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The materials of the future


A visit to the Future Materials Library at Heimtextil 2020 was a tactile experience that could be enjoyed live with others at the fair. With the new online version, you can visit and revisit the library at any time to learn more about the potential of innovative and sustainable materials. The library addresses the problems posed by the increasing scarcity of our planet’s resources and shows how forward-thinking designers are learning from nature, working with it, and harnessing the power of highly efficient natural cycles. The library was curated by the London-based futures research agency FranklinTill.

The Future Materials Library 2021 offers material pioneers a platform of their own upon which to present a mixture of commercially tested and revolutionary developments, with a wealth of concrete examples of each. The library is arranged into four principal themes:

Regenerative Crops
Here the emphasis is upon the question of whether materials can be grown in a way that enriches the environment. Regenerative practices in agricultural fibre production are able to give something back to the environment through sustainable ‘soil to soil’ techniques. These farming methods enrich the soil, foster biodiversity and absorb carbon from the atmosphere. Furthermore, they often produce higher and more frequent yields than traditional crops and methods. Hemp, nettle, yak fibre and flax – all these purposely cultivated textiles are serving to enrich the new natural material landscape.

Remade Fibres
Redirecting industrial and post-consumer textile waste in order to recover raw materials – such is the thrust of many of the newly developed technologies. Forward-looking brands, manufacturers and social businesses are putting refuse that would otherwise be incinerated or dumped in landfills to (re)use, aiming for the longest possible, zero-waste cycle of regeneration.

Harvesting Waste Streams
More and more designers and material innovators are rethinking their attitudes towards waste, discovering in it a valuable resource for the textile and materials industry. The productive reuse of the unrecycled residues of industries ranging from food production to sheep farming and forestry is proving an ever more practical solution and even leading to the creation of totally new raw materials such as bioplastics.

Sustainable Colour
Beyond the challenges posed by raw material sourcing and the disposal of products that are no longer needed, the entire production process in the textile and materials industry is increasingly being subjected to scrutiny. Much of the attention here is being devoted to textile dyeing techniques: slow, natural dyeing processes offer a more environmentally friendly means of creating colours and employing them in production. Dyes are being extracted from agricultural by-products and bacteria generated in laboratories to create through fermentation a wide palette of unusual colours. Of these, too, the Future Materials Library offers a wealth of examples.