Christmas is around the corner and you probably started brainstorming on gifts for your loved ones. We thought it would be useful to publish a handy fabric glossary and help you decipher through both the nice and naughty fabrics available out there.
On Our Nice List
You may want to look for garments made of fabrics that aren’t burdening the planet during their full life cycle: from the resources needed to plant the raw material, the chemicals used in the process of creating the fabric, to whether it is recyclable or biodegradable at the end of its life cycle. Here are a few of our favorites:
THE NATURAL ONES
→ Organic Cotton
Traditional cotton takes an exorbitant amount of water and chemicals to be produced. Organic cotton is the alternative to this harmful process and feels exactly the same. Organic cotton means that the crop is harvested without any toxic pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, or genetically modified seeds. If a company or clothing item uses GOTS-certified organic cotton, you know that it has been traced from start to finish, and highly regulated.
Our handwoven organic cotton Champei shorts ↓
While hemp has been used for centuries to create all types of goods, the plant is most often associated with the hippie subculture prevalent during the late 60s and early 70s. Hemp is coming back into popularity and for good reason—it is an extremely sustainable crop! This specific type of cannabis plant is fast growing, does not exhaust the soil, and does not require pesticides. Hemp creates a strong, durable fabric which doesn’t irritate your skin. This is unlike many man-made fabrics found in most fast fashion stores.
Another natural fabric which has similar qualities to hemp, but is made from flax, is linen. Sadly, the way that conventional linen is produced pollutes waterways and uses harmful chemicals. However, the crop does not need to be harvested this way! In certain environments flax can be grown without fertilizer and planted in areas where other crops are unable to thrive. Organic linen helps to differentiate between those leaving an impact on the environment, and those avoiding it.
→ Pure bamboo
Bamboo is historically used only for structural elements, but in recent years bamboo fibre has been used for a wide range of textile and fashion applications! It doesn’t need fertilizers, self-regenerates from its own roots and grows super fast. However, most bamboo fabrics on the market are a form of rayon where the manufacturing process involves high concentrations of chemicals. So, avoid bamboo viscose and always look for products that are made only from natural bamboo.
Our handwoven bamboo Chea shirt ↓
TENCEL® , also known as Lyocell, is a light cellulose fabric, which means it is created by dissolving wood pulp. The fibre is produced by Austrian company Lenzing AG. It’s been growing in popularity recently, as is said to be 50% more absorbent than cotton, and requires less energy and water to produce. Plus, the chemicals used to produce the fibre are managed in a closed-loop system. This means the solvent is recycled which reduces dangerous waste. In addition to this, Tencel has moisture-wicking and anti-bacterial properties, which makes it perfect for activewear!
When it comes to vegan leather alternatives, Piñatex is the material to look out for. This futuristic material made from pineapple leaf fibre and manufactured by Ananas Anam was first featured in Vogue in 2017. Who knew pineapple could also be worn? Not only is it a cruelty-free replacement for leather, it is natural and sustainable. As Piñatex is made from a food by-product, it reduces waste and helps the farming communities that grow the fruit!
The Re-used ones:
Recycled fabric and upcycled (reclaimed) fabric are often confused or lumped into one category, yet their definitions are very different. Recycled fabric consists of used materials which have been broken down and turned into a new fabric. On the other hand, upcycled fabric is surplus fabrics from factories and manufacturers, vintage fabric, or any other unused fabric that is bought secondhand.
→ Mechanically recycled polyester
Recycled polyester is a relatively new trend in the eco fashion industry that has faced some criticism. Textiles can be recycled by mechanical or chemical methods. Mechanical techniques for textile recycling include shredding fabrics, melting and extruding plastic fibers such as polyester. Chemical recycling is not as environmentally friendly of a process as one would hope. Be sure to choose mechanically recycled polyester made from plastic bottles instead of polyester textile waste, as they do not contain pigments and have relatively fewer chemical additives.
→ Mechanically recycled nylon (Econyl)
Nylon is a plastic fibre made from oil that is stretchy and often used to make sportswear - thus making it seemingly impossible to avoid it. That’s where recycled nylon comes in! Recycled nylon, also known as Econyl, is made from recycled plastic bottles, fishing nets, and other easily recycled plastic items. It’s the sustainable answer for swimwear, rainwear, and activewear! Remember to use a wash bag when washing nylon garments to prevent shedding microfibers from entering our waterways. Similar to the recycled polyester, only opt for the mechanical recycled nylon if possible!
→ Recycled cotton and wool
Cotton consumes a lot of water to grow and takes a while to grow. Therefore, another option for cotton products would be the recycled ones. It is made by converting cotton fabric into a fiber that can be reused in textile products. When a cotton garment reaches the end of its lifecycle, recycling it and making it into a new piece is certainly a more sustainable option than using new material.
The Upcycled ones:
Most manufacturers and large brands end up with relatively small amounts of fabric which they can’t use anymore. Smaller businesses who choose to upcycle deadstock fabric are helping to save these rolls of fabric from landfills, especially those utilizing zero-waste techniques. Opting for reclaimed fabric is a great way to combat textile waste, it doesn’t create new fabrics and therefore eliminate the impact on the environment. Having various types of fabrics allows designers to be creative with their products, however, due to the small amount of surplus a brand might be able to gather, the production volume produced is limited - that's usually the case for us!
Deadstock refers to rolls of old fabric that have not been sold nor used. They may end up stored in warehouses because of small defects or maybe the factory or brand simply ordered too much.
Different from deadstock, offcuts are the fabrics that have been used but still have enough amount to be made into more pieces of clothing. This is usually due to the fact that garment patterns are cut in an inefficient way which generates a lot of textile waste of awkward shapes and sizes.
→ Zero waste
Since reclaimed fabric sourcing can be so unpredictable in terms of size, texture and color, making the most of them is a must! Brands like us use the offcuts of the offcuts and the tiniest bits of scraps from past collections to create items that are of completely zero waste to the planet!
On the Naughty List
Here are some of the textiles that harm the environment, animals, and humans. Some of these naughty fabrics are dangerous to farmers who grow the raw material, and some made from extremely toxic chemicals are harmful to consumers by penetrating the skin when worn as a clothing item! Scary right? Take an extra minute to check the material before buying any garment so you can make a well rounded decision.
Nylon is water repellent, so ideal for activewear. It is extremely resilient and multi-purpose, as it can be found in anything from underwear to rock climbing rope. However, the production of nylon creates nitrous oxide, which is a greenhouse gas 310 times more polluting than carbon dioxide. Very naughty.
Acrylic has a similar texture to wool and entered the market in the 1960s as a vegan alternative. It is cheaper, colorfast and resists shrinking. However, this ‘fake wool’ doesn’t provide the same warmth as the real one does, and is a polycrylonitrile, which may have potential to cause cancer.
→ Animal-derived materials (Wool, leather and fur)
Animal-based material has long been used to make clothing. Since industrialization, animal fur and leather is nowadays produced in factory farms. In addition to causing the suffering and death of animals, the production of animal-based materials contributes to climate change, land devastation, pollution, and water contamination. We generally don’t encourage buying textiles made from animal-based material, however, when it comes to wool, it really depends on personal need and choices and not all wool is bad. It is a renewable resource and a natural animal-derived fiber, so if you are considering having a warm piece of wool clothing, support small businesses whose products are ethically made.
THE THIRSTY ONES:
→ New conventional cotton
Conventional cotton has “earned” the title of being the dirtiest crop on Earth. Pesticides and insecticides used in cotton production contaminate the soil we use to grow crops, the air we breathe and the water we drink. Millions of animals die due to exposure to these contaminants every year. Cotton is the most used material in clothing which makes is hard to avoid it. So, when possible, opt for organic and recycled cotton!
Polyester manufacturing uses lots of water, energy, and a highly toxic substance called antimony (which most countries other than the US and China have outlawed) in its production process.
Viscose is a semi-synthetic type of rayon fabric made from wood pulp. It was invented and used as a silk substitute, and it has a similar drape and smooth feel to the luxury material. Despite it being made from a natural source, it comes at an environmental and social cost. Chemicals used in viscose production are highly toxic if absorbed through inhalation, ingestion or skin contact. Viscose is usually manufactured in China, Indonesia and India where many factories reportedly dump untreated wastewater, which is contaminating local lakes and waterways. It can also be made with bamboo, so be careful when choosing bamboo textile products and make sure it’s pure bamboo instead of bamboo viscose.
Make conscious shopping choices starting this holiday season!
Unsustainable fashion is in large part the result of poor fabric choice. It harms humans and animals in its production and will usually sit rotting in landfills for hundreds of years. By looking out for the fabrics listed above, you can take a stand and choose sustainable clothing that’s made out of nicer fabrics.
There is a lot to think about when it comes to finding the most sustainable and ethical products, and we feel that. Pursuing a sustainable lifestyle is a never-ending story, luckily fashion industry is catching up! An increasing amount of alternatives are available. As long as you make conscious decisions and choose brands that reflect your values, you should be well on your way to having a more ethical and sustainable holiday this year!