Innovation That Matters

Top 7 Sustainable Fashion Innovations From 2020

Innovation Snapshot

Seven innovations showcasing how style and sustainability can be one and the same.

Throughout 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic ensured that a lot of our shopping was directed online, which isn’t the most sustainable option in terms of shipping and delivery.

However, before, during and after the coronavirus hit, designers and innovators across the world were thinking of ways to align the fashion industry with a more natural approach, in order to protect both our planet and the quality and variety of fashion we have grown used to.

From a flower-stuffed puffer jacket to COVID-protective clothing made from recycled plastic, here are seven of our best-spotted fashion innovations from 2020.

Photo source: Clovis Gomis


Nigerian-born designer Lola Faturoti is known for her colourful, African-inspired designs. She had long wanted to produce denim clothing but was put off by the large order sizes needed, and the huge amounts of waste involved in printing on denim. Now, she is partnering with Resonance, a garment manufacturing company that is working to eliminate inventory in fashion, creating only the pieces that will be purchased.

Faturoti uses Resonance’s cloud-based platform to print her designs on organic and biodegradable denim, using 40 per cent less ink and 50 per cent less water than conventional methods. Savings are made from the item being produced only after a customer has placed an order, eliminating the manufacturing of items that never sell.

Using the platform, Faturoti produces one sample of each of her designs, then manufactures them as they’re purchased. By eliminating minimum orders, it is also very easy to ditch designs that aren’t selling without generating excess garments and waste. It also speeds up the design process, allowing designers to tinker with different colours and patterns in order to see what sells. In addition to digital printing, Resonance also laser cuts all materials and uses only organic fibres.

Read more about Faturoti’s work.

Photo source: Vollebak


London-based clothing startup Vollebak has designed a hoodie from eucalyptus trees that is fully biodegradable and compostable within eight weeks. Made from pulped eucalyptus and beech wood that has been sourced from sustainably managed forests, the plant-based jumper achieves a mossy hue from being dyed with pomegranate peel. 

Vollebak, which Steve Tidball established in 2015 with his twin brother Nick, calculates that it will completely break down within 12 weeks if buried in soil, or eight weeks in a home compost heap, and even faster in an industrial composting facility. The hoodie also decomposes at different rates depending on the climate – with bacteria-filled environments breaking down the material quicker.

According to Tidball, making biodegradable clothing was not a challenge, but rather creating something that could be manufactured in a sustainable way. Vollebak made the hoodie from eucalyptus and beech using a closed-loop production process, where over 99 per cent of the water and solvent used to turn the pulp into fibre was recycled and reused.

Read more about Vollebak.

Photo source: DECODE


Royal College of Art graduate Danielle Elsener has created a toolkit for more efficient pattern cutting. The project, which was recently declared the winner of the Evian-Virgil Abloh’s sustainable design programme, aims to eliminate the 15 per cent of material wasted in the production of an average garment. For this, the A020 system of tools (also known as DECODE) is based on a series of pattern masters that aim to help designers to approach a piece of fabric like a puzzle, in which any empty space can serve a purpose within the finished garment.

Coded messages within the garments also aim to ignite a sense of discovery for the customer, as well as fostering more in-depth explorations around the idea of zero-waste design. Around these tools, Elsener created a series of educational workshops for designers to learn about her methodology and collect feedback on how the system could be improved. This feedback loop, she explained, is fundamental to helping factories transition their existing workflows into zero-waste ones.

Read more about the tool-kit.

Photo source: Maaji


Colombian clothes brand Maaji is selling fashionable virus protective clothing made from recycled plastic.

Since sisters Manuela and Amalia Sierra founded the brand in 2002, Maaji has been dedicated to leveraging the latest research to produce eco-friendly materials, fabrics and printing processes. In addition to this, they have planted over 100,000 trees and continue to lead beach clean-up efforts. 

Items for sale include a protective hoodie mask and a long jacket with face protection. The fabrics and protective layers of the garments are knitted with premium post-consumer recycled yarn, from plastic recovered bottles. They also use an Eco Digital printing process that reduces water usage by 98 per cent, meaning that the overall production process produces 80 per cent less CO2.

Read more about Maaji.

Photo source: Up To You Anthology


Japanese studio, Nendo, has designed a collection of handbags for the startup Italian online platform, Up To You Anthology, which customers can self-assemble at home. Each bag in the Mai collection is made from single sheets of laser-cut leather, in a net-style format. Its name comes from the Japanese word “ichi-mai”, which translates to “one-sheet”. This straightforward design has simplified the manufacturing process, and minimised the inventory and shipping costs.

The bags come in a variety of different sizes and colours, which include mustard yellow, dark brown, khaki and teal, achieved by dying the leather with a plant-derived tannin. The customer receives the bag in a completely flat form, and can assemble it by joining a few rivets through the holes of the bag, without using any tools. They can also change the size of the bag and make it more compact by using poppers in the corners to fold it in half, and in its extended form, it can hold a full-size A3 drawing.

Read more about Nendo.

Photo source: Justin Sablich/Springwise


The French startup Off the Hook (OTH) is a unisex, sustainable, trainer brand. These unique shoes have soles made from recycled, world-travelled tires. Moreover, each pair is tattooed with GPS coordinates referring to an unusual place.

One tire is recycled for every three pairs of shoes produced by OTH. Ethical and ecological, Off The Hook produces its shoes in a workshop in Portugal and makes its leather in a tannery in Italy, in order to limit its carbon footprint. The leather is also obtained from scrap pieces from a garden glove factory. This 100 per cent European production ensures that labour laws are respected and that certain chemicals are avoided. In short, everything is done for the well-being of the planet.

“Each time, we have a different pattern for every sole, and each time I produce three pairs of sneakers, there is one tire recycled,” OTH founder Arnaud Barboteau told Springwise.

Read more about Off the Hook.

Photo source: The Pangaia


The clothing brand Pangaia has developed a puffer coat which uses flowers as an alternative to tradition duck or goose down stuffing. The vegan coat instead uses Flower Down, which is derived from fibrous wildflowers.

To create the stuffing, Pangaia combines the wildflowers, which are shredded and combined with a biopolymer made from vegetable waste, with aerogel, a non-toxic porous solid foam made of 85 per cent paper. The result is durable thermal insulation as warm as most high-end feather down jackets.  The company claims that jackets made with Flower Down will keep the wearer warm in temperatures as low as minus-20 degrees celsius.

The wildflowers used are not farmed but are grown in a process that involves ecosystem recovery and preservation. The flowers do not require any external irrigation when grown and utilise habitat restoration to conserve a species of local butterflies. The Flower Down manufacturing process creates a water repellent filling that is completely biodegradable, and the shell is made from 100 per cent recycled polyester.

Read more about the puffer jackets.

Written By: Holly Hamilton