Finalist 2023

Captain Robbo 2023 Bio-Nylon + Merino Range

Katy Robinson AKA Captain Robbo

A range of screen printed merino base layers created from a yarn commision of Bio-Nylon and Merino wool, created locally.

We sourced and used biodegradable nylon into our merino product. This fibre goes back into the earth after 3 years in landfill conditions (after its 'end of life' as a garment).

Design Brief:

We are always looking for more sustainable options to our production. Merino is typically blended with another fibre to create a longer life for the product, and most options are unsustainable as they are nearly always polyesters or synthetics, like nylon. This is my design problem. We are hoping to reduce the amount of fibre and the type of textile waste that is a big problem for the world, as well as create a long lasting and durable and natural product.

This project was developed by:

Design Process

Firstly, we source the yarn and work with our Melbourne based knitters on which weight and quantity is going to give the best outcome for a range of leggings and tops. We are committed to making in Australia and want to continue supporting our textiles industry by having our fabric made locally.

Nylon is usually added to merino to give the fabric overall strength, and it typically takes at least 50 years to break down. We found this new biodegradable nylon material and had it blended at 13% with superfine merino to knit into single jersey. We split the quantity to have 2 different jerseys created. One half was knitted into a lightweight t-shirt fabric (without stretch), and the other half into a different weight that is suitable for leggings with stretch. We then split them into 5 different dye lots, working with a local dye house to achieve this.

We research and cost out this new fibre from production of the yarn, to the garment manufacturing, to see if it was viable for production. Making tweaks on the fit of these basic layers so they become more versatile for the wearing - (ie a more flattering fit means they can be worn not only as a base layer)

The prints developed and chosen for this range are all created locally and depict flora local to our studio in Northcote. Our colours and prints are collected and considered over the year until the right combinations are decided on.

Design Excellence

I do believe the product and result of our efforts is excellent. It needs to be touched and worn to be fully understood, merino jersey is an incredibly tactile and soft fabric. The colours are incredibly rich which the wool takes to beautifully as well. It satisfies the fundamental criteria for good design and the whole story of its creation can be told by me, as I was involved with every single step.

We have turned the offcuts into underwear (hence the example in the photo section), and patchworked t shirts. This is all made from fabric that normally is thrown away in production.

The range has been very popular, and is selling very well!

Design Innovation

We are the first to be using this biodegradable nylon in Australia for leggings and garments. It is a new technology and is a step in the right direction with the current climate crisis. Designers and consumers need to step away from using polyester or synthetics that don't break down, and be thinking about the end of life of products.

Design Impact

I do believe that 270kg of yarn that can successfully break down into the earth one day and not be sitting in landfill after we are all dead, is a win for our society. It's also gorgeous to wear and in beautiful colours and prints.

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