Team:Aalto-Helsinki/Applied Design

Product Design

We are a group of designers and scientists living in Finland. We love nature, and we live with nature. However, we noticed that some people in other countries can't enjoy the fullness of nature due to conflicts between economy and environment. Through talking with local people in Bangladesh and India, we realized that surprisingly, textile dyeing is the second largest cause of water pollution, right after agriculture. Unfortunately, most textile dyes escape conventional wastewater treatment processes and persist in the environment for a long time, polluting a large amount of rivers. Furthermore, those harmful synthetic dyes not only destroy the environment, but also threaten textile workers' health. Sadly, most of those textile products are later shipped and sold in other countries.

Can we step back and think about this issue? What if when we enjoy the vividness of clothes and textile products, we also considered nature?

The Value Chain of Textile Industry

According to the desk research, the value chain of textile industry starts from the design stage. Based on the textile design, the raw materials are formed into fabric and yarn. With those materials, textile products are finally manufactured and sold in the market. Unfortunately, normally, the products end up in the trash bin after use. Transportation connects the whole traditional value chain in the textile industry, which also causes greenhouse gas emissions and energy waste.

Fig 1. Value chain of textile industry.

Uncover Deep Insights of the Textile Industry with Stakeholders through Interviews

With the basic knowledge of the textile value chain, we conducted stakeholder research to uncover the understanding of stakeholders and the textile industry. Based on the value chain of the textile industry, we identified the relevant stakeholders. After stakeholders analysis, we conducted expert consultations with fashion companies as our primary stakeholders. At the same time, we also took secondary stakeholders - including a natural dyed textile studio, local residents of textile manufacturing area, and textile manufacturing factories - into consideration.

Through stakeholder interviews, we aimed to understand the situation of the textile industry better and uncover deep pains, gains, and desires of the stakeholders. We used both structured and thematic forms in our interviews. In structured interviews, the questions posed by the interviewer are created and followed through the process. On the other hand, we also did thematic interviews and let the discussion flow more freely with the interviewees delivering interesting opinions.

Primary stakeholder - fashion companies with higher environmental awareness

  • Marimekko
  • Finlayson
  • Pure Waste

Secondary stakeholder

  • A natural dyed textile studio, Osem
  • Local residents of textile manufacturing areas
  • A textile manufacturing factory in Bangladesh

Fig 2. Stakeholders mapping based on power and the ability to transition.

Fig 3. Stakeholders mapping.

Fig 4, 5, 6 & 7 Interviews with different stakeholders.

Fig 8. Interview quotes.

Fig 9 & 10. Insights of the stakeholder research.


With the benchmarking of existing technologies and products in the market, we aimed to bring values into the textile value chain, based on the pains, gains, and desires from the stakeholders.

Thanks to synthetic biology, we combined chromoproteins with spider silk inside E. coli to provide an alternative process of dyed silk fibers. The raw material and fiber dyeing process are combined into a single step, which can be locally-produced and well-regulated. Since there is no need for transportation between the raw material production and the fiber dyeing step, the carbon footprint is reduced, which makes the process more environmentally friendly. With SILKOLOR, we visioned the traditional linear textile value chain can be better-shaped into a more ethical, generating circular economy.

Fig 11 & 12. Our colorful proteins.

Fig 13. The value proposition of SILKOLOR.

Fig 14. SILKOLOR - Harmony of Business and Environment in Textile Dyeing.

Let Silkolor Help the Future

Silkolor is an attempt to revolutionize the textile dyeing industry. The current water pollution issues are complex, global, and have been addressed by UN Sustainable Development Goals as a part of the 17 causes that need urgent collaborative effort to solve (Goal 6: Clean Water and Sanitation, Goal 14: Life Below Water). However, with our biggest efforts, there is still a long development ahead for Silkolor and it may take a long time to offer a viable solution. But we do believe in it! Our work has been an initial step, however it gave enough evidence to show the need from the industry and locals to solve the environmental issues.

Thus, we invite academia, businesses and other parties to collaborate to make Silkolor happen. Join Silkolor to make the change!

For collaborations, reach us via email: