Five H&M Global Change Award Winners Poised to Make Impact

Expert Panel of Judges

By Staff | Material Matter
Posted Apr 5, 2017

STOCKHOLM - The fashion industry is currently producing 150 billion garments per year, most from virgin resources (cotton, flax, tree-based viscose fibers, etc.) Therefore, it is odd when businesses are not concerned about closing the loop and making fashion more circular.

To this end, this week the H&M Foundation awarded their second EUR 1 million to innovators poised to help fashion. In their words,

To speed up the shift to a circular and sustainable fashion industry, the H&M Foundation launched the innovation challenge Global Change Award in 2015–looking for ideas that can reinvent it all….If the fashion industry could become circular instead of linear, it could efficiently eliminate waste and recirculate raw materials and valuable resources used to produce new goods, creating value for both the environment and for the industry.

Innovators were invited to apply for the Global Change Award, in an open call launched in September 2016. 2285 applications were submitted from 130 countries, including India, US, Nigeria, UK, Italy, Sweden, Macedonia, Indonesia, Iran, Bangladesh and more.

The task of narrowing the list to a final five was left to an expert panel of: Vikram Widge, Head of Climate and Carbon Finance at the World Bank Group; Rebecca Earley, Professor in Sustainable Textile and Fashion Design at University of the Arts London; Amber Valletta, Supermodel, actress, entrepreneur, sustainability influencer; Lewis Perkins, President of Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute; Johan L. Kuylenstierna, Executive Director for Stockholm Environment Institute; Dame Ellen MacArthur, Founder of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and Ellis Rubinstein, President and CEO at The New York Academy of Sciences.

The judges picked five finalists, and the dispersal of the funds was determined by public vote (between March 27 and April 2)  The innovation that received the most public votes was granted EUR 300,000, the second highest rated innovation received 250,000 and the rest of the five winners were each granted 150,000. In total EUR 1 million was awarded in grants (at a ceremony in Stockholm).

The winners of Global Change Award 2016 were:

  1. Grape leather – Using leftovers from winemaking to create fully vegetal leather. Using leftovers from wine production to produce fine vegetal leather is great for animal welfare and eliminates the need for oil to make synthetic leather. The fact that the grape skins and stalks are used for something good, instead of combustion, is an extra plus.
  2. Manure couture – Making cow manure-based fabric. Extracting and using the valuable cellulose in cow manure to create a biodegradable textile. The significant reduced release of methane gas and substances that pollutes soil, water and air, is an added bonus.
  3. Denim-dyed denim – Letting used denim give colour to new denim. Breaking down old denim into fine particles and turning it into a colouring powder to dye new denim or make prints on other textiles. This method reduces both water and energy used for production, as well as reuses old denim instead of it going to waste.
  4. Solar textiles – Harvesting the sun’s energy to make fashion fabrics . Using only water, plant waste and solar energy to produce decomposable nylon, instead of oil, is good news for the planet. And if this isn’t enough, the nylon also binds greenhouse gases into the material, contributing to a zero-emissions world.  
  5. Content thread – A digital thread that lets us know what we’re wearing. Weaving a tiny RFID thread with a digitalized “ingredients list” into the garment, the recycling process will become much more efficient and less will go to waste, as it’s suddenly clear what materials the garment consists of.

In addition to the financial grant, all five Global Change Award winners are given a tailor-made, one-year innovation accelerator provided by H&M Foundation in partnership with Accenture and KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, to actualise their ideas, maximise performance and get industry access. Watch for more details on their impact on the world of fashion in coming months.

To learn more about innovations in textiles, check out our Magnifeco Radio episode featuring expert judge Professor Rebecca Earley.

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