Upcycling Fashion with Nanotechnology

By NanoTextile Associate, Strategy and Development , Nur Adilah Binti Masri & CEO, Thomas P.S. Ong,

What is “Take-make-waste,” or what we called linear economy? It is a practice where we take resources from the land to create things that we use, and we throw them away when we no longer want them, which will end up in the landfill.

Also, clothing manufacturers reduce prices while making goods more cost-effective for customers. Dropping the costs makes production faster, and every season produces several collections. This practice is an unsustainable process that causes resource scarcity and excessive pollution load.

According to Sasibai Kimis, a Malaysia coordinator for the Fashion Revolution, a general impression of Malaysia’s ethical fashion is still in the early stage. Especially in developing countries, where the practice of sustainable fashion development is still limited (Wai Yee, Hassan, & Ramayah, 2016).

Based on Kloth Cares statistics, Malaysians generate over 2000 tons of textile waste a day, covering five percent of the solid waste in the landfill, which the numbers will further increase.

Nur Adilah Binti Masri

“Most producers, designers, and consumers have not even been exposed to the idea of questioning who made their clothes and under what conditions,” she added.

However, Kloth Cares, Biji-biji Initiatives, Selangor Youth Community (SAY) are some of the movement’s growth in Malaysia in catalysing sustainability, especially in fashion and textiles.

We also see some of Malaysia’s fashion brands launching new lines incorporating “evergreen,” a key trend shaping the growth and maintaining their competitive position in the global market. For instance, TudungPeople launched their eco-conscious “green hijab”, featuring printed shawls made of 100 percent recycled plastic bottles.

As studied by Dr. Nor Irvoni in her webinar, “Consumer and Fashion Marketing: Challenges and Opportunity Beyond 2020”, these types of market segmentation seem to be one of the consumer preferences nowadays. She also revealed that eco-anxiety, financial uncertainty, and emotional contagion positively predicted 2022 Consumer sentiment, which changed their spending on clothing. Hence, this situation will surely reconstruct the fashion and textile industry.

Circular Fashion

Citing Forbes, fabric specialists over Europe recently created an innovatively inspired new business and consumption model, circular economy (CE), that is projected to have a significant effect on the industry soon.

Excess can be minimised through this system, with multiple interactions between revolutionary technologies in the Industrial Revolution (IR) 4.0. Based on the Ellen McArthur Foundation, CE is based on various concepts designed on waste and pollution, keep products and materials in use, and regenerate natural systems.

Following that, it examines the vision for a new textiles’ economy through three focus areas that are critical to realising this vision: new business models that increase clothing use, safe and renewable inputs, and solutions that used clothes turned into new.

Clothes, shoes, or accessories should be designed, sourced, produced, and provided to be used and circulate responsibly and effectively in society for as long as possible in their most valuable form, and hereafter return safely to the biosphere when no longer of human use (Anna Brismar, Green Strategy, 2017).

In other words, fashion products should be designed with high longevity, resource efficiency, non-toxicity, and good ethics in mind. Moreover, the goods should be utilised for as much as possible, through upcycling (turning unwanted products to a better quality and values), and via excellent maintenance, repair, restoration, and sharing over time (through rent/lease, secondhand, exchange, etc.) by multiple users.

How Nanotechnology Can Play A Role In The Circular Economy?

Ellen MacArthur Foundation stated that clothes designed and produced at a high quality, durability, and provide different functionalities and flexibility are examples in the form of personal styles, customised or modifiable clothes.

NanoTextile Sdn Bhd, is among the pioneers to offer new solutions for fashion retailers in having access to high-quality, functional, and individualized clothing through nanotechnology. They advocate in business model that improve textile functionality and increase clothing use.

The sustainable and upcycle future envisioned by Dr. Thomas, Chief Executive Officer of NanoTextile believes in the marriage of both technology with sustainability in addressing the concerns and impact of textile wastes.

For instant, fading or color fastness can be reduced with nano-protection through exposure to UV light. Nanofibers enhances the dye absorption, hence the usage of organic dye in less amount could be more friendly to the environment at long run. Imagine all these advantages when they are coupled with Sustainability’s The three R’s rule.”

People tend to dump clothes once it starts to display material flaws, hard-to-remove stains, less durable, or has lost coloration. Therefore, by designing clothes with nanotechnology, it captures the value through various series and functions; hygienic, protection, comfort, care, premium and advanced with anti-microbial, UV protection, and self-cleaning, high-durability and lightweight, etc.

If clothes are increasingly made to last, it could significantly increase cloth utilisation, thus reduce cloth waste. Even as clothes become unwanted or unused, they still remain usable, which also enhances the resale model to a wide range of consumers.

NanoTextile’s latest partnership with Volvo Car Malaysia, 3 Little Ahmad (3LA), PONEY, and a few well-known Muslimah brands revolutionises fashion, providing hygienic series technology that can combat bacteria.

Revealed by Dr. Thomas, it also includes anti-odor features, which is proven to reduce laundry needed by 30 percent. Now, you can wear more, wash less, and stay fresh for a longer time.

NanoTextile is also incorporating the technology into fabrics with non-toxic nanoparticles (hybrid nano inorganic element suspension), a water-based nanomaterials.

They further enable non-toxic materials for the sake of the environment as it reflects actual cost (environmental and societal), which is why CE is endorsed.

“I often think Nanotechnology or nano-enabled product goes well with the “green economy” concept, managing the interaction of the environmental and economic domains. It is the physio-chemical properties of the resultant products and zero toxicity of the nanotechnology (materials or processes) that we can assure the consumers that we continue to strive for green sustainable economy in textile industry” said Thomas.

To sum it up, we should redesign fashion and textiles. More sustainability approaches can be encouraged by the emergence of the circular economy (CE), including adding value to the fabrics.

Opportunities that exist for innovative business models can be employed by nanotechnology; to increase functionality and boost clothing care to give this industry a new life.