The edgiest footwear at New York Fashion Week is a shoe without a footprint. The white sneaker may look simple, but to a panel of fashion designers, scientists and energy leaders gathered in Manhattan on Tuesday, it's anything but. The shoe made from recycled carbon dioxide is a symbol of the progress to be made in the fight against climate change--that is, of course, if tech and fashion continue to work together.

The possibilities for products made from repurposed pollutants aren't limited to fashion, says Gin Kinney vice president of business solutions at NRG, the global energy company heading up the initiative. That's why the power provider is compelling thought leaders across industries to rethink how they use materials with its Cosia Carbon XPRIZE competition, which offers a $20 million reward to the team with the best plan to turn pollution into something useful.

But this is Fashion Week, and a shoe is a good place to start because it represents a wide use of different materials, says Marcel Botha, CEO and lead project manager of 10XBETA, a Brooklyn-based product development firm involved in the project. His firm used a proprietary catalyst to turn CO2 into solid materials that make up the shoe.

"The technology is there and the vehicle to spread the word is there," said the panel's moderator and creative director at Marie Claire, Nina Garcia, referring to the power companies have to tell a sustainability story on social media. She says brands can't afford to wait to start using more environmentally friendly materials and she dreams of a day when clothing labels have to disclose not just the material and price to the consumer, but the price paid in pollution during the making of the garment.

Published on: Sep 13, 2016