Climate change awareness has grown significantly in the past ten years, and the call for us to change our behaviors is louder than ever before. The conservation narrative has been adopted by the mainstream and fashion isn’t exempt from this. Sustainability is creeping its way up on the agendas of garment technologists across the world, but which materials have taken the most inspiration from nature? Join us as we explore the emergence of new, naturally sourced materials.
Looking stylish and feeling comfortable is always essential when it comes to choosing clothes, and linen garments certainly tick both boxes! Linen is a popular material for a whole host of garments suited best to warmer climes, renowned for its breathability and comfort – plus, it is also used in other household items such as bedsheets and towels. However, not many people know that linen is a plant derivative! It is made from the stem of the flax plant, and growing linen is not an excessive time nor water consuming process. It rivals cotton on durability, and it even gets stronger with every wash. As an organic fabric, when it is untreated it is biodegradable, making it a brilliant choice for the environmentally conscious among us. Linen products are timeless wardrobe staples, and they look brilliant in white or alternatively muted tones like ecru, ivory, tan and grey. Linen is really versatile too, so you can style it in a variety of ways — give your signature business smart style a refresh, many men’s suits are available in high quality linen options.
Hemp originated in central Asia, and it can be traced back as far as 2800 BC — and the eco-friendly material looks set to stick around, as a common component of many wardrobe essentials. It’s derived from the stem of the hemp plant, and the resultant product shares a lot of similarities with linen. The qualities of hemp garments help to keep you warm in the winter and cool in the summer months, making it an extremely versatile choice to incorporate into items for every season. It is also extremely UV resistant, making it great for swimwear!
Hemp thrives naturally, and its pest resistant quality means that no harmful herbicides, fungicides or pesticides are necessary for it to yield. In addition to this, it doesn’t need a lot of water either and only a small amount of surface area to grow successfully. Plus, as it grows, it returns much of the nutrients it uses to the soil, making it good for the surrounding ecosystem. The hemp can be produced into fabrics through an entirely organic process as well, which adds to the environmental benefit.
Unbeknown to many, our treasured cotton garments could potentially be the worst culprit for contributing to the growing ecological damage. Cotton has a high reliance on the chemicals found in many conventional pesticides, and a dependence on a copious amount of water needed to flourish. However, the fashion industry has found an alternative, natural product. GOTS cotton has been manufactured to rival traditional cotton. The production process doesn’t require any harmful pesticides — which have been linked to causing cancer in the past. This material takes a holistic revision of the classic production methods of cotton, while maintaining all the benefits of being a natural fibre. It is a breathable, sustainable alternative which can be incorporated into various garments.
TENCEL™ (Lyocell/ Modal)
Lenzing, an Austrian firm were at the forefront of the production of TENCEL™, developed by combining and dissolving cotton scraps and wood pulp, derived from certified sustainable forests. The material is essentially cellulose fibres and it produces a light and multi-purpose fabric, which has soared in availability in recent years. It is 50% more absorbent than cotton, unshaken by moisture, and with an impressive anti-bacterial quality, it is the ideal choice for activewear garments. In terms of efficiency, it is far cheaper and less resource consuming than producing conventional cotton. As well as this, it is biodegradable which is a sought-after quality in a society which is looking more and more towards finding new ways to limit our input onto landfill sites.
To produce TENCEL™ successfully, petrochemicals are needed but they are used under a closed-loop system, which ensures that the solvent is recycled in order to avoid any significant amount of waste.
There’s certainly a way that we can all become more environmentally conscious, and beginning with our fashion choices is a great, proactive step to consider!