A Pollution Party Dress: Zara’s New LBDs Are Made From CO2 Emissions

zara party dress
Image courtesy Zara

A partnership between Zara and LanzaTech is turning carbon emissions into a limited line of black dresses in a bid to address climate change.

Just in time for New Year’s Eve, Zara’s new range of black dresses pack a punch: they’re tackling the fashion industry’s giant carbon footprint.

Made through a proprietary biological process that captures and converts Chinese steel mill emissions, LanzaTech is able to create Lanzanol—ethanol produced through a fermentation process not dissimilar to making beer. This is converted into a low-carbon polyester yarn used in the Zara dresses.

To make polyester fabric, you need MEG and PTA,” LanzaTech said in a statement. It makes MEG from ethanol (converting to ethylene oxide and then MEG) and together with PTA makes polyester. “Today, PTA comes from fossil inputs, but they can make 100% of the MEG from recycled carbon. The final PET contains 20% MEG (Monoethylene Glycol) made from recycled carbon emissions and 80% PTA (Purified Terephthalic Acid), so the garment has polyester made of 20% industrial carbon emissions.”

The dresses mark the first collection using LanzaTech’s technology. Earlier this year the company announced plans to launch a range of yoga pants with Lululemon. It’s also working on running shoes with the brand On, and using the technology in other areas, including plastic bottles for food and household items. It has collaborations going for product designs with Unilever and L’Oréal.

“We are hugely excited about this collaboration with Inditex and Zara which brings fashion made from waste carbon emissions to the market,” Jennifer Holmgren, Chief Executive Officer of LanzaTech, said in a statement.

“LanzaTech has the technology that can help fashion brands and retailers limit their carbon impact,” Holmgren said.  By working with Zara, we have found a new pathway to recycle carbon emissions to make fabric.”

The company says it combines the power of both biology and big data to create “climate-safe” materials and fuels. The company’s first commercial-scale gas fermentation plant has produced more than 20 million gallons of ethanol—the equivalent of taking more than 120,000 metric tons of CO2 from the atmosphere.

Sustainability at Zara

Zara has been steadily increasing its sustainability commitments. Last year it launched several initiatives including the Join Life label, which highlights sustainable materials and low-impact processes. It has escalated the label to more than 35 percent of its offerings. It has also been working to collect used garments for distribution to non-profits for reuse or recycling. Its designers are also trained on working with recycled materials.

Protecting endangered forests has also been a focus for Zara. It has worked with its suppliers to improve and increase access to sustainable fibers including viscose and modal. It directly supports the Canopystyle initiative, a collaborative conservation effort created by the NGO Canopy. Zara’s parent company Inditex is a founding member.  

Image courtesy Zara

Zara has also set targets for reaching net-zero emissions by 2040, increasing its use of sustainable materials by 100 percent, and ditching all single-use plastic.

The new dresses come just weeks after founder Amancio Ortega tapped his daughter, Marta Ortega Pérez, to take the helm of the brand. She assumes the role in April.

Sustainability appears to be a focus for Ortega Pérez, just as it has been for the company thus far. She says she’ll prioritize quality to help “build bridges” between high fashion and high street.

It’s unclear whether a younger perspective will lead to more environmentally friendly efforts for a global company known for its fast-fashion, but Ortega Pérez says she believes in quality, affordable clothes for everyone.

“I have always said that I would dedicate my life to building upon my parents’ legacy,”  Ortega Pérez, told Forbes. “I’m deeply honored by the trust that has been placed in me.”

The limited-edition dresses are only available at Zara.com.


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