When designer Charlotte McCurdy set out to make a carbon-negative piece of clothing, she knew history was on her side.
“Paradigm shifting innovation has a history of starting in textiles,” she told VICE News in a recent documentary.
When thinking about sustainable fashion, your mind may go first to products and textiles made from natural materials. But this comes with its own issues.
92 million Tonnes of textile waste per year
To produce textiles made from natural material, there is still a complex farming system involved, especially if we’re to create them to the scale to suit our current needs. This means industrial equipment, huge amounts of fertiliser, the creation of which produces greenhouse gases – very quickly the dream of natural textiles gets extremely complicated.
McCurdy has created a garment that is totally carbon negative – by making it out of algae.
The transparent coat is made using a bioplastic that McCurdy created herself.
“The jacket is carbon-negative because it is made of marine macro-algae that expands our ability to meet our needs with 'present-tense sunlight'” she told design and architecture magazine Dezeen in 2019.
"This algae plastic is made of carbon that has been drawn from the carbon reservoir of the atmosphere and put into the stock of carbon of our built environment."
In layman’s terms, McCurdy takes a specific type of marine algae and heats it. After the excess algae has been removed, McCurdy is left with a plastic-like substance, which is then cooled and able to be cut into different shapes and sewn together. Algae naturally takes in carbon from its surroundings, in the water and air, too.
Paradigm shifting innovation has a history of starting in textilesCharlotte McCurdy, Designer and Researcher
“Whether it’s natural or synthetic, at the molecular level, every textile is just different chains of carbon,” she told VICE News.
“But now more than half of our textiles are made from carbon that comes out of the ground.”
Other designers are making clothes from algae now too, including Central St Martins graduate Scarlett Yang. Her coat melted away in the rain, but she came up with an ingenious way around it, using a silk protein to strengthen the material.
Kate Moss eat your heart out (sorry).
Next article: Overfishing technology