English version | A living coat

02 Sep 2021
By Mariana Silva

We usually say that, in order to live a fulfilling life, we must have at least one child, write a book and plant a tree. The tree is a way of compensating the oxygen that was consumed during our time on Earth, right? If so, we don't need to go that far. It is enough to wear a coat, or “the” CO2AT.

We usually say that, in order to live a fulfilling life, we must have at least one child, write a book and plant a tree. The tree is a way of compensating the oxygen that was consumed during our time on Earth, right? If so, we don't need to go that far. It is enough to wear a coat, or “the” CO2AT. 

© Frederico Martins
© Frederico Martins

How do you picture a Fashion collection in 2043? Maybe our garments will be able to measure our vital signs. Or maybe fabrics will become the new phones, embodying communication features. We live at a time so characterised by change that we could put forward any hypothesis regarding the state of the industry for the next decades and nothing would seem too unlikely. There is only one question left to answer: will there even be a Planet Earth, or at least as we know it, in 2043? Reading the most recent report from the Intergovernamental Panel on Climate Change is the same as getting taken into the ocean by a wave that then carry us back to the sand. It is frightening but, deep down, nothing actually happened. Even so, the fear never leaves our side - maybe because we know that the threat is real. With this summer-missing metaphor, I’m looking to describe how the discoveries made by 234 scientists from over 60 countries are a sea of bad news. Now we know that global warming is undoubtedly a result of human action and that the 1,5ºC rise in temperature will arrive ten years earlier than we thought. Everywhere we see the words “climate emergency” and not even for the Fashion industry - an industry which, together with the energy and transportation sectors, is one of the most polluting in the world - that is an exception. The Fashion industry is screaming for change and it does not want to see itself playing the role of guilty anymore.

Luckily, the other side of this coin appears to be much more positive. For that, we should now present two achievements. The first one is my own, since I was able to write an entire paragraph on the environmental issues associated with the Fashion industry without using the word “sustainability”. And the second one (but first in order of importance) is the innovation that prevents me from continuing the first achievement. Being my work based on following the evolution of Fashion, I regularly come across a lot of so-called sustainable garments, making me unable to pay enough attention to most of them. But CO2AT stayed with me from the start, even when I was unaware of how to exactly describe it. In the beginning I was presenting it as “the coat that breathes”, however I did not want to pay a fee for copyright infringement. When I compared it to a plant, most people thought about aesthetics, imagining a green and floral garment, instead of the Darth-Vader-like poncho that it actually is. Therefore, I made what a good journalist should not do and simply passed on the message that had been sent to me: CO2AT is a clothing piece that absorves carbon dioxide and transforms it into oxygen. This is a technology created by the Pakistani company Azgard9, known in he industry for its denim production, which partnered with the English laboratory Post Carbon Lab to (literally) give life to what we now know as CO2AT. The garment was created among the initiative Future Before Fashion which represents, for Ahmed Shaik, CEO of the Pakistan-based factory, the missing step in the manufacturing of low environmental impact clothing collections. CO2AT is born as a prototype meant to show to the company’s partners, from Inditex to LVMH, the possibilities that arise with this new technology. 

A technology that can seem like a giant step for the Fashion industry but that was, in reality, created millions of years ago by the most brilliant scientist of all a.k.a Planet Earth. Because what CO2AT does is to take to its fabric the photosynthetic process done by plants. The lining of this coat’s hood, made from organic cotton, is treated with a microbial pigmentation where there are microorganisms capable of turning carbon dioxide into oxygen, just like an oak tree. A random comparison? Not really. This clothing piece produces in one month an equal amount of oxygen to an one year-old oak tree during the same period of time. It also arrives to the hands of the consumer already with a neutral carbon footprint, since the oxygen produced during the coat’s manufacturing eliminates completely its environmental impact. For the rest of CO2AT’s components, the focus is on durability. With the exception of the hood, this garment is made from a mixture between polyamide and elastane, materials known for being weather and time resistant. The same cannot be said, however, about the living organisms found in the hood. Through time, these slowly loose their photosynthetic features. But the Pakistani company has already found a solution to reverse that. Given CO2AT’s textile characteristics, it is possible to replant those microorganisms so that any product created with this technology may have a never-ending life cycle. Attention 2043: Fashion Industry Odyssey. It almost feels like science-fiction, but the truth is that this type of revolutionary technologies should not be seen as the future of Fashion but rather its present. There are several changes that we can postpone on a daily basis, but opting for sustainable habits is not one of them.     

Originally translated from the New Beginnings issue, published September 2021.Full credits and stories on the print issue.

Mariana Silva By Mariana Silva

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