What Makes A Fabric Sustainable?
Our latest drop has arrived and I am so proud of it. It has been a over year in the making partly because I was really specific about the kind of fabrics I wanted to use. I knew I wanted the clothes to be soft, comfortable and functional and made from sustainable fabrics.
But what makes a fabric sustainable??
Here is a look at the environmental impact of some of the our favourite materials.
Cotton has long been a summer wardrobe staple. It is natural, comfortable and for those of us who feel the heat, lovely and cool to wear.
HOWEVER, it is now fairly widely known that cotton growth can have devastating effects on the environment.
In 2014 NASA released images of the now dried up Aral Sea, once the world's 4th largest lake. This tragic sight was caused in large part due to the irrigation systems put in place for Uzbekistan's cotton production.
In the wake of this and Uzbekistan's questionable labour practices, many countries put an embargo on handling their cotton crop. Although much of it is still sent to China and Bangladesh.
But it isn't the borderline slave labour involved in cotton picking. Since 1930 the amount of land used to grow cotton on has remained more or less the same, but the yield has increased by 300%. The only way this can be achieved is through the use of very strong pesticides. Some of which are applied through Aerial spraying and there have been several cases of nearby communities dealing with the repercussions of this.
But Cotton lovers need not despair. Many cotton farmers have already switched to Organic Cotton. This crop uses not pesticides or insecticides. This does mean that their yield is smaller so you may end up paying a little more for it. But can you put a price on the smugness you will feel knowing your clothes are morally superior to the person next to you??
Cotton is great as long as you know where it comes from. Be wary of cotton products made in China and Bangladesh and always buy Organic wherever possible.
Linen is a divisive material. There are those who adore the soft comfort of a linen shirt dress, while others can't abide that vaguely crumpled look you don't seem to be able to avoid with flax. But those wrinkles fade with time so it really pays to look after linen clothing, it is one of those fabrics which only seem to get better with age.
And linen will stand the test of time. Flax is tougher than cotton yet despite the strands being less fine, it can result in a much silkier finish when handled properly.
Flax grows in tough terrain which means it is one of the few crops which flourishes in Ireland and Northern Europe, where most of the world's luxury crop is still grown (therefore being governed by the EU's stringent Agricultural and Labour laws). Plus it uses much less water and fewer pesticides than cotton. In fact most Linen could be certified Organic without trying.
Linen is a breathable, hypo-allergenic fabric ideal for summer months. Flax grows in tough terrain under organic circumstances. Even taking into account the extra water needed for the constant ironing (but really- who bothers), Linen is our queen of the cloths.
Like Linen, Bamboo grows quickly even without the use of extra help. This makes it a wonderful crop to be using. It can be spun into stretchy, fine fibres perfect for knitwear.
Bamboo socks work particularly well because of its natural tendency to absorb water. It is also anti-bacterial, kind to skin and oh so soft!
As far as I can tell, the only downsides to Bamboo are that it is more fragile than cotton and can take longer to dry which affects the environmental impact of any garments- particularly for anyone using a tumble dryer (although you avoid this by just not using one ;)
Bamboo may not be appropriate for every type of garment but I would definitely like to see it become more widespread. It seems to have much less of an environmental impact than cotton or polyester and although it is more delicate than these sturdier materials, maybe that will just encourage us to be a little more careful with our clothes?
Tencel: Lyocell & Modal
Tencel is the umbrella name for Lyocell and Modal fibres developed by Lenzing, a leading expert in Cellulose fibres.
Made in a similar way to Viscose or Rayon, Tencel comes from tree pulp. However, whereas Viscose relies on strong chemicals to spin these wood fibres into thread, Tencel operates in a closed-loop system. This solvent-spinning process recycles process water and reuses the solvent at a recovery rate of more than 99%.
Tencel has the strength of cotton, the low water usage of bamboo and the silky finish of linen.