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Collaborating with SMEs to develop sustainable fashion

Researchers from Queen Mary University of London’s School of Engineering and Materials Science are working with a multi-award winning accessories brand to drive forward sustainable innovation within the fashion industry.

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Elvis & Kresse Ltd rescue waste material and transform it into luxury fashion accessories © Elvis & Kresse (EAKO Ltd)
Elvis & Kresse Ltd rescue waste material and transform it into luxury fashion accessories © Elvis & Kresse (EAKO Ltd)

Funded as part of a £1.2m R&D funding award from the Business of Fashion, Textiles and Technology (BFTT) programme, the project will see Queen Mary support Elvis & Kresse to create metal fixtures, such as buckles and zips, from recycled drinks cans. 

The team hope this innovative project will provide a ‘green’ solution for recycling the millions of aluminium cans that litter UK public spaces each year.  

Converting cans into hardware

Elvis & Kresse was established in 2005 to save London's decommissioned fire-hoses that had become too damaged to repair and were going to landfill, crafting them into luxury bags and accessories. 

For their new project, the company are looking to expand their sustainable approach by working with Queen Mary researchers to design and build a small scale renewably-powered forge to recycle aluminium cans into hardware for their belts and bags. By open-sourcing the process for designing and building the forge they hope to inspire other businesses and communities, big and small, to embrace carbon free manufacturing and build their own machines for recycling, heating, or any other process that uses concentrated temperature. 

Dr Haixue Yan, Senior Lecturer in Materials and Principal Investigator for the project from Queen Mary, said: “This collaboration will help protect the environment by converting waste we find on our streets into functional materials that can be used in Elvis & Kresse’s products. With our expert knowledge in materials science and engineering we hope to design a simple, cheap renewable solution for Elvis & Kresse and other manufacturers worldwide.” 

Kresse Wesling, Founder of Elvis & Kresse, said “This has been a dream of ours for years, it is overwhelming to have been matched with the geniuses at Queen Mary and finally bring this all to life. This is a revolutionary technology where the IP will be shared with the world. Given the short time frames we have to address the climate emergency we hope that this kind of carbon free open innovation will unlock and inspire all kinds of solutions and generosity.”

This project was selected from over 80 applications and is one of ten awarded funding from BFTT programme to support its goal to deliver sustainable innovation within the entire fashion and textile supply chain.

About the BFTT

The Business of Fashion, Textiles and Technology (BFTT) is a five-year industry-led project, which aims to enable UK-based SMEs in the fashion, textiles and technology sector to grow, innovate and be at the forefront of the industry through sustainability-driven research and development.

The BFTT SME R&D Programme’s first cohort of awarded projects will be shaping the future of the fashion and textiles industry by developing sustainability-driven innovative new materials, products, services & experiences.

Professor Jane Harris, BFTT Programme Director said: “The Business of Fashion, Textiles and Technology (BFTT) SME Research and Development Programme seeks to highlight the value and impact SMEs can have in our sector and on the economy, when provided with the right type of financial support and research expertise. This initiative is intended to creatively and technically address the challenge of maintaining growth in the crucial early years of business, whilst also providing support for much needed innovation, and sustainable growth, especially in these challenging and rapidly changing times. The dynamism they naturally bring as SMEs, and the bespoke academic expertise provided by BFTT is a perfect mix to deliver industry-changing innovation which cements a vision for a more sustainable fashion system which supports growth here in the UK and around the world.”

BFTT is one of nine Creative Research & Development Clusters funded by the Industrial Strategy Fund (£80m) and delivered by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) on behalf of UKRI as part of the Creative Industries Cluster Programme.

More information

For media information, contact:

Sophie McLachlan
Faculty Communications Manager (Science and Engineering)
email: sophie.mclachlan@qmul.ac.uk