Sustainability is a fashion buzz word that doesn’t appear to be going anywhere. From media articles focused on the downsides of fast fashion to companies that promote transparent supply chains, sustainable clothing is a concept that the fashion community cares about. But what exactly does sustainability mean when it comes to fabric? In its essence sustainable textiles are fabrics that have 3 main properties: they are sourced from the environment, manufactured in a way that is safe on the environment and can be recycled or are biodegradable. In this series we will discuss fabric and sustainability, beginning this week with natural fabrics.
Sourced from the Environment
The first characteristic of sustainable fabric is that it is sourced from the environment, this can occur in one of two ways, either plant based fibers including linen from flax, Tencel™ lyocell from the wood pulp of trees, cotton from cotton flowers, bamboo from bamboo plants and many more. Or the second category of sustainable fibers are sourced from animals, including silk from silkworms, wool from sheep, cashmere from goats, and other wooly fibers including alpaca and llama. These products are grown, extracted and spun into yarn that is then used to either knit or weave textiles.
Safe on the Environment
The second step of sustainable fabrics is how the fabric is manufactured into textiles and clothing and the impact that manufacturing has on the environment. This includes energy consumption and water consumption during manufacturing. The objective is to keep both consumption rates to a minimum. Some ways that is done by environmentally conscious manufacturers is through using heat recovery systems for waste, water and steam, and by optimizing textile finishes using continuous scouring ranges. These among other programs allow for the least natural resources to be used during production.
Recyclable or Biodegradable
The final step in fabric sustainability is post-consumption recycling programs. It is what happens to the fabric once they have been worn and discarded. As a whole natural fabrics are biodegradable. On average products made from synthetic fabrics like polyester take decades to biodegrade whereas, natural fabrics like wool biodegrade in one year.
Over the next few weeks we will discuss different topics to do with Sustainable Fabric, next week’s topic will be Natural Fabrics.