The fabrics you need in your conscious closet

When it comes to making better, greener decisions with your fashion, one cardinal rule we should all live by is learning more about how our clothing is created, including how the fabric is made.

Being aware of where these fibres come from helps build our knowledge of why they are better. Often these slow fashion fabrics, as we call them, affect our planet more positively than synthetic fabrics not only in production but also when they are in your closet, and then when we eventually ‘throw them away’.

So, let’s get started, these are the staple fabrics that we should all be choosing:

1.Natural fabrics

What are they?

These fabrics come from natural sources. They often fall into these two categories: plant-based/cellulose-based, such as cottons; or animal-based/protein-based, such as wools.

Why should we choose them?

-The fibres are renewable meaning they can potentially be an endless resource, if drawn upon responsibly.

-Due to the structure of cellulose, most plant-based fibres are very strong. Animal-based fibres are also quite durable.

-They often are highly absorbent and breathable making them great to keep you cool under the sun.

Sources: 1, 2

2.Organic fabrics

What are they?

These fabrics are created without the use of pesticides and insecticides, and may also be rain-fed - i.e. grown naturally without much human interference. These are also fabrics that will/should have been certified to be organic, for example, our classic organic cotton is GOTS certified.

Why should we choose them?

-Due to no use of chemicals within the production process, it’s often safer for wearers.

-The production process is more resource efficient with no use of extra materials/chemicals/water required to simply grow the source in natural ways.

-With the previous point in mind, this also means less energy is used to grow the fibre resulting in less carbon emissions.

-With regard to organic fabrics and organic cotton particularly: “Elimination of toxic pesticides and fertilisers in its production process prevents contamination of groundwater, thus making drinking water clean and safe. Studies also claim that the impact of water pollution of organic cotton is 98 percent less as compared to conventional cotton.”

Sources: 1

3.Handspun and handwoven fabrics

What are they?

Simply put, to create these fabrics, the production stages from raw material to fibre to fabric are all done by hand!

Why should we choose them?

-There is no use of machinery, heavy or otherwise, meaning no energy/electricity use which results in no carbon emissions.

-This sort of production is nurtured by specific craft communities, often rural, which then aids in boosting their economies while upholding a beloved tradition.

-Slow production allows flexibility. Rather than overproducing a single design, the technique can allow for more unique designs and customisations on a smaller scale.

-With the previous point in mind, this also means utilising the handwoven techniques can be incredibly resource efficient.

Source: 1

A BONUS BENEFIT of all these slow fashion fabrics - when these slower ideologies and processes are embraced, it always is advantageous for craft communities and workers. The lack of chemicals and heavy machinery means they are put in safer environments where their health isn’t in jeopardy simply by working with these fibres.

And so, with all this in mind, here are some specific recommendations:

1.Hemp

Although this fibre has been cultivated for thousands of years across many nations, it’s not as widely used as we’d like it to be. Specifically, hemp is a ‘bast fibre’ meaning its derived from the stem of its plant of origin, that being cannabis sativa.

The plant is particularly hardy, capable of growing in harsh conditions with little to no help, meaning herbicides and pesticides are not needed, in fact, the plant itself is said to naturally repel pests. Another way this plant and fibre is green is due to its water usage - it needs approx. a quarter of the amount of water usually used to grow conventional cotton.

Properties:

-Naturally antibacterial and anti-fungal

-Resistant to mould,  mildew and UV light

-Highly breathable and insulating

-Very durable

Source: 1, 2

2.Tencel or lyocell

With little difference between them, these fabrics are created from wood cellulose fibres, and although their production process does require a chemical element, it is a more resource efficient fibre than conventional cotton.

The fabrics are a“type of rayon, like viscose and modal. These cellulose fibres are all made in a similar way: by dissolving wood pulp and using a special drying process called spinning. Before drying, the wood chips are mixed with a solvent to produce a wet mixture. This mixture is then pushed through small holes to form threads, chemically treated, then the lengths of fibre are spun into yarn and woven into cloth.”

When it comes to Tencel, which is simply a specific brand of lyocell, Lenzing AG, who owns the brand, creates the fibres in sustainably managed plantations that are dedicated to be as resource efficient as possible. 

Properties:

-Very light and breathable

-High absorption and colour retention

-High durability

-Soft to the touch

-Versatile in terms of design

Sources: 1, 2, 3

3.Kala cotton

A specific strain that’s indigenous to the Kutch region in India, this cotton fibre could make a big, conscious difference in fashion. Unlike its cotton counterpart used in fast fashion, the Kala cotton plant is contrastingly energy efficient due to its hardy nature where it can flourish in harsh conditions, as well as only requiring to be rain-fed.

During colonial rule, Kala cotton production and demand faced a decline but is now being met with renewed interest because of its vast potential - only an estimated 600-700 Kutch weavers work with the fibre at present. Rural communities and economies would highly benefit from reinvigorating the craft and keeping the by-hand tradition alive, while supporting a much more environmentally friendly practice.

Properties:

-Durable and breathable

-Versatile to design with

-Organic - no chemicals used in the process so safer for skin

Sources: 1, 2, 3

 

For more about conscious fabrics and slow fashion production, check out more of our blog posts here.

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