Let’s Talk Textiles—Facts on Fabric
*Throughout this blog post we’ll mention whether a fabric is biodegradable or not. It’s important to note that not all fabrics are safely biodegradable as they are made with artificial and chemical components that do not get broken down by micro-organisms easily.
There’s so much to take in and consider when you’re practising being a conscious consumer. You start thinking about questions like “Who made this?”, “Where was it made?”, “Are they using ethical, sustainable practices?”, and “What is it made from?”.
Suddenly, that tiny tag on the side of your clothing is less annoying. It tells the story of where it’s from, how it needs to be taken care of, and where it will go once its life cycle is done.
There are so many textiles and fabrics out there. Every one of them has an impact on the environment and there’s a lot of fluff around what is most sustainable.
Here at Franc, we use TENCEL, cotton, and spandex.
TENCEL™ (lyocell) is a cellulose fibre created from eucalyptus wood pulp. Requiring less energy, water, and chemicals to produce, TENCEL is a moisture-wicking, anti-bacterial, biodegradable, strong fabric that is gentle on your skin. We chose the TENCEL brand as the wood fibres are traceable and sustainable-forest guaranteed. Plus, their process is environmentally responsible, non-toxic, and closed-looped.
Cotton is one of the most commonly used natural-fibre fabrics. It’s durable, breathable, versatile, and biodegradable. Cotton requires a lot of water, pesticides, and land to grow, causing a negative environmental impact. Organic cotton minimizes its impact by removing harmful pesticides and other chemicals. GOTS-certified organic cotton ensures a high standard of production. The most sustainable form of cotton is recycled. Recycled cotton converts pre-consumer and post-consumer cotton waste into cotton fibres, upcycling it into something new. It reduces water usage and energy consumption, and keeps cotton clothing out of the landfill. Our goal is to blend TENCEL with organic or recycled cotton as we grow. For now, we blend with straight cotton as that is what's available within our minimums.
Spandex (also Lycra or elastane) is a petroleum-based, synthetic fibre that was originally invented as an alternative to rubber. Spandex is flexible, stretchy, and snaps back to its original shape. It requires lots of energy to produce and is not biodegradable. We use spandex as we find it helps your garments last longer, hold their shape better, and bounce back after many wears. We hope in time to have eco-varieties of spandex. However, as we wait, air-drying your clothes helps extend its life.
Other common fabrics
One of the most common fabrics you’ll find is polyester. This 1940s man-made fibre comes from a chemical reaction of petroleum, air, and water. Polyester is a thermoplastic that can be melted and re-formed. It is non-absorbent and non-biodegradable. This stuff lasts for hundreds of years. Recycled polyester is common in sustainable fashion companies. Typically made from recycled plastic bottles, recycled polyester minimizes waste and cuts out the fossil fuel industry. Sounds great, but the issue is that plastic microfibres are more polluting in recycled polyester. These tiny fibres are released with every wash and slip undetected through sewage treatment plants. It binds with molecules from harmful chemicals found in wastewater. Then it’s eaten by fish and ends up in our food chain. I bet the inventor of polyester never imagined that their cool invention would be so harmful to the environment. Thank goodness we have other fibre options to put on our bodies.
Hemp is a bast fibre derived from the stem of the hemp plant. This weedy friend is pretty cool. Hemp requires very little water, no pesticides, and a small amount of land to cultivate. It also gives back nutrients to the soil it grows from. Hemp fibres are strong, breathable, mildew-resistant, and insulative. It also helps block UV rays, giving it extra points for those who are more sensitive to the sun. Even though it’s marijuana’s “sober cousin,” hemp is illegal to grow in the United States.
Linen is made from the flax plant. Like hemp, it requires minimal water and pesticides. It also grows well in poor-quality soil. Every part of the flax plant is used for this strong, biodegradable fibre—making it a low-waste dream. Unfortunately, conventional linen is made by a process called water-retting—resulting in a high amount of waterway pollutants. Organic linen’s process is more conscious of the environment—so keep your eye out for that certified label. Some good things about linen: it’s light, absorbs moisture without holding bacteria, and provides UV protection. (My personal favourite summer buddy!)
And then there’s bamboo. This panda favourite is a fast-growing grass that doesn’t need to be replanted due to its self-regeneration. The awesomeness of bamboo isn’t being used to its full potential. The common bamboo fabrics on the market (viscose or rayon) aren’t sustainably grown and goes through a highly toxic process. Bamboo is super soft, naturally anti-bacterial, regulates body temperature, and wicks away moisture. Let’s hope we continue to invent more sustainable methods to use this awesome plant.
These are just a few fabrics you’ll see on your clothing tags. There’s a lot of room for growth in the fashion industry. We encourage you to shop slow and know who your makers are. Transparent processes keep the conversation going and we’re happy to bring you something sustainable to keep you cozy this winter!
Written By Jade Paxton for FRANC