The terms “fashion” and “ethics” for decades were like ships passing in the night. Sailing the ocean of clothing design, they passed and spoke to one another, only a lookbook and a critical voice. Then ombre darkness again and a stiletto screeching silence. All that in 2019 has reached a turning point. Enter: Fabrics with ethics.
Pineapple, no longer a mere fruit, but a slice of ambrosia to footwear fetishists with a taste for the ethical. Cork, the stuff quirk is made of. Hemp, a material no longer merely bestowed upon the hippie wardrobe, but now an integral part of the herbivor fashion galore.
Last, but by no means least, we have mono material girls dancing to the tunes of tecno felt.
Say what now?
Pineapple Leather — Piñatex
Pineapple, no longer just for eating. The leaves of the pineapple plant have recently become one of the most sustainable vegan leather alternatives on the market, resulting in the brand sustainably spanking new material called Piñatex®. Made from pineapple leaf fibre, this innovative fabric thought up by Ananas Anam is not only a natural, biodegradable product, but additionally reduces waste and provides additional income to farmers who were otherwise discarding their pineapple leaves without further ado.
Ananas Anam is a for-profit company with a positive social impact and a low environmental impact. The company aims to “meet the challenges of our times by developing innovative products in which commercial success is integrated with, and promotes, social, ecological and cultural development”.
Piñatex® is a natural and sustainably produced textile developed to be used as a sustainable alternative to both mass-produced leather and polluting synthetic materials. A better choice for a better future.
Not putting a negative cork in anything here; simply a funky favorite to use in wedge shoe and bag design. Relatively new to the fashion world (though used in household products for many years), cork is a water-resistant, renewable and completely recyclable material.
Made from cork oak trees that keep on regenerating after being harvested every ten years (and can live up to 300 years in age), purchasing cork actually helps to prevent the desertification of cork oak forests — aka home to numerous endangered species.
This durable, lightweight and waterproof material is well worth a second look and your consideration when conjuring up some statement wardrobe additions.
Bamboo fabric is a natural textile made from the pulp of bamboo grass. Bamboo is considered one of the most sustainable plants out there given its natural attribute to grow and restore quickly without requiring chemicals or irrigation. Plus, bamboo biodegrades more quickly than oil-based synthetics.
Bamboo stalks contain bast fibers that can be processed into a relatively stiff and rough fabric like linen or hemp. Most bamboo fabrics currently on the market, however, present a smooth, silky touch that feels similar to rayon — because essentially, that’s what it is. The ethical experts over at Inhabitat explain it as follows:
“Bamboo rayon is made by dissolving pulp bamboo into its cellulose component and then spun into viscose fibers. Clothing made of bamboo rayon typically lasts even longer and holds its shape even better than clothing made of simple bamboo fiber.
Rayon is a regenerated cellulose fiber, which means that a natural raw material is converted through a chemical process into a fiber that falls into a category between naturals and synthetics. The source of cellulose can be wood, paper, cotton fiber, or in this case: Bamboo.”
The verdict’s still out on this one… Organic bamboo: Bae or booed?
When most people think of linen, they see slideshows of bedsheets and tea towels shift frames before them, but linen is in fact an ancient sustainable fabric made from the stem of the flax plant. And a fab fit for fashion. It is firmer than cotton (and requires way less water to grow) and even grows stronger with every spin of that washing machine cycle. Being an organic fabric, linen is breathable and when left untreated, entirely biodegradable.
Lastly, then, It warms you in winter and cools you in the warmer months. Linen, your new SO.
Do avoid pure white linen as this shade requires a process of intense bleaching — just imagine getting your brunette locks all the way to that platinum vibe. Right. Opt instead for linen’s natural colors of ivory, ecru, tan and grey.
Despite being one of the oldest fibres in the world, hemp fabric has only recently broken free of its association with cannabis and hippies since, despite coming from the same plant, it contains some negligible amounts of THC. Worth looking past the guilt by association, hemp does make for one of the most sustainable fabric options on the menu today.
Similar to linen in various ways, hemp, too, stems from the stem of the plant, keeps you warm in winter and cool in summer and in its purest form boasts a similar texture. A highly UV-resistant fabric, you can hemp it up on the beach as well.
Naturally pest-resistant hemp needs no pesticides, herbicides or fungicides, requires only very little water (they don’t call it “weed” for nothing, and a relatively small amount of land to cultivate.
While it is entirely possible to turn hemp into fabric organically, some companies in purpose-defeating fashion do use chemicals as to speed up the process and create a higher yield.
When getting your hippie hempy shake on, make sure the producers are legit and not just greenwashing before purchasing.
Percale: A smooth, flat, closely woven and combed fabric that comes in 100 percent cotton or 50/50 cotton/poly blends. Finer than muslin, you can expect thread counts here to range from 180 to 200. Percale is made using a technique originating in a time when synthetic materials did not yet exist and water-repellent materials still consisted of cotton.
Beijing-based eco outdoor-wear brand Langerchen for one is a fan. The brand has “taken this age-old technology and adapted it to modern times: Using lightly woven, organic cotton yarn, which expands upon contact with water. The expansion concentrates the surface and thus increases the water-repelling functions.” The thick surface in turn prevents any wind from hitting your dainty skin. Smooth.
Langerchen features garments crafted from 100 percent organic cotton percale, with the fabric hailing from Central Asia and China.
Fashionable and lightweight fabric made of recycled polyester. High density weaving ensures windstopping properties. Unlike polyester, recycled polyester uses PET as the raw material. This is the same material that is used in clear plastic water bottles and recycling it to create the fabric prevents it from ending up in landfill.
Short and sweet.
TECNO FELT — Langerchen
Courtesy of Fair| Conscious| Sustainable Beijing-based eco outdoor-wear brand Langerchen, tecno Felt is a three-ply, very light wool material. The outer layer consists of boiled eco wool, another Langerchen fave, the inside of organic jersey cotton, whilst the middle features a polyurethane membrane (used for waterproofing purposes) that prevents wind and rain from, well, seeping in. Boiled wool boasts natural water repelling properties.
We’re talking 100 percent organic cotton single jersey, sourced from Central Asia, China.
MONO MATERIAL GIRLS
A product that is composed of a single type of material or a product with components that each are made of a single type of material and that can be split apart. That’s right, we’re talking mono materials. A little more intel courtesy of the eco experts at Inhabitat:
- There are limited possibilities for re-utilisation due to lack of facilities that process into new high value materials.
- Compromises on for example functionality and quality of the product may be necessary.
The usage of mono materials can be a creative constraint and concept, one prime example being that of Issey Miyake’s Pleats Please line — 100 percent polyester.
Check the label of the garment you’re flaunting right now and you’ll likely notice that the fabric is knitted with a blend of different fibres, for example a mix of cotton and polyester. This is one of textile recycling’s biggest challenges to date: Finding ways to separate fibre blends so that the different fibres can be recycled in their individual structures. Your favorite BF Tee composed of 99 percent cotton and 1 percent spandex simply cannot be recycled and instead often takes its last breath in landfill or gets burnt in a thermal power station.
Well, let’s face it. Every BF(F) (or GF) owns at least one piece that deserves to be burned at the stake.
Fashion’s sustainable signals are increasingly shown across global moodboards. And that distant voice in the darkness is finally ready to burst into boisterous song.
Fabrics with ethics.