical and energy consuming. But by using waste from wine production, such as grape skins and stalks, a new type of vegetal leather can be produced without the bad stuff.
Leather production is particularly straining on our planet as it demands a large amount of water and chemicals which pollute the air, land and ground. Synthetic leather uses oil as raw material which is also bad news. Both consumers and the fashion industry want a green and animal free alternative. With this innovation, it can come in the form of grape skins and stalks. Using winemaking leftovers as a resource paves the way for a new type of vegetal leather. Instead of burning the leftovers from winemaking, which creates carbon dioxide, it becomes raw material in a process that doesn’t need any harmful chemicals. The animals are happier and it even generates water as a bonus.
The idea is in its beginning stage and the next step will be to scale it, refining the process and creating partnerships within the fashion industry. Read more.
Winner 4: Manure couture – Making cow manure-based fabric
Manure is seen by many as one of the most disgusting forms of waste, and due to intensive farming it causes an urgent environmental crisis. Yet, with this innovation manure is transformed into valuable new material.
Instead of using new resources to produce textile we need to find ways of reusing existing resources – including all types of waste. The amount of cattle that is raised around the globe creates pressure on the planet. Since cow manure contains cellulose, there is an opportunity to extract raw material from manure which can create a biodegradable textile. Through this process, methane gas production is reduced and contamination of soil and waters are prevented. This opens up for a new take on textile production.
The idea is in the prototype stage, and since the raw material is a plenty the next step will be to find the right partnerships to scale up the idea. Read more.
Winner 5: Solar textiles – Harvesting the sun’s energy to make fashion fabrics
Today, many types of fabrics, such as nylon, are made from oil in processes that pollute the air, are energy intensive and emit greenhouse gases. It’s unsustainable and there has to be another way.
What if your clothes could trap carbon from the environment and help clean up our planet instead? This innovation is all about that; a production process for nylon that only uses water, plant waste and solar energy. It also binds greenhouse gases into fashion fabrics, instead of releasing them into the air, contributing towards a zero-emissions world. If successful, the material would be identical to the existing nylon, but created from renewable resources and in a sustainable way.
This is a conceptual idea and the next step will focus on developing a proof-of-concept prototype that could later be expanded for large scale production. Read more.