Innovation That Matters

Five sustainable fashion innovations that made an impact in 2022 

Innovation Snapshot

From grape leathers to platforms that facilitate garment recycling, here are the 2022 fashion innovations our readers have been most excited about this year

The impact of the fashion industry on the environment is well-documented, with the sector accounting for nearly 10 per cent of the world’s total carbon emissions. This is only worsened by the growing popularity of fast fashion, which skyrocketed during the pandemic and has remained big business ever since. Its global market value has grown from $91.23 billion (approximately €87.86 billion) in 2021 to $99.23 billion(approximately €95.56 billion) this year.  

By making clothes as cheaply as possible, usually through exploitative labour and inexpensive materials, fast fashion companies ensure customers buy as much as possible, and generally for a fraction of the price expected. Of course, such a low price comes at a huge cost. Workers are paid extremely low living wages to work in poor conditions, and the cheap, poor quality of the clothing means the garments aren’t durable and are often thrown away quickly, ending up in landfill. 

Increasingly consumers are turning to more sustainable, if higher-priced, alternatives. Sustainable fashion, sometimes referred to as ‘slow fashion’, looks to improve both its environmental and social impact, whether that be by improving supply chains, protecting animals, or cutting unnecessary water usage across production.

In the last year, we have seen a number of innovative and sustainable multi-purpose clothing items, from leather bags that are actually made from grapes to thermoregulating t-shirts. Here are some of the innovations that have caught our readers’ attention throughout 2022.

Photo source Meng Du


Vegans and non-vegans alike are increasingly turning away from leather, given its impact on animals, the environment, and the workers who are exposed to toxic chemicals during the manufacturing process. 

There have been many vegan alternatives, the only problem is that most of these are made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or polyurethane – two materials made using fossil fuels and which take hundreds of years to degrade. 

This year, Chinese Designer Meng Du released plans for bio-based leather-alternative bags. Not only are the bags vegan and plastic-free, but because they are made from unused grapes, they also help to reduce waste in the wine industry, killing two birds with one stone. Read more 

Photo source Youyang Song


Clearly fruit was a big inspiration for designers this year, with designer Youyang Song developing a material that is 100 per cent natural and made from fruit waste and algae. The material, Peelsphere, is also coloured using completely bio-based dyes.

Peelsphere is created by mixing the peels and other fruit waste with algae, which produces leather-like sheets that can then be dyed and are ready for use. Of course, the material can be woven and embroidered to create clothing, but it can also be used as a foam or 3D-printed into a variety of shapes.

According to the company, the material is so versatile that depending on how it is treated, it can either become hard enough to be turned into buttons, or soft enough to create a fabric that feels like animal leather.

With all of the company’s fabric also being biodegradable and its production completely circular, Peelsphere goes some way in helping the fashion industry become less wasteful. Read more

Photo source Parker Burchfield on Unsplash


It might quickly be getting colder at the moment, but back in the Spring when it was beginning to heat up, LifeLabs unveiled its CoolLife collection: t-shirts that can reduce the body’s temperature by up to three degrees Fahrenheit.

Made from engineered polyethylene, the fabric allows heat to flow away from the wearer. Essentially, LifeLabs’ clothes help to reduce the need for air conditioning units during the hot summer months, which are notorious for ramping up carbon emissions.

The company also has a collection of WarmLife clothing which essentially does the opposite, reflecting your body heat back to keep you warm using 30 per cent less material.

LifeLabs’ thermoregulatory clothes hint at a future that relies less on carbon-heavy heating and cooling systems, and more on innovative fashion designs. Read more

Photo source Resortecs


Recycling clothes can be a hassle. Because more and more garments are being designed with multiple fabrics – some natural and some plastic-based – it can be confusing and arduous to know where to start. Luckily, startup Resortecs has started to make this process a lot easier.

The company has created ‘Smart Stitch’ threads which dissolve at a variety of temperatures, making it possible to disassemble them piece by piece, separating the materials out along the way. To make the process even easier, Resortecs has developed its own low-energy thermal disassembly system, and overall, the company reckons it’s possible to save up to 90 per cent of the total fabric.

With Resortecs’ technology, hopefully throwing clothes directly into landfill instead of recycling will soon be a thing of the past. Read more

Photo source Pexels


In a European first, French startup Uptrade has created a platform that allows any unused fabrics to be rescued and upcycled. Essentially, the platform ‘matchmakes’ buyers with textile manufacturers or fashion labels so that any excess fabric can be put to good use, rather than thrown out.

The company makes sure to check the quality and origin of each fabric so that each seller can be confident in the sustainability of the material. Because Uptrade handles all of the logistics, it couldn’t be easier for sellers to get involved – all they have to do is give the measurements of the parcel they’re sending over.

Upcycling is key to reducing waste in the fashion industry, and Uptrade’s platform has made it even easier. Read more

Written by: Matilda Cox

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