Australian technology company Nanollose, headed up by former Gap Inc clothing boss Alfie Germano, is producing what it claims is the world’s first plant-free fibre, offering a sustainable alternative to commonly used fibres such as cotton for the textile industry. The company is developing a technology that uses biomass from waste products such as beer, wine and liquid food, to extract cellulose fibres – one of the main ingredients in fashion and textile production. The process, Nanollose says, requires very little land, water or energy. A production cycle is just 18 days, compared to the eight months seen in the cotton industry.

CEO Germano says the development marks an exciting time for the company, which was founded in 2014 by scientist Gary Cass. “Today, we use plants and trees for fibres to make clothes and textiles, with manufacturers having limited alternative eco-friendly options available to them. We don’t have to cut down trees and plants to create our plant-free cellulose fibre, and it can be used in the same way as other fibres to make clothing and textiles but with a dramatically reduced environmental footprint.”

Germano says the company will first target the $500bn global textile industry, given the increasing urgency from brands, retailers and manufacturers to seek and cultivate alternative sustainable fibre resources. “Progressive brands and companies are starting to facilitate this new shift by involving themselves deeper in the supply chain and searching for feasible, sustainable long-term alternatives.

This urgency for cleaner alternatives recently saw Swedish retailer Hennes&Mauritz (H&M) release a sustainability report in April, highlighting its commitment to use 100 per cent sustainably sourced materials by 2030. As part of that plan, the retailer’s Indonesian arm has partnered with Danone, bottled water brand Aqua, and one of its most sustainable suppliers, to turn plastic waste into clothes.

Zara has also joined the movement with the launch of its sustainable line ‘Join Life’ last year. “We want to be part of this solution, and our vision is to create an end-to-end supply chain with key partners who will grow our fibres,” says Germano. “The goal is to then feed our sustainable alternative into the global industries with little to no retrofitting to existing machinery or processes.”