There are many beautiful ethical and sustainable fabrics for use across a range of applications, but sportswear is an area of design that many of us are not familiar with. The fabrics are high-tech; in a whole league of their own! How does this match up to the need for sustainable fabrics? Well Dupont’s on the case combining ethics and technology to create an amazing new fibre, and it’s called Sorona™!
Sorona™ is a fibre that’s made from glucose molecules. So what’s the big deal?? Well, it can be used to make a fabric with the same qualities and characteristics of a synthetic fabric, like nylon or polyester, without needing the petroleum-depleting raw material that these same synthetic fabrics require! Amazing! The finished fabric retains shape beautifully, has fantastic durability and stain resistance, and much more. It can also be mixed with other fibres to create fabrics with even more beneficial features.
How is Sorona™ Made?
Made by DuPont, Sorona™ is the trade name for triexta (polytrimethylene terephthalate). As I mentioned, the main component of Sorona™ is derived from a much more sustainable source than petroleum: glucose. This glucose is all derived from … wait for it… corn! In 2004, a $100 million dollar Bio-PDO™ plant was built in Loudon, Tenessee as a joint venture between DuPont and Tate & Lyle. Railcars full of corn are sent to this Tate & Lyle corn wet mill, where glucose produced from the corn starch is then pumped to the Bio-PDO™ production facility.
At the production facility, a microorganism is added to the glucose. Five nine-story-tall fermentors are filled with the organism and glucose which finally releases Bio-PDO™ in a broth. Next, this Bio-PDO™ broth is separated and distilled to a form that is 99.97% pure, with the remainder primarily water. The Bio-PDO™ is then shipped around the world, where it is manufactured into a polymer and further processed into final products.
Who Uses Sorona™?
While you may not have heard of it, many of you may have seen it… on TV at the Rio Olympic Games! I was desperate to find out all about Sorona™, so I am so thrilled I was able to interview Masha founder and owner of MASHAMA, the Chinese fashion house, who designed the podium-wear for the Chinese Olympic team that incorporated Sorona™.
So Masha, what was your inspiration for the concept behind the Olympic garments?
The design inspiration comes from a series of Chinese elements which includes the Chinese national flag, the Forbidden City with which we wanted to represent the Chinese traditional architectural arts, and the beautiful calligraphy used for representing traditional Chinese characters.
An important aspect of historical Chinese design that we were inspired by is that of the red wall and yellow tile combination. The Forbidden City’s golden roof offered great colour inspiration. We wanted to use the calm, classic effect of the yellow, combined with that bright Chinese red to represent new generation of China’s people. These people are the face of the modernisation of contemporary China.
What was the process you went through for the Olympics; from how you came to be selected, through the design process.
The well-known Chinese sportswear brand ANTA, who have serviced the Chinese Olympic team for many years, invited me to be the design consultant for the Chinese team for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. Our professional design team put Chinese elements into the design through the MASHAMA style. As I mentioned we took inspiration from architectural monuments – their enduring influence is undeniable; the grand and magnificent Forbidden City, and also the graceful and elegant Suzhou museum. Combined with high-tech fabrics, references to these historical, national buildings inspired the final unique Chinese Olympic podium-wear.
It’s amazing that many of the garments incorporated sustainable textiles such as Sorona™ and bamboo. Why was sustainability so important here?
In fashion we have the ‘classics’ that make up the basis for our designs. Classic styles are denoted as such because of their staying power; because of their constant popularity in the fashion market. Fast fashion answers to the world of trends, but only the designs that possess true practicality and comfort will endure. This is an aspect of sustainability. Design innovation also can mean survival in the fashion market for the ‘classics’.
Ah yes, innovation such as using sustainable fabrics! What was it like working with these sustainable fabrics and what were their characteristics, particularly Sorona™?
Sorona™’s properties are very suitable for activewear and give the garments a unique performance. What’s really fascinating too is the process that the fibre’s raw materials go through thanks to the revolutionary use of biological technology. The result is a textile that exhibits a perfect combination of function and environmental protection. This sustainable polymer fabric makes design and wearing a different experience.
Do you think sustainability is important for up and coming designers – why?
Of course! Although current popular fashion is very important to the market, a long-term vision of sustainability is necessary if you want to produce classic designs that last through the generations. Timeless design is a very valid element of sustainable design, both environmentally and economically.
What piece of advice would you give to a designer, that you’d wish you’d known earlier.
Well, my advice would correspond to each designer’s efforts and achievements: if you want to achieve progress then you must accept that difficulties are inevitable. Firstly you need a firm belief in your career. Then really try to balance the levels of relaxation and stress that exist for you in your work.
The fashion industry is fast moving, especially the developing domestic fashion market. If you choose to work in this field, be sure to maintain a firm belief in yourself and be prepared for unremitting efforts in order to achieve success. Be careful to complete each piece or project as this will naturally lead to more development in your approach and design.
Thank you! That’s really interesting to hear – I frequently feel that modern (and quite possibly historical) work ethics and attitudes tend to require us to feel like we have to run ourselves into the ground to be worth something, and to be rewarded for that! I like it when people place importance on work/life balance – if we don’t we’ll run out of steam, and that’s not sustainable at all!
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