(Written with consideration of the Materials Innovation Initiative Industry Status Report)
Material selection is one of the most important stages in design and application in most sectors. Materials that are important in design and use include many innovations in the field of textiles. So what are these “New Generation Materials?”
We will briefly talk about this deep subject. But first, we would like to briefly touch on some of the material selection elements as another in-depth topic. Material selection is a subject that is frequently emphasized and handled in the fields of architecture, design, art, textile, and engineering.
The efficient use of materials in these industries is essential for product design. However, currently increasing ranges of materials are both an increasingly complex and critical part of the design process, and offer growing opportunities for creative and innovative design. While each material offers distinctive features and qualities that the designer can exploit as new design possibilities, it also presents a set of constraints in terms of shape, size or geometry, processing capabilities, and feature properties that must be included in the design.
To address this, it may be necessary to think of materials in relation to the three key elements of Form, Function and Fabrication. Experts actually say that effective design strategies require material considerations to permeate each of these aspects. Additionally, the materials used to embody the final design often determine or influence the relationships between them.
EFFECTS OF THE MATERIAL
Economic turmoil, disruptions in the ecosystem, social structures, health systems, etc. have been giving signals for years that the world must change rapidly. Changes in global markets, technological developments, differentiation of supply-demand balances, changes in consumption and production balances are some of the results. Considering the environmental and social impact, the damage caused by the textile industry is very high. But can the material alter this effect?
Leather, fur, silk, wool, feathers, exotic leathers and materials from traditional farm animals are widely used in the fashion, household and automobile industries. It is a common misconception that animal-based materials are by-products from industrial animal agriculture that primarily supplies the food industry.
Industrial animal husbandry is the leading cause of many of the pressing problems of our time, including climate change, environmental degradation, deforestation, public health risks and animal cruelty.
Given that at least two-thirds of a brand’s environmental footprint can be attributed to the choice of raw materials, it is necessary to increase production focusing on alternatives to animal products for a more sustainable materials industry.
WHAT IS THIS NEW GENERATION MATERIAL?
Let’s take a brief look at the concept and properties of the new generation material and the situation in the global market.
“High-performance, animal-free alternatives to leather, silk, wool, feathers or exotic leathers that help to move the material economy beyond animal-based and petroleum-based residents”
The prevalence of synthetic materials in today’s world is a fact. New technologies are also developing day by day in synthetics such as bio-based, biodegradable or recycled polyester or polyurethane (there are studies on the production processes and microplastic outputs of their effects on the environment). However, in our article, we will proceed by focusing more on leather alternatives to new-generation materials.
Awareness and concerns about industry practices and sustainability have helped industries such as the development of alternative proteins.
With the increasing awareness of brands and individuals, the growth of the market for new production products in the sector and their financial, industrial and environmental coverage has become an important issue.
There is a significant demand for next-generation materials, but there are not enough sourcing products and conditions to meet the sustainability, performance, aesthetics, scale, and price needs of brands and consumers.
Nevertheless, we can say that there is a rapid growth in new generation materials.
Situation Of The Industry
According to the Materials Innovation Initiative report, $1.29 billion was invested in the sustainable materials category between 2015 and 2021, while $504 million was invested in 2020 alone.
The report also revealed that 74 Next Gen companies are in operation, 49 of which are in the vegan leather category; The raw materials for vegan leathers, on the other hand, are quite broad, so we will briefly mention only a few raw materials in the next section.
Another interesting piece of data in the report is that 38 of the 40 leading fashion brands are actively looking for New Generation materials.
NEW GENERATION MATERIAL CONTENTS
New generation materials imitate nature in their production. How? An example of biomimicry is that the new generation leather materials imitate the interconnected collagen network of the skin to increase its strength and strength, while the new generation silk imitates the silk protein and continuous fiber structure to obtain elasticity. Biomimicry was first used by Janine Benyus in 1997 in the book titled “Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature”.
The raw material range of new generation materials is quite wide. But the Materials Innovation Initiative has made a classification to make this broad formulation understandable:
- Plant-Based: applies to materials derived from raw or waste/by-product plant matter. For convenience, fungi (fruiting stem) and algae entries are included in this category even if they are not plants.
- Mycelium Network: Applies to materials that use the root-like structure of certain types of fungi, called mycelium. This category differs from the plant-derived category due to the rich efficacy of the new generation innovation containing mycelium.
- Microbe Based: applies to materials that use cellular engineering approaches such as cell culture or fermentation processes to produce products such as proteins and biopolymers for next-generation material formulations.
- Lab-grown animal cell (culture cell): applies to materials that use tissue engineering approaches to grow animal cell structures in the lab.
- Recycled material: Applies to materials that use recycled plastic or textile raw materials as the main input.
- Mixture: Applies to materials using a mix of ingredients that are not well captured by any of the above categories.
Some examples of new generation materials:
- German brand Nat-2, which produces leather shoes with the leftover coffee grounds.
- Recork, which produces shoe soles and sustainable materials from stoppers.
- Orange Fiber, produces fabric from orange juice pulp and waste.
- Vegea, which produces leather from grape pulp and its surface, wastes from winemaking.
- Desserto, who produces leather from cactus leaves
Apples, bananas, peanuts, algae, hemp, the list goes on…
However, when we look at the environmental impact, although it reduces animal production and we think that it may be biodegradable because it is natural, most of these vegan alternatives are not developed to be biodegradable and go through a number of chemical processes. Even if there are a few brands that produce paint materials with natural dyestuffs, unfortunately, the processes up to the final state, processes such as bonding, coating, and exposure to heavy metals are among the factors affecting biodegradation.
S.N.B. Hodgson and J.F. Harper “Effective Use of Materials In The Design Process – More Than a Selection Problem”, 2-3 September 2004, Delft The Netherlands. International Engineering and Product Design Education Conference.