In the fashion industry’s quest for ecological accountability, it looks towards the best model there is - nature itself. One such company, the Finnish brand Spinnova, goes so far as to mimic how spiders spin their webs to create clean and durable fiber filaments.
What is it?
Based in Jyväskylä, Central Finland, Spinnova aims to create elastic fibers from softwood pulp without using a single chemical. The technology will allow them to use 99% less water compared to that of producing cotton.
This chemical-less process distinguishes them from other companies that use the Ioncell method to dissolve wood cellulose. While the Ioncell method uses chemicals, Spinnova relies on a completely mechanical manufacturing method. This process transforms the wood pulp into something like sheep’s wool that would be even safe to eat.
Their fiber also demands significantly less water and other resources. On top of that, it is 100% zero waste/ side streams. The company has also dedicated itself to using only sustainable (FSC or PEFC certified) raw materials.
Who is behind it?
The idea that launched the company came to cellulose expert Juha Salmela while researching nanocellulose. After attending a conference at Oxford University and learning about the similarities between spiderweb’s protein and nanocellulose, Salmela pursued the idea within the Technical Research Centre of Finland (VTT).
Years later, he was asked by VTT’s Head of Biomaterials research area, Janne Poranen, to build a company off the concept. With the help of several investors, including the VTT, Spinnova was born in 2015. It took several years of research and development before they decided to scale it up to a continuous pilot scale in 2018.
Once they lay down the final touches on their industrial concept, they would be ready to roll out products from their pilot plant in Jyväskylä by the end of this year. They are also poised to launch collaborations with major retailers such as Bestseller.
But Spinnova’s technology not only aims to introduce a new fiber. In the long term, they plan to contribute to sustainability by allowing more arable to be utilized for food rather than clothing. Their disruptive vision on sustainability allows them to focus on perfecting the material before everything else.
Indeed, Spinnova shows that there is no better model for the circular economy than nature. As the demand for new sources of textile materials further increases, innovations such as these are welcome.