The Next Black

The Next Black

With the launch of NJAL and AEG's collaboration to highlight the importance of fabric care, it’s an apt moment to revisit AEG’s pioneering documentary film ‘The Next Black’. Exploring the future of clothing, watch below to meet some of the most inventive companies on the planet to get their take on fashion's fate. From heroes of sustainability, Patagonia; fashion-tech innovators, Studio XO; sportswear giant, Adidas, and BioCoture, who use cellulose-producing microbes to quite literally grow clothing. It’s a fascinating lens on the next chapter of fashion and a sustainable future.

Despite being almost two years old, The Next Black remains a pivotal conversation starter in the fashion industry. Following its premiere in 2014, the bubbling conversation around fashion sustainability has broken out of its niche confines and into mainstream consciousness. It’s a truly engaging visual introduction to the ways in which fashion is using technology and innovative fabrics to transform not just how clothes are produced, but the ways in which people wear them.

Two years after its premiere, there have been huge strides, and even the most established brands are finally waking up to the commercial viability of technological solutions for eco-friendly design. G-Star’s ‘Raw for the Oceans’ collection by Pharrell is an entire denim collection made from recycled ocean plastics – read more about bioplastics in fashion. However, The Next Black is more than a glamorous ode to the fantasy of fashion. It’s a call to arms to think about fashion beyond the next five minutes – something both consumers and industry impresarios are guilty of. More pertinently, its focus on technology and the eventual digitisation of the fashion industry and what that will mean for everyday consumers is a thrilling look into our future. 

Part of the Electrolux Group, AEG has long spoken out against outdated domestic habits that have a huge impact on our clothes and natural resources. Their #caremore campaign, (NJAL’s own Marit Ilison is a proud ambassador) highlights some of the simple actions and gestures we can take to activate real change. From simply washing less, buying less, and reexamining our attitude towards fashion consumption – it’s really about reviving a sense of precious attachment for fashion, and a love for true quality, craftsmanship, and its impeccable details. The very sentiment is a stark contrast to mass society’s rampant consumerism and its social and ecological damage to the world. 

We all know that the clothing industry accounts for a ridiculously significant part of the world’s pollution, but what are the ways to make it more sustainable? Who are the visionaries exacting change through innovative, technological solutions? By pressing play on The Next Black above, you can discover exactly how the common concept of clothing as we know it today is on the axis of a dramatic shift. Much like the music industry, could fashion and the very material mediums we know and love soon be a thing of the past? Where vinyl, cassette tapes, and CDs are now archaic artefacts of our musical memory, could cotton and leather be obsolete if we learn how to grow biodegradable clothes using green tea for example?

However, The Next Black goes beyond innovative laundry solutions, and instead of tinkering away in labs and alienating consumers with lofty jargon – AEG are out in the world, meeting and interacting with the new vanguard of contemporary fashion (many of whom are NJAL designers) to understand where the fashion industry is heading, and predict and shape consumer’s future washing needs this way. The film introduces viewers to some of the world’s leading fashion innovators, including Rick Ridgeway, vice president of sustainable manufacturing at Patagonia; Nancy Tilbury from wearable-tech firm Studio XO; Suzanne Lee of BioCouture, a line of garments grown using cellulose-producing bacteria; Sophie Mather from Yeh Group, a company that pioneered a way to dye clothes using zero water; and Matt Hymers, who head up smart clothing at Adidas.

AEG recognises that fashion's ecological crimes go beyond the fashion industry itself and its labyrinthine supply chain. In order to activate change, it has to be a holistic approach, where the technology suppliers and resources contingent on fashion production recognise their complicity. While The Next Black isn't about exacting answers or clear-cut solutions, it is a way of getting audiences to reflect on how they consume and care for their clothes, and it’s an eye-opening watch. 

Below, we highlight some of the very best quotes from some of the most innovative minds spotlighted in The Next Black. These are the designers, innovators, and leaders who are shaping the future of what we are wearing, our sustainability concerns, what’s new and what’s next.