When it comes to being eco-friendly and fashion the easiest way to start being a more conscious consumer is by paying attention to the fabrics that are being used. By obtaining a general understanding of the components of your clothing you can avoid pesticides, processing chemicals, and plastics getting into the ocean.
Often when you come across eco-friendly brands they talk about the names of the fabrics the garments include but they don’t always explain what that means so you don’t know if these types of fabrics match your personal ethical values. The rise of sustainable and eco-friendly fabrics has come to a lot of creativity creating new blends and new ways to process fibers to meet consumers’ demands.
We also believe that choosing the right fabric is a personal decision and it is also important to remember that finding a ‘perfect sustainable fabric’ is still far from reality. So it is about choosing fabrics that resonate with your values, that are better than harmful products, even if marginally and to ensure you keep asking questions!
Now there are many concerns about animal-based fabrics from activists. Depending on farming practices the animals can be kept in terrible conditions and mistreated. There are however some wonderful and ethical farmers so it really depends
Silk (biodegrades in 4-5 years)
Silk is made from worms that feed on mulberry bushes. Once they pupate the cocoons are dissolved in billing water to extract the fibers.
PRO - silk is technically a renewable resource and is a natural fiber which means it can biodegrade over time
CON - creating silk requires millions of larvae to die
Wool (untreated biodegrades in 1-5 years)
Can come from sheep, alpaca, goat, rabbit or even camels, comes from their fibres being shaved or collected and spun into yarn
PRO - Renewable resource. Natural and even with the chemical treatments can still biodegrade
CON - must be treated with chemicals to remove the water-resistance that come naturally when it is on the animal, also there is a chance of animal cruelty being involved
Animal skins are processed to soften and allow for protection and ease of use.
PRO- a renewable resource that uses the skins of animals that have been processed for meat, therefore reducing any waste from that process. Naturally decomposes in 25-40 years
CON- not vegan friendly and often the processing uses environmentally harmful chemicals which are harmful to air and water and the people working with them
Cotton (organic cotton decomposes in 1-5 months)
Pade from the fibres of the cotton plant. Once woven it can become, chambray, denim, corduroy, seersucker, terrycloth to name a few.
PRO - with new technologies and environmentalist interest can be grown more sustainably than before. Fabric is also breathable and lightweight.
CON - From growth to processing to dyeing cotton requires a lot of water and chemicals to turn it into a useable fabric
Flax - Linen
Linen is a great breathable fabric that helps regulate body temperature in hot climates and also has a rustic beauty to it. It softens over time and is definitely a favourite of ours!
PRO - sustainable, doesn't take a lot of water or chemicals and also can biodegrade naturally
CON - it wrinkles easily...that's it!
Hemp fabrics are similar to that of linen, they are getting more popular but are often found to be blended with other fibres to improve its feel
PRO - an efficient crop that is easy to grow and also has additional uses.
CON - the fabric wrinkles easy and can be a bit itchy if its not blended with other fabrics
Bamboo (organic decomposes in 4-6 months)
PRO - bamboo is a sturdy and easily renewable resource and does not require pesticides or much water to grow.
CON - in order to make the fibers soft enough to be used in clothing it often has to be treated with a lot of chemicals.
Rayon fabrics are made from tree wood. They are chemically processed to make the fibers soft enough to spin into threads and woven into a usable fabric product. These include fabrics names ‘Modal’ and ‘Tencel/Lyocell’.
PRO - These innovative fabrics use easily renewable resources (trees) and the fabrics created are sturdy and soft.
CON - in order to make the fibres soft enough to be used in clothing it has to be treated with a great deal of chemicals.
Polyester is created from plastic pellets that are processed to become small fibres and woven into fabric.
PRO - inexpensive to create.
CON - polyester is plastic. Causes micro-plastics to go into the water system with each wash. Does not decompose or biodegrade naturally.
There are of course so many other fabric types, like Seacell (made from seaweed) and Jute that are also super interesting and worth looking into!
We always recommend reading the materials labels when shopping for clothing and hopefully this breakdown helps you make the best decisions based on your personal ethical values!
It may seem a bit hopeless reading all these pros and cons but remember even little improvements can make a big difference.e New technologies are being created every day and if consumers keep demanding better fabrics companies will start to respond!