The return of ‘next-gen’ materials in Fashion & Luxury

Despite a decrease in investments for the sector, companies focusing on innovative materials have more than tripled

We have been focusing on innovative materials for Fashion & Luxury for two years now. Despite the difficulties experienced in 2022, so-called ‘next-gen’ materials open to new and interesting prospects.

The situation of the market of innovative materials

The sector of ‘next-gen’ materials, definition which includes vegan leather (that is, of plant origin) and all the non-plastic alternatives to polyester and viscose, has just experienced a significant decrease in investments. According to a report published by the think tank, “Material Innovation Initiative”, the start-ups developing innovative materials (produced in the laboratory or from plants, microbes and mycelium) have collected 457 million dollars in 2022, less than half compared to the 980 million in 2021.

It is important to admit, though, that the year in decline came after an increase in funds without precedent. Furthermore, the number of businesses focusing exclusively on the development of latest generation materials grew to 102, more than tripling in the last decade. The situation remains, therefore, very positive, so much so that by 2026, again according to an estimate by Material Innovation Initiative, the global scale of this wholesale market will reach 2.2 billion dollars.

The most interesting solutions: from new materials to waste recovery

On their part, the big brands of Fashion & Luxury seem to bet on these innovations. Many brands have chosen, for example, mycelium, contained in the roots of fungi, to give life to an alternative to leather. Others aim on the production of biomaterials and others still develop their own solutions defined as “revolutionary”. Among these, Demetra stands out. This is a “leather” created by using the same processes used in tanning, but with an almost exclusively plant-based composition.

Again, in a green perspective, even if not tied to the concept of ‘next-gen’ materials, the outlook by Unic, Unione Nazionale Industria Conciaria (Italian Tanning Industry Association) deserves a mention. The association has for some time now been engaged in the recovery and enhancement of waste and the treatment of wastewater for the processing of leather. A commitment conducted not simply by individual companies, but synergistically by the entire production system.

An issue, that of sustainability, to which we have been giving great significance on these pages for some time now.


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