Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

Sustainable fashion: Time for sequins to go green

What materials will be used to make the clothes of the future? This is a question that start-ups, designers and major fashion houses are trying to answer to reduce the environmental footprint of one of the most polluting industries in the world

Published: Mar 17, 2023 12:50:05 PM IST
Updated: Mar 17, 2023 01:03:34 PM IST

Sustainable fashion: Time for sequins to go greenSequins are being reinvented through a new, more eco-friendly material that's biodegradable and contains no toxic substances. Image: Shutterstock

Spotted frequently during the recent fashion weeks as part of the 'metal chic' trend, sequins count among the essentials of the womenswear wardrobe. These sparkling details are most often made from plastic or vinyl, materials that are not very environmentally friendly, and which are particularly polluting. But this could change with the advent of BioSequins, a new biodegradable material made with no toxic substances.

What materials will be used to make the clothes of the future? This is a question that start-ups, designers and major fashion houses are trying to answer in order to reduce the environmental footprint of one of the most polluting industries in the world. This is today reflected in a frantic race to research and develop new materials to replace those that pollute the most, such as polyester, the most-produced synthetic material in the world. This has led to the return of age-old natural materials, including hemp and linen, but also to the emergence of new materials drawing from natural sources such as mushroom, pineapple, cactus or even apple waste.

Biodegradable sequins

Alternatives to certain synthetic and animal materials are multiplying around the world, but what of the various embellishments that adorn many clothing items, such as sequins and glitter? These sparkles appeal to children and adults alike during the festive season, and embody the disco fashion of the '70s and '80s. But they also contribute to polluting the oceans because of their composition. This problem has not escaped the attention of the Stella McCartney fashion house, which has been committed for years to environmental and animal welfare causes. The brand now presents an experimental jumpsuit made with BioSequins, "a biodegradable and non-toxic material innovated from plant-based cellulose, using no metals, minerals or synthetic pigments or colorants."

Here, the British fashion house is not turning its back on sequins—unavoidable in fashion—but is upgrading them to this new material that is not made with any metal, mineral, pigment or synthetic dye. This innovation is the result of a collaboration with the start-up Radiant Matter, which specializes in the development of textile solutions that respect the environment and human health. After banning PVC from its collections and launching bags made of mycelium, Stella McCartney can now add the introduction of biodegradable sequins to its list of commitments to making fashion more sustainable.

Also read: Sustainable fashion influencers take on fast fashion giants


An experimental item

However, this innovation isn't coming to the market just yet. The BioSequins jumpsuit presented by the British fashion house was showcased by the actress and model Cara Delevingne for the April 2023 issue of Vogue magazine, photographed by Annie Leibovitz. For the time being, this is an experiment, albeit one that could soon give rise to BioSequins clothing designed for consumers. According to an Oxfam study cited by Stella McCartney, British women buy as many as 33 million sequined garments during the annual festive season, of which 1.7 million end up in landfill after just five wears. This new material could significantly reduce the amount of microplastics making their way into the oceans each year.

"Who says sustainability can’t be sexy? Cara is breathtaking in this rare, precious garment and I am so grateful that Vogue has given us the platform to share it and inspire others to see the potential of a more conscious future of fashion," the British fashion designer said in a statement.