What’s to Come of Patagonia’s Microfiber Washer, ‘Fabric Meta Chip’ and Other CES Innovations?

Sustainability innovations are kicking off in the new year.

For one, Patagonia and Samsung are teaming up to develop a new washing machine that aims to curb the impact of microplastics. This announcement and more came from the three-day edition of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, which wraps Friday.

More from WWD

A single synthetic garment — like Patagonia’s popular polyester fleece — can shed thousands of synthetic microfibers in a single wash. Over the past several years, the brand has poured over $180,000 in grant money into nonprofits working toward microplastic solutions (organizations like The Guppy Friend, which makes a wash bag that catches microfiber shedding), as well as its own research (like the 2016 efforts spearheaded by the environmental science school at the University of California, Santa Barbara).

Why is Patagonia partnering with Samsung?

The electronics company has reportedly collected over 5 million tons of electronic waste since 2009 and is working on a series of climate-focused innovations for consumers, many employing power- and water-saving modes as well as gadgets like an “eco remote.”

Samsung’s engineers are developing the microplastic-busting washer but there is no ETA on it at present, per both companies. Patagonia did not respond to additional inquiries on the news.

Following the washer news, a Taiwanese fashion start-up called Frontier, along with partner E-Elements, debuted the first “Fabric Meta Chip” on Thursday — which is a glamorous and scalable way to transform physical fabric into its digital version, after installation in manufacturing facilities.

Victor Chao, founder and chief executive officer of Frontier, said in a statement that the future could very well entail digital doppelgängers in the metaverse with threads that are “faithfully replicated” in the real world through AI fabric computing.

Offering to ease the woes of an analog world, Frontier said its digitization process allows users to simply scan and upload materials in as little as 30 seconds using a standard home or office scanner. Then, in a matter of minutes, Frontier delivers high-fidelity U3M downloadable 3D- and 4D-ready files. The chip takes things a step further. Frontier’s AI software-driven textile solutions can help cut manufacturing time from a matter of months to a week with digitized assets.

The global textile industry is embracing the digital world faster now that metaverse means meta-press. A session billed as “The Fashion Metaverse” during CES on Thursday captured the fast-moving sentiment, with moves from Perfect Corp., the beauty AR tech company which dabbles in virtual try-ons for watches, also sweetening the interest.

As governments look to clamp down on sustainability, climate tech offers a window of opportunity for industry and infrastructure.

Austin Simms, cofounder of climate tech company Dayrize, in which the Dutch government is an investor, can measure the eco-impact of five different categories spanning fashion, health and beauty, homeware, outdoor and maternity/baby clothes.

“But our framework is developed so that it can score products across any consumer category. We are adding a new category each quarter and plan to be able to assess all categories of consumer products. We launched in July 2021 and already have secured contracts with over 500 brands and have scored tens of thousands of products,” said Simms, to WWD.

Data is pulled from existing metrics like the Higg Index, third-party databases and geospatial overlays to fill in data gaps from the brands themselves.

“The result is that we can measure with a high degree of accuracy the impact of brands with limited information from the brand itself because of the multiple additional information sources we have. This means we can measure the impact of most consumer products, regardless of the information the brand has access to,” he added.

Now, it’s up to brands to bolster the innovations and foster further investment.

Frontier’s Fabric Meta Chip aims to blend physical and digital textile worlds.
Frontier’s Fabric Meta Chip aims to blend physical and digital textile worlds.

Sign up for WWD's Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.