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Seeking out ‘the next big thing’ in eco-fashion

Global – A consortium of Finnish experts has won the first Global Change Award for a new technology to dissolve textiles with the help of an environmentally-friendly solvent that permits waste cotton to be used as a raw material in the production of new textiles ‘€˜without any loss in quality’€™. Securing a grant of Euro 300 000, the innovation was jointly developed by Aalto University, the University of Helsinki and the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland.

Attended by Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden, the awards ceremony on February 10 marked the culmination of the first annual innovation challenge for circular fashion initiated by the non-profit H&M Conscious Foundation. An innovation accelerator programme is designed to help the winner and leading finalists to develop their ideas, focusing on the following three areas: circular economy; innovation; and fashion industry connection.

‘This prestigious grant will allow us to lift our technology closer to an industrially viable level,’ says Professor Michael Hummel of Aalto University. ‘Now we will focus on the further development of technical details, in particular the solvent recovery to ensure economic competitiveness and complete environmental friendliness of our process.’

Awards jury member Dr Michael Braungart comments: ‘The chosen goal and approach of each idea differed, yet we have to face the fact that conventional recycling is simply not enough; without using positively defined materials it does not make sense to close the loops. True innovation will result in high-quality, beautiful and beneficial fashion.’

H&M’s eco-arm has also launched ‘an open-source database for innovations’ to further boost circular fashion. ‘When the application period closed, we sat with thousands of amazing ideas,’ explains H&M spokesperson Karl-Johan Persson. He describes the network as ‘a matchmaking site’ where innovators can present their ideas, get feedback and make contacts, and where investors can maybe identify ‘the next big thing’.

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