Home » Can “seaweed” be the future of sustainable fashion? | Hypebeast

Can “seaweed” be the future of sustainable fashion? | Hypebeast

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Can “seaweed” be the future of sustainable fashion?  | Hypebeast

Seaweed is definitely not the first answer that pops into your mind when it comes to transformative materials in fashion. But around the world, the enormous possibilities of this natural material in the fashion industry are attracting the attention of creatives, and with climate and environmental concerns on the rise, research on converting seaweed into a sustainable material is also booming .

Seaweed has become a big part of British up-and-coming skincare brand Haeckels and its all-natural ingredient list, and is also seen by bodybuilders as a new alternative protein source, and now it’s being used in fashion with a new identity boundary.

Synthetic textiles like polyester are made from fossil fuels, in fact, 60% of all clothing is now made from fossil fuels, while renewable seaweed, one of the fastest growing organisms on earth, provides A viable alternative that is both environmentally friendly and naturally biodegradable.

From Margate in the United Kingdom to Maine in the United States, the seaweed industry is attracting new capital injections, demand for seaweed has reached unprecedented levels, and global production of seaweed has increased by nearly 75% in the past decade. Focusing solely on the UK, a recent report commissioned by the charity Sustainable Inshore Fisheries Trust (SIFT) outlines that Scotland alone has committed more than 2 million square meters of sea area cultivation and fishing since November 2018. applications to harvest seaweed, and the industry is also expected to continue to grow in the report.

Seaweedworks is one of the key organizations advancing artists’ understanding and access to seaweed materials, a new project to promote innovation and sustainable use of seaweed, founded by Charlie Strand. Charlie started working in sustainable fashion under Katharine Hamnett 25 years ago and has since published two books, a magazine and collaborated with brands including Dior, Shiseido and Edwin Denim.

For the past five years, Charlie has been working to develop and promote the sustainable use of seaweed. Seaweedworks is his outlet to promote creative practice with seaweed through events and special projects. “I’ve been working with seaweed R&D for about five years, from harvesting it to testing it to see how durable it can be and how it should work in fashion and design,” he explains, ” I wanted to connect with people who experimented with seaweed like I did, and was eager to exchange ideas with them, not compete.”

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Small independent brands and creative people are the key to promoting seaweed’s continuous innovation, and big companies are also following suit. The sustainable properties of seaweed are undoubtedly coveted, but when it is really added to the fashion industry and processed into a piece of clothing, is it good-looking, wearable and durable enough?

French fashion designer Tanguy Mélinand tries to answer this question. He graduated from the University of Art and Design in Geneva and won the YINGER PRIZE Gold Medal for Sustainable Design in 2022. Tanguy collects seaweed from the ocean, preserves it in a unique way, and designs intricate garments based on the material.

Tanguy recently exhibited his algae costumes created with Seaweedworks at DesignMarch, Iceland’s annual design festival. Iceland’s design festival brings together participants and guests who practice pioneering design from all over the world, and if there is any place in the world that is ready for a seaweed revolution, it is clearly Iceland.

The country’s coastline is surrounded by plentiful algae, and many local designers are experimenting with the new material. Reykjavik has become a testing ground for innovation during DesignMarch, and Tanguy’s clothes stand out among the crowd.

From shorelines to sewing machines, Tanguy uses intricate design techniques to create ensembles from seaweed he collects and preserves. “I grew up close to the sea in Brittany. I used to go surfing and fishing. There was a lot of seaweed growing up where I was growing up, so I think that’s where my initial fascination with it started,” says Tanguy , while holding aloft the seaweed he picked for the exhibition, which will then be turned into wearable bags by the designer’s hands during the event.

“I met a seaweed farmer who taught me how to cut seaweed perfectly so that it can grow again, and he also taught me the process of seaweed from birth to death”, he explains. Of course, working locally in France has its own advantages. Its limitations cannot be ignored, “In Iceland, the water is much colder, so there will be more seaweed here, but in France, seaweed can be collected only four months of the year, depending on the type of seaweed”.

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Tanguy’s work is incredible visually, with seaweed jackets that take on shades of olive and yellow in the sun, looking a bit like CP Company Kan-D sheer garment-dyed fabrics, while retaining that British up-and-coming designer Charlie Constantinou’s The bulbous, earthy aesthetic used in the LVMH Prize-nominated jacket.

Tanguy’s latest clothing line looks and feels both functional and wearable, compared to many other seaweed and clothing collaborations. His first seaweed collection was a graduate project at the University of Arts and Design in Geneva, which caught the attention of the international fashion award YINGER PRIZE, where it won a Gold Medal.

Dealing with seaweed is still quite a chore, although there are many different methods of collecting and preserving it that can be turned into a fabric-like material that can be used to make clothing. “It’s like a mad scientist constantly doing experiments,” Charlie explained of the process. “It’s not a random process. I tend to do 10 different blocks for each batch, plus 10 more. % water might make it more pliable, or make it a little more brittle.”

Making a jacket out of seaweed is no easy feat either. “It takes 160 hours to make a jacket, and I think it’s crazy just to say it,” Tanguy said with a smile. “Yes, it takes a lot of time, but this jacket is definitely not the most time-consuming.”

While the final product may be a while away, there’s no question Tanguy’s bespoke collection shone like a runway. “Making these jackets out of seaweed is difficult, time-consuming to sew, and difficult to use as a fabric. But as we continue to use seaweed as a clothing material, the process will get better and faster.”

Tanguy’s seaweed clothing is also quite durable, Tanguy said: “My seaweed has been stored for almost two years and it is still in good condition. But if you compost it, they will quickly disappear in just three weeks to two months. Decompose.” Seaweed as a cloth is like a tough piece of leather, but also has a smoother texture. “It’s not as strong, but it’s almost comparable to the delicate fabrics used in fashion. The problem is the style required for the garment.” and thickness”.

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As The New York Times puts it, seaweed is a source of sustainable innovation, attracting new funding and bringing together people with different purposes around the world. But Tanguy insists that seaweed use must be regulated and production controlled so the industry doesn’t grow beyond its capacity.

Tanguy’s intricate work clearly demonstrates that seaweed can fit seamlessly into fashion contexts, “his exciting work catches your eye instantly”, admits Charlie, “Not that we thought we could do an entire seaweed collection overnight, but The innovative work of designers like Tanguy is a springboard for more people to learn about seaweed.”

Both Tanguy and Charlie agree that as more and more large entities and companies invest in their craft, the abundance and versatility of seaweed, as well as its ability to be harvested without compromising growth, make it become one of the most promising materials available.


Tanguy Melinand

At this stage, what the seaweed innovation industry needs is the support of large companies to make it change from a niche experiment to an industry standard. Steve Meller, an American businessman living in Australia who grows seaweed in giant glass tanks on land, told The New York Times: “I think the race is on to get the world‘s first commercial supply, and the demand is huge. of.”

It’s clear that while demand continues to peak, we’re seeing more emerging designers experimenting with seaweed as a viable product for the future of sustainable fashion. “It’s going to be at least three years before it’s on the runway as a fully salable collection,” Charlie told Hypebeast. “If someone would give us more facilities, the pace of progress could really speed up.”

So could seaweed be the future of sustainable fashion? It seems we’ve only just begun to find out. “Whether it’s the work we’re putting into Seaweedworks or the work of other practitioners in the field, we’re only just beginning to see its potential,” Charlie asserts, “once you think about more research, development, technology testing, and even growing specific types of And even larger algae, you see a myriad of incredibly exciting possibilities.”

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