This week’s letter is T, and we are talking sustainable textiles!
The subject is both timely and serendipitous, as I have just written my first piece for the Ethical Fashion Forum’s SOURCE Intelligence Magazine on this very topic!
Titled ‘The Fab Five: Fabrics That Help You Cut Your Environmental Footprint‘, it is an interview with leading sustainable textiles expert and biov8tion founder Sophie Mather.
While I cannot reproduce the full interview here, I can certainly give you some snippets of her wisdom and vast knowledge on how to weave sustainability into textiles production.
Textiles have a huge environmental footprint because they require a lot of resources to produce them – be it cotton, which is a particularly thirsty crop, or polyester, which is made essentially from oil.
This is why there has been a growing interest in sustainable textiles, which range from recycled materials to future eco-fabrics which may come from unusual sources such as banana leaves, milk proteins or even seaweed!
So what makes a good eco-material? Sophie Mather identifies four essential criteria: renewable raw materials; ‘upcycling’ potential; performance enhancement; and affordability.
I was particularly intrigued by the mention of performance enhancement.
As Sophie Mather explains, “In this day and age, making just an ‘eco fabric’ is no longer good enough, the fabric needs to drive ‘newness’ and be appealing to the consumer. Sustainability should be incidental — we must adopt materials because they are stronger, lighter, warmer and softer than the conventional ones.”
I really love that! I’ve personally always struggled with the idea that eco-fashion means itchy hemp and unbleached organic cotton all the way.
It was therefore refreshing to learn about her approach: don’t try to convince consumers to compromise on style, but rather show that sustainable materials are simply better than fast-fashion rags.
Among these up-and-coming eco-fabrics are Lenzing TENCEL®, made from wood pulp in a revolutionary spinning process that reclaims over 99% of chemicals used, and 100% plant-based PET materials being developed by five major US brands.
Meanwhile, in the course of my research, I have also come across a new luxurious eco-material: the lotus flower fabric.
“Best described as a cross between silk and linen, lotus flower fabric is naturally stain resistant, waterproof, and soft to the touch. This breathable, wrinkle-free fabric was once used to make robes for high-ranking Buddhist monks,” writes fellow EFF contributor Andrea Krystine.
The sustainability of the lotus fabric stems from the fact that the fiber is a by-product of lotus seeds harvesting for food and medicine.
And the use of lotus in textiles is already making a big difference to some of the poorest communities in Cambodia thanks to the fair-trade company Samatoa set up by the French fabric designer Awen Delavel who discovered this fabric.
Luxury brand Loro Piana, which specializes in rare fabrics such as vicuña, is also producing high-end jackets and scarfs made from the lotus flower fabric.
As the search for future eco-fabrics continues, I hope that the lotus flower, which symbolizes spiritual enlightenment in Buddhism, will help us in this quest.