Future Fashion Factory partners SaltyCo are the winners of the Vogue Yoox Challenge – The Future of Responsible Fashion.
Launched in February during Milan Fashion Week, the Vogue Yoox Challenge sought out innovative new and emerging brands, projects and startups making a real contribution to reducing the environmental impacts of the fashion industry.
With finalists selected from the US, Mexico, Switzerland, Italy, the Netherlands and Germany as well as the UK, the competition was certainly tough, but the jury ultimately awarded SaltyCo the prize of €50,000 and specialist mentoring to help develop the business.
“We were very, very pleasantly surprised to win,” says Julian Ellis-Brown, “especially against such great finalists. It’s amazing to have that support as we grow the company.”
Founded this year by a team of alumni from Imperial College London and the Royal College of Art, SaltyCo is using novel regenerative agriculture techniques to combat two major challenges in the manufacture of fabric: heavy reliance on clean water while generating huge quantities of wastewater and brine, and the loss of precious arable land as soil is affected by rising salt content.
According to SaltyCo, the water used to produce a single sock could provide fresh drinking water for one person for up to three years.
Consumers are also becoming increasingly aware of the environmental impacts of fashion, from the carbon footprint generated by transporting products worldwide to pollutants which are released as a manufacturing by-product.
“There’s a huge demand on the customer side for ways to actively help the environment with their choices – not just limit the potential damage,” Julian adds. “We’re developing materials that can help brands to meet that need.”
SaltyCo’s solution is to shift demand from freshwater – a scarce and valuable resource – to seawater, which is plentiful and rarely used in industrial contexts because of its salt content. The company is growing plants that thrive in dry and salty conditions and watering them with seawater, before using the fibres from these plants to create natural textiles which have the unique distinction of being ‘freshwater-free’, as well as vegan and carbon-negative.
Julian says that SaltyCo’s unique approach offers the opportunity to manufacture these fabrics at scale.
“Our fibre extraction process will have the potential to create tonnes of product, enabling us to operate on the scale needed to make a genuine impact,” he explains. “We’re already working with a variety of brands to supply textiles for everything from simple wardrobe staples to high-end functional pieces.
“Grants and wins such as the Vogue Yoox Challenge help us accelerate the upscaling process and get these freshwater-free fabrics into the market.”
Along with the other finalists, SaltyCo has also been featured on Vogue’s new Vogue Talents digital platform, providing another opportunity to reach an even wider global audience with their innovative approach to sustainable fashion.