Thread that dissolves fights fashion waste


A Flemish entrepreneur who has developed tough stitching that gives way at high temperatures is the keynote speaker at Vlaanderen Circulair’s Community Night

Circular economy on show

When it comes to industrial waste, there are certain sectors that get a lot of bad press: The fashion industry and the building industry. Vlaanderen Circulair is addressing both of them this evening during Community Night in Leuven.

Community Night is the main event in a week devoted to getting the public and business on board with the idea of a circular economy. Vlaanderen Circulair (Circular Flanders), behind the week of events, brings together industry, policymakers and the science and tech communities to work towards on alternatives to the traditional linear economy, which buys, uses and throws away.

Young Flemish entrepreneur Cédric Vanhoeck is tonight’s keynote speaker. The founder of Regeneration in Ghent, he will talk about his solution to the infamously wasteful textile industry – and show off the results.

Regeneration produces a brand of clothes called Resortecs. The stitching on the line, dubbed Smart Stitch, literally dissolve at high temperatures so the clothes can be dismantled and the textile re-used.

Circular fashion

Vanhoeck, 27, modified polymers to develop several innovative threads from material like polyester. While still being strong enough for stitching, they melt when temperatures of between 70 and 200 degrees Celsius are directly applied.

Removing parts like zippers and buttons from textile products is currently complicated and costly, but should also become a lot easier through Resortecs. Based in Ghent, the innovative method enables the simple disassembly of other textiles products as well, such as handbags and mattresses. The idea is to encourage repairing and recycling processes in the sector.

Vanhoeck learned all about closed-loop economic systems during his industrial design engineering studies in the Netherlands. But when he started following classes at the fashion department in Antwerp’s Royal Academy, he noticed the issue was being largely skipped over.

As a fashion designer, you have a crucial role in the ecological impact of clothes, but you never learn about it

- Cédric Vanhoeck

“As a fashion designer, you have a crucial role in the ecological impact of clothes, but you don’t get in-depth lessons about the sustainable use of materials and production processes,” he says.

After his first year in the fashion department, Vanhoeck decided to take a sabbatical year to develop Resortecs. But he never returned to the school because of Resortecs’ meteoric rise.

Together with co-founder Vanessa Counaert, he entered the Start It @KBC incubator programme, teamed up with research institute Centexbel and, most notably, won one of H&M’s Global Change Awards, worth €150,000. Smart Stitch is now being tested on an industrial scale.

Construction waste

Vanhoeck will be joined at Community Night brings by a number of actors from different sectors to discuss projects and possible collaborations. Vlaanderen Circulair has set up an expo on projects that recently received subsidies and is launching a book, Frontrunners, with inspiring initiatives. Participants of the Boot Camp, another event this week, will present their ideas for a more sustainable future.

Vlaanderen Circulair is also taking the opportunity of Community Night to present its new thematic approach to its work. “We will continue to support all relevant projects but also want to spend the next few years focusing on particular sectors in order to achieve a higher impact,” says transition manager Brigitte Mouligneau. “We will have an in-depth look at the necessary conditions for change, concerning for example regulation or business models.”

Fort the next three to four years, Vlaanderen Circulair will target the Flemish building sector. “It’s a sector that produces a lot of waste, so there is great potential for improvement,” says Mouligneau. “It’s a crucial time, because energy regulation changes are requiring many renovations, which lead to demolition. So we need to better plan the recycling and re-use of materials.”

Community Night also highlights an international initiative, the Miwa project, developed in the Czech Republic. Miwa developed and operates a system that simplifies and improves the distribution and sales of package-free goods – meaning no more plastic packaging. The solution is based on reusable capsules, in-store modular units and a shopping app.

Photo: Flemish entrepreneurs Vanessa Counaert (left) and Cédric Vanhoeck receive an H&M Global Change Award
©Global Change Award

This is the second of three articles on Vlaanderen Circulair’s week of events on the circular economy. Check back for more next week !