Bionic Yarn, sustainable fabric makers who have pioneered the creation of a yarn made from plastic bottles rescued from shorelines, are capturing the eyes of the fashion mainstream and getting the fashion crowd to take note of the environment in their fashion choices.
On 20 April, the first ever evening gown made from the Bionic Yarn thread will hit the high street as part of H&M’s Conscious Exclusive Collection. The blush pink evening gown, designed by H&M’s in-house design team, features a flowing train and ruffles.
Bionic Yarn may have hit the headlines in the mainstream fashion world for its collaboration with high street brand, H&M, but the pioneering sustainable fabric makers have been around for almost a decade injecting its environmentally and fashion forward approach into the manufacturing of all kinds of goods.
Rocking threads with a conscience nowadays stretches far beyond natural fibers. Sustainable fashion, for one, is as much about combining modern technology with the use of synthetic fibers that there is an abundance of and is polluting the environment – plastic. Finding a new use for plastic ensures that the man-made fibre gets recycled and the shorelines and environment does not suffer.
Two New Yorkers, who came up with an innovative and creative way of recycling plastic bottles, have successfully found a way to put plastic-made garments, which are soft to wear, on the shelves.
Bionic Yarn – a super-strong, fast-drying fabric made primarily from recycled plastic bottles – is the brainchild of high school classmates Tyson Toussant and Tim Coombs. It’s made by wrapping plastic from recycled bottles around a polyester fiber and swaddling it all in to a yarn. The product is a more durable yet soft substitute for canvas.
Since its launch in 2009, Bionic Yarn has produced premium yarns and fabrics that are used in making denim, outerwear, backpacks, luggage and handbags for some of the leading fashion brands including Timberland, Moncler, GAP and Topshop.
Making Bionic Yarn is a three-step process. Firstly, the plastic bottles are melted and extruded into tiny fibers. Secondly, the fibers are spun together into what they call a “core-yarn.” Thirdly, they wrap a “helix” around the “core-yarn” to form a protective outer layer. This process creates a thread capable of transforming society’s plastic waste into high performance and luxury fabrics.
With Bionic Yarn, Tyson Toussant and Tim Coombs have devised a practical way to be resourceful while helping to combat plastic waste. Neither of them had formal training in textiles or engineering, but their vision to create a sustainable yarn process was driven by their passion for camping and the great outdoors.
Their company, Recovery Textiles, began in 2003 as a maker of hi-tech outdoor gear. But it took six years to develop Bionic Yarn. The pair designed, developed and commercialised the manufacturing of the yarn during that time, which was not without its challenges. “It took a lot of imagination for investors and even us at times to see the light at the end of the tunnel,” says Tim Coombs.
The Bionic Yarn team had essentially created an innovative product – a soft, durable fabric made primarily from recycled plastic bottles – but what they needed was strong publicity to take their product to the attention of manufacturers and consumers. Although the duo’s Recovery Textiles had been in business for years prior to the development of Bionic Yarn, little was known about the company and even though they were producing quality outdoor gear for the likes of NorthFace and Cole Haan, as manufacturers, there was little mention of the company’s imprint.
For Bionic Yarn, the company would get the profile it deserved with the backing and blessing of music, fashion and environmental visionary, Pharrell Williams. In 2009, Pharrell became an investor and the brand’s ambassador. Since bringing his creative expertise to the textile company, the team have landed lucrative projects with the likes of G-Star RAW, Moncler, Timberland and the recent venture with H&M.
Together Pharrell and Bionic Yarn have made it their goal to change the way people think about “sustainable fabrics” – all part of the brand’s motto to “make stronger thread—for the greater good”. With fashion labels Billionaire Boys Club, ICECREAM and having recently acquired G-Star RAW under his belt, Pharrell is on a mission with Bionic Yarn to create comfortable and durable “green” garments without having to compromise on style.
“The thing about brands or companies that do things that are sustainable, you immediately think that it is going to be super hard and that the functionality is going to suffer,” Pharrell told The Big SHFT. “What’s great about Bionic Yarn is that you don’t feel the difference and there is a difference – a difference of care that is put into it. You cannot change the standard if you keep treating [green fabrics] as an alternative. If you build smart and you shop smart, then you are living smart.”
For his Moncler collection, Pharrell made use of the high-performance textile to create a high-tech sportswear collection inspired by Japanese experimental art. Other partnerships have seen the yarn being used in the exclusive RAW for the Oceans collection for G-Star, hoodies for GAP, boots for Timberland and eco-friendly tote bags for Kiehl’s, also designed by the N*E*R*D* frontman.
The company helped to recycle 1.7 million plastic bottles into fabric for their project with Timberland alone. But it is not just fashion brands and outdoor gear retailers that the company supply their yarn to. Bionic Yarn develops yarns and other fabrics created from recycled plastic containers with applications to the creation of everything from luggage and handbags, to home furnishings, as well as denim and outerwear.
As Pharrell puts it, there is no end to the possibilities of what they can produce with the yarn as the company look set to explore other avenues. “We are interested in tapping into all areas: bedding, furniture, uniforms, luggage, you name it. There is no limit to what we want to do,” Pharrell added.
Rosalind Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She is a journalist who writes about sustainable life & style, music, entertainments and wellbeing. Rosalind also works as a spiritual life coach and intuitive advisor helping people to become who they truly are and manifest their heart & soul’s desires into their lives: www.rosalindmedea.com