Petri Alava (Infinited Fiber): “Fashion has focused on gaining volume, but there has been little innovation in textile”
Alava has been leading Infinited Fiber company since 2016, owned by H&M and specialized in a technology to produce new natural fibers from waste.
What if the new fashion raw material came from newspapers that end up in the trash? That is the path that is following the startup Infinited Fiber, a Finnish company, owned by H&M, which sells a technology to produce new raw materials from natural origin. The company is already working with distribution giants such as Ikea, VF or H&M to scale the model. The project is led by Petri Alava, an industrial engineer, who joined Infinited Fiber in 2016 with the aim of taking the next step and making the model scalable.
Mds: Who is leading the research in new materials, big companies or startups?
Petri Alava: If you look at the background in the textile industry, they have had innovations in increasing volumes and product development but in the fabric area there has been little innovation, development is taking place in a very small scale.
Mds: It is possible to invest in new sustainable solutions without the investment of a big company?
P. A.: Yes it is, we do need the money from investors in order to develop technologies, and most of the money is coming from our investors but obviously the contribution from H&M has been of high importance to show investors that they are interested in our business. Without the contribution from H&M if would have been impossible to be in this position.
Mds: Do you imagine a future where we do not have to crop more cotton?
P. A.: I don’t think the harvesting of cotton would completely stop, cotton is a very good material, but the sustainability of cotton is very challenging. the fashion industry is needy and there are few innovations that have helped improved sustainability. I think harvesting would decline but it will not disappear.
Mds: What percentage do you think recycled cotton production would reach in the future?
P. A.: We have proved that when you are blending 50-50, it means 50 recycled cotton and 50 pure cotton, the garments look exactly the same. In a future 50% of the cotton volume could easily be replaced with recycled fabric.
“Without H&M if would have been impossible to be in this position”
Mds: Are preferred raw materials more expensive?
P. A.: I think that with the help of technology we are not only using textile waste, we are also using carbon waste and if you look at the cost carbon waste and its base value its very low if you compare it to the base value of cardboard. The use of cardboard waste is decreasing so I think the cost would also decrease.
Mds: Is recycling cotton scalable?
P. A.: We have now reached stability of technology and we are collecting evidence so that in 2020 this business can be really taking into a high-volume commercial use.
Mds: Will consumers end up having different trash cans for clothing at home, as we now have for recycling trash?
P. A.: Yes, definitely if you take a look of what’s happening in Europe, they have released new directives that are taking place in order that starting from 2025 all Europeans countries have organized their different waste. That is the future.
Mds: Scandinavia has become a new hub for startups specialized in sustainable fashion. Why do you think that is?
P. A.: There is a huge amount of knowledge in northern countries of how to do paper or wood from waste and then innovation culture is also very strong. Education level is very high, we have lot of capable engineers and scientists that know how to develop technologies. Companies like H&M, Inditex or Adidas know how to sell but we know how to develop technologies.
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