Getting Sustainable

Textile Innovation Competition Finals

By Sarah Jean Harrison

Image of Panelists: Geof Kime, Co-founder Circular Systems, David McCann VP Strategy and Operations, ColorZen, Marilyn McNeil-Morin Director George Brown College Fashion Exchange, Philippe Cantin Senior Director Sustainability, Innovation and Circular Economy, Retail Council of Canada

Toronto, MaRs Discovery District – By now those following the world of fashion and sustainability know that major changes are needed in the textile and apparel industries. From Burberry burning product to H&M’s massive fast fashion overstock, serious technological innovations beyond runway design and weekly trends are needed to transform fashion into a sustainable industry.

That deep level of systemic change is exactly what Stacey Fruitman, founder of SWS Ventures and the  Textile Innovation Competition, was looking for.

Fruitman launched the Textile Innovation Competition, in collaboration with MaRs Discovery District and the George Brown Fashion Exchange, in the Spring of 2018 with the express intention of discovering and supporting Canadian innovators and entrepreneurs who are tackling fashion’s largest environmental issues and pushing the industry forward.

“I felt it was important to focus on innovation for this pitch competition. We already know Canada has amazing research facilities and technology support systems. I’m confident that Canadian innovation can take a global leadership position to help reduce the environmental impact of the textile and apparel industry,” says Fruitman.

The competition accepted applications from across Canada, focusing on early stage companies using technology or innovation to reduce the environmental impact of textiles and apparel. From 43 applications, 4 finalists were selected to present at the live pitch competition on October 3rd in Toronto: Pliant Power Devices, Polygone Technologies, Sheerly Genius by Sheertex and Scalable Garment Technologies Inc.

The winner would go home with a $10, 000 prize along with advisory support from the MaRS Catalyst Fund and the George Brown Fashion Exchange.

The Finalists

Following a fascinating panel discussion, hosted by Amanda Cosco of the Electric Runway, on circular economies and sustainability, each of the finalists delivered their pitches to the judges and audience.

Pliant Power Devices discussed innovations in wearable tech fostered by their carbon-based battery technology that prints directly onto fabrics. Polygone Technologies tackled microplastics in our water and beverages with bio-based filters that captures up to 95% of microplastics released in your washing machine.

Sheerly Genius by Sheertex shared their advancements in reducing nylon waste by creating indestructible pantyhose made from the same fibre as bulletproof vests. Finally, Scalable Garment Technologies Inc. revealed a made-to-order knitwear manufacturing platform that dramatically decreases the waste and overstock of traditional retail models.   

So Who Won?

Textile Innovation Competition, Sheerly Genius

Sheerly Genius by Sheertex took home the $10 000 prize with their “bulletproof pantyhose” and dedication to ridding our lingerie draws of ripped, torn and run-filled sheers. When asked how win has impacted their work, Sheerly Genius shared via email that “Since the MaRS competition, we’ve been in overdrive testing new fibers and finishing techniques to ensure the best products possible. Winning the prize money gave us the ability to purchase another machine we needed to progress forward and we’re excited to say this is just the beginning.” 

Each of the finalists demonstrated what Fruitman knew all along: the innovations needed to transform fashion into a force for good are happening right here in Canada.

Sheerly Genius is expected to ship their first round of sheers this November. To claim your pair, join the wait list

Publisher’s Note: Sarah Jean Harrison is a sustainability communications specialist at Peace Flag House, working with sustainable fashion and lifestyle brands. Her work has appeared in The Canadian Organic Farmer, Spin Off Magazine, FORWARD Fashion and Eco Warrior Princess.