Yes, you read that right – one of my favourite press releases of late – Ford, the car manufacturer, challenged 10 emerging fashion designers to create pieces using recycled Ford car parts and textile waste. Dresses, shirts, jackets and skirts were made from seat covers and other parts and shown at Hong Kong Fashion Week. An inspiring piece of news for the possibilities of recycling, and the future for sustainable fabrics…
Ford already uses plastic bottles and post-industrial waste to make recycled fabric as part of its upholstery in its cars so it partnered with Redress, a Hong Kong based charity that promotes sustainability in the fashion industry, to see how designers could transform materials and waste from vehicle production.
The Redress Forum: Ford Design Challenge was born and held during Hong Kong Fashion Week. From ten finalists from around the world, including UK, there were two winners, from Malaysia and Sweden.
How did they do it? If, like me, you’re intrigued as to how you get from plastic bottle to bolero, check out this video which explains how to make fabric (polyester) out of recycled bottles – it’s amazing!!!
I can’t believe the whole recycling process is so long and intricate; so many miles, countless stages, so much energy and hours of manpower (someone has to manually fish out the floating bottle lids from pools of broken down plastic?!). This complex process is carried out in China and probably only possible because of cheap labour. So now you know what happens to our plastic once we’ve chucked it in the recycling box – a long and arduous journey to reincarnation.
Ford states that ‘on an annual basis it recycles enough plastic bottles and postindustrial waste to make more than 1.5 million yards of recycled fabric.’
This recycled fabric is then used as car seat covers, an initiative that has apparently been so successful Ford has committed to using at least 25% recycled fabrics in every car. Some, like this one, uses 100% recycled fabrics.
Interestingly, I’ve been told that Ford is also working with Heinz to investigate the use of tomato fibres in developing sustainable plastics. It’s also decreased water use in its vehicle production, from 64 million cubic meters to 24 million cubic meters so it seems like Ford is on a bit of a sustainability mission.
It feels a little weird talking about a car manufacturer on an eco beauty blog but as I’ve always said, let’s champion the brands trying to tread more carefully on the planet – the fact that it’s a car manufacturer makes it all the more interesting.
I think innovation in sustainable fabrics is really cool and even high street stores – Marks & Spencer and H&M – are getting involved and experimenting with recycled fabrics.
Hopefully in the future we’ll see more and more products and materials made from post-consumer waste and hopefully it will become a second nature thing for brands and manufacturers to use recycled materials as a first port of call instead of virgin plastics.
I guess it all comes down to economics at the end of the day, so if and when virgin plastics become too expensive to use, brands will be forced to innovate and turn to recycling post-consumer waste. It’s not inconceivable that day will come sooner rather than later and thankfully there are already brands leading the way.