Fabric makes up most of what we wear and it is one of the basic components in determining how sustainable a piece of clothing is. Choosing sustainable fabrics is not only lighter on the environment, but also on your wallet. Reason being materials made from sustainable resources and production methods are built to last. We believe brands need to make and design better, but it goes both ways and as customers, we need to learn how to buy better too.
Here’s a 5 step guide to help you shop for sustainable fabrics:
1. Choose fabrics made from natural materials
There is no perfectly sustainable fabric, but organic products are a good place to start as they limit chemical waste. Look out for materials like organic cotton, silk, wool, linen and hemp. These are created from plant or animal based natural fibres and have relatively lighter ecological footprints than synthetic materials. Organic fabrics are also recyclable and biodegradable.
TIP: Terms like “easy care”, “wrinkle-resistant” or “stain-free” often means the fabric has been chemically treated.
2. Choose fabrics for the right garments
For example, you wouldn’t wear a wool t-shirt, or a polyester suit. So familiarize yourself with the right fabric material for the occasion. There are different levels even within the sustainable fabrics range.
Cotton is a popular and versatile fabric worn during the warmer seasons but it is one of the most environmentally intensive materials to grow and make. So, if you are looking for something lightweight, go for linen or hemp instead. In colder months, alpaca wool is more sustainable than cashmere. For fancier occasions, silk is a great material for that luxurious look and feel. Plus, it’s durable and biodegradable. Bamboo Rayon or Lyocelle (aka Tencel) are sustainable alternatives to natural materials. Bonus: they are sourced from natural materials like wood pulp and eucalyptus trees. So the final product is still biodegradable, even if they are semi-synthetic, and does not release toxins like fully synthetic materials do.
3. Choose natural dyed fabrics
Natural dyed clothing is an important part of sustainable fabric. Natural colourants come from fruits, greens and other mineral sources like tree bark and roots. They are safe for the skin, and they break down in a way that is not harmful to the environment.
TIP: Natural dyes have different properties from synthetic dyes, which have a wider and sharper colour range.
4. Choose sustainably produced fabrics
Sustainable fashion = environmental, economic and social aspects. If a company claims to make sustainable clothing, transparency should be important to them too, and you should be able to find out more about their production practices and methods on their site. When you read up, make sure to look out for how they incorporate sustainability from the design process onwards. Sustainable production also means a commitment to fair-trade principles, where workers in the field are well taken care of and paid fairly for their labour of love.
One way we practice sustainability is to create with a minimal waste design approach. This is the idea that typically rejected fabrics can be given new life and can be used as a basis of collaboration with like minded brands and designers who want to spread the importance of reducing waste.
5. Choose fabrics that support artisan craft
In today’s fashion industry, artisan-made clothes are one of the most environmentally sustainable options, with thoughtful fabric usage, processes that pay tribute to tradition and a system built on slow fashion. This is one reason we collaborate and work closely with artisans.
To sum it up – the next time you shop, just take note of these 3 points:
1. Go natural
2. Support sustainable production
3. Buy artisan-made
Sustainability and sustainable fashion is a big topic, follow the hashtag #ChangeBeyondTextiles to read more of our conversations.