Amsterdam innovation spotlight: merging tech with sustainability


Never mind Van Gogh and the canals: Amsterdam is building a growing reputation at the confluence of fashion and technology with a stream of startups attracting interest beyond the Netherlands.


In the 2020s, the Netherlands breeds startups that push fashion to experiment in both technology and sustainability, such as 3D digital design, biodesigned textiles and new manufacturing techniques. With sustainability at the core of their philosophy, they are helping fashion to reimagine its business models. “Our fashion ecosystem covers all aspects of sustainability, digital transformation, innovation and disruptive technologies,” says Marike Geertsma, a senior manager responsible for the fashion and creative industries at Amsterdam’s foreign investment agency.


Typical of the new-generation innovators is Pauline van Dongen, a fashion designer based in nearby Arnhem who specialises in wearable technology, such as performance athletic attire and a haptic shirt that corrects posture. “I am a curious type of person, and I want to explore many things that I can get my hands on,” she says. “Not only in terms of technology but also when it comes to the types of garments and textiles, whether it be knitting or weaving.”


Here are four fashion tech names setting the agenda.



The Fabricant: A digital fashion innovator


The Fabricant is a digital fashion house designing clothes that are never physically made. Operating at the intersection of fashion and technology, The Fabricant has opened up unpredictable creative possibilities for fashion companies.


The Amsterdam-based company has led experimentation in a new sector: digital-only clothing. Using the same digital design tools used in video games and movie special effects, these self-proclaimed “fashionauts” have become a go-to resource for fashion businesses looking to explore the potential beyond the physical world.


Kerry Murphy, whose background is in film, founded The Fabricant in 2018 with traditionally trained fashion designer-turned digital designer Amber Jae Slooten. They have partnered with the likes of Rag & Bone, Off-White and Bathing Ape. In 2019, The Fabricant sold a digital couture garment, named “Iridescence”, at auction for $9,500.


“The real value of 3D is that it enables us to be way more creative and to create situations that we haven’t previously seen, which allows for this new aesthetic language; a new way of expressing our creativity that really speaks to young, digitally savvy audiences,” explains Murphy.



Living Colour: New dyeing ideas


Amsterdam’s Living Colour has found an artisanal solution to the problem of the environmentally destructive process of textile dyeing. It dyes textiles by feeding bacteria with a nutrient to produce a pigment usable on most fibres, avoiding hazardous chemicals, using less water and less energy, and can be used on materials including synthetics, natural fabrics and leather.


The Living Colour project was founded in 2016 by Laura Luchtman and Ilfa Siebenhaar. “Designing with living organisms asks for a different design approach. You have to appreciate the material agency in working with a living organism,” says Luchtman. “We collaborate with the organism and learn from the organism. It also requires interdisciplinary collaboration: our design studio is partly a microbial laboratory, where we cooperate with microbiologists and chemists.”


The startup’s dyeing process has attracted the attention of sportswear giant Puma. Working with Puma, Living Colour designed and created a sportswear capsule dyed with bacteria. The six-garment Design to Fade collection was launched in June and created in collaboration with Swedish studio Streamateria.



MycoTex: The mushroom factor


Biodesign that uses mushroom roots is evolving into a major frontier for innovation in textile development. MycoTex, a Dutch project founded by Aniela Hoitink, has created a technology to make custom-fit products from a textile made from the mushroom roots. The low-cost, low-waste and compostable nature led it to become a 2018 Global Change Award winner.


Founder Hoitink is a textile designer with a background in the fashion industry, including spells at Tommy Hilfiger and Gaastra, and is focused on translating biotech ideas into designs with market potential.


Currently, MycoTex is working on how to scale up its production technology and looking to develop a pilot collection of bags.



New Industrial Order: 3D knitwear


New Industrial Order (N.I.O.) describes itself as a collective and laboratory where designers, artists and entrepreneurs can evolve a new fashion system built around customer demand. Products are always pre-ordered before they are made, meaning that the collective only sells items that have already been paid for, reducing stock overages.


N.I.O. is best known for 3D knitting, which uses only the yarn that goes into the garment and allows for one-off items, at scale, via 3D knitting machines. N.I.O. argues that it has true potential for a circular fashion system. Thanks to the seamless construction, 3D knitwear can be unravelled, and yarn can be reused. At first, co-founder Rosanne van der Meer thought it was a problem that sweaters developed with 3D technology looked different to conventional knitwear. But she realised that 3D knitting could establish a recognisable look, which she has developed into a collection for her label, The Girl and the Machine.


Van der Meer founded New Industrial Order with Annelie Ansingh. The collective is currently developing what it describes as a continuous, modular collection composed of building blocks of knitcode (3D knit patterns), enabling designers and brands to create their signature styles.


Article courtesy of Vogue Business here


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