This year the LVMH Talents Prize focused on sustainable designers including Bethany Williams, Emily Adams Bode, and Thebe Magugu. But one sustainability designer in particular stood out. It was Anrealage designer Kunihiko Morinaga who presented a unique collection in photosensitive fabrics and photonic-crystal fabrics. Although Morinaga didn’t win, the miraculous collection drew significant press his direction. And the artist used the attention to talk about something even bigger, a biodegradable polyester thread.
Polyester in fashion
Polyester is one of the most common textiles in fashion apparel. It is used by everyone from Armani to Zara. It is very resilient, easy to wash, quick drying, and resistant to biological damage such as mold and mildew. And it is also one of the most destructive fabrics in fashion.
The synthetic fiber derived from coal, air, water, and petroleum requires chemicals to reduce its ingredients. And once created, the unnatural material does not degrade.
Clothing made from polyester, which is essentially plastic, takes up to 200 years to breakdown. And because it is so commonly used, the tons of clothing people buy and discard each year will sit in landfills for centuries. It is one of the largest sustainability challenges in the fashion industry today.
You can understand why Kunihiko Morinaga’s break through textile is such a marvel.
Kunihiko Morinaga’s earth thread
The designer approached the process like a scientist. When he created the biodegradable polyester thread he also conducted experiments. He created a jacket, a dress, and a coat which he buried in soil for one month. Then he monitored the garments daily to see how they decomposed. He journaled the entire process with a video diary which he posted on YouTube.
While the designs didn’t completely decompose it is a great new start. Hopefully the designer will continue his research and big entities like LVMH will continue to support him.