Fashion
READING: Your Next Designer It-Bag Might Be Made From Ocean Trash
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Burberry’s Econyl capsule includes trench coats, car coats, jackets and bags made with the sustainable nylon yarn. Photo courtesy of Burberry

YOU MAY NOT SPOT ANYTHING out of the ordinary from Burberry’s new capsule collection. After all, it comprises pieces that the British brand is known for — car coats, jackets and, of course, trench coats — adorned with its monogram and logo. But, wait, what’s with that satin sheen?

You’re looking at fashion’s latest textile obsession: Econyl, an eco-friendly form of nylon. It’s the crowning glory of Italian yarn manufacturer, Aquafil, who introduced the synthetic fibre to tackle the world’s huge plastic problem.

Fishing for Fabric

If you haven’t caught up, plastic straws are not responsible for killing sea turtles — they account for less than one per cent of ocean plastic.

Instead, you can blame abandoned fishing gear like plastic nets, lines, and traps for making up a tenth of marine litter. Not-so-fun fact: these nets take up to 600 years to biodegrade.

Aquafil doesn’t plan to wait.

The company is cleaning up the ocean by recycling these discarded fishing nets, along with other nylon waste, used carpets, landfill waste and fabric scraps. Econyl is the sum of these parts.

Through a chemical purification process, Aquafil turns plastic waste back into oil, before spinning it into Econyl yarn. The result: virgin nylon, made with 80 per cent less energy.

Another bonus? Econyl is also infinitely recyclable.

As part of its “Re-Nylon” initiative, Prada plans to replace nylon with Econyl by the end of 2021.

PHOTO COURTESY OF PRADA

Prada’s “Re-Nylon” collection consists of the brand’s classic bags styles, like this backpack, made with Econyl.

PHOTO COURTESY OF PRADA

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From Ocean Debris to Designer Bags

Still, yarn made from trash doesn’t exactly scream luxury. It’s why Econyl was largely used in carpets and swimwear after it was launched in 2011. That is, until Gucci decided to use the sustainable material in its men’s outerwear in 2016, sparking a trend as the luxury brand is wont to do. In the years that followed, Econyl could be found in Stella McCartney bags, streetwear pieces from 1017 ALYX 9SM and Burberry trench coats. 

Prada made an even bolder move last June: in partnership with Aquafil, it pledged to entirely replace its iconic nylon fabric with Econyl by the end of 2021. Stella McCartney aims to do the same by 2020.

Prada Re-Nylon — What We Carry

Photo courtesy of Prada

No Place for Plastic

The initiative, dubbed “Re-Nylon”, includes a collection of classic Prada bag styles for men and women made with the sustainable yarn. The Italian label also launched “What We Carry”, a short video series with National Geographic that offers a look into the making of Econyl.

Consider it one stride towards sustainable change, and a step towards what hopefully will be a matter of rinse and repeat with all other variations of plastic in fashion (think polyester and acrylic).

It’s time to shake off fashion’s stubborn use of the material plaguing our planet.

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