After the first article dealing with “A” last week, it is now time to tackle the letter B. Here, opportunities abound. One could talk, for instance, about sustainable brands or, in light of the royal baby hysteria in the UK, one could discuss eco-fashion for babies. After much pondering, I decided to stick with my original plan to write about the pros and cons of bamboo. It is all the more timely as this time next week I will be in China, the world’s largest supplier of this fibre.
The first time I heard about ready-to-wear bamboo was a couple of years ago in a shoe-shop. I was trying on a pair of heels, and since it was in the middle of winter in Europe, I had to take off my thick woolly socks to do so. This is when the helpful shop assistant suggested that I buy a pair of bamboo socks – thinner, yet just as warm as their woollen counterparts and, oh, so eco-friendly!
Buy them I did – and they are still in my sock drawer to this day. However, my subsequent enquiry into their eco-credentials has revealed that there may be some holes in these bamboo socks!
To start with, there is a huge difference between bamboo the tree and bamboo the fibre. It is true that bamboo trees (or, technically, bamboo grass) grow very quickly, and use very little water compared to conventional crops like cotton. Bamboo is also pandas’ favorite snack, and who doesn’t love those cuties?
However, this is where most bamboo sustainability claims stop. The dirtiest part is the processing, and particularly the use of multiple chemicals with super-complicated names to make bamboo into that runway-ready silky fibre. If you are interested in learning all the details, check out this very informative blog by Michael Lackman.
The bottom line is, most sustainable fashion pundits, like Kate Carter from The Guardian, urge extreme caution in embracing bamboo as the new eco-fibre.
Still, it seems like too much of a shame not to explore bamboo’s potential to the fullest! Doesn’t it look nice?
Next week, I will try to find out more from the lovely ladies at Redress, a Hong Kong-based NGO with the mission to clean up Asian fashion industry. I am also planning to check out the city’s sustainable fashion offerings, thanks to their Redressing Hong Kong Wardrobes shopping guide.
So I guess this is just a cautionary tale for all of us not to get bamboozled by every eco-claim made in an attempt to capitalize on the sustainable fashion bonanza. ‘Question, question again, and question some more’ must be the ethical fashionista’s mantra!
That’s it for now, have a green and glamorous day!