The first step towards a more sustainable wardrobe begins with knowledge.
10% of CO2 emissions are caused by the fashion industry alone, and for comparison, the aviation industry produces 2.5% (Marieke Eyskoot, This is a Good Guide). You would be surprised to learn how some materials seem, or are marketed, as sustainable but actually aren’t. Learning what goes on behind the clothes we wear is empowering, so let’s dig in.
Materials and Production
It is hard to decipher which treatments and processes used in the production of a material make it sustainable or unsustainable, whether it is a natural or man-made fabric. Below we look at a few well-known materials and the processes used to create them.
- Synthetic fabrics: Polyester, nylon and acrylic have benefits for their durability and consumer-friendly functions such as stretching, non-crinkling, waterproofing and stain resistance. Unfortunately, they are made with petroleum (aka fossil fuel that emits carbon dioxide a greenhouse gas during production) this basically equals made from plastic, making them the most unsustainable material (Nadine Farag, Man Repeller).
- Cellulose fabrics: Rayon/viscose, modal and bamboo all come from a plant-based source primarily wood pulp. In order to turn them into fibres, they need to be processed. Harvesting trees can mean deforestation at a rate faster than trees can replenish and regrow so the plants used need to be considered. Another cellulose fabric, Tencel has been harvested from Eucalyptus trees which don’t need pesticides or genetic manipulation. Tencel has a natural breathability and 50% greater moisture absorption than cotton, due to its moisture absorption it is also antibacterial. This new technology sends a strong sustainable message in the production and lifespan of this newly developed material (Ed Mass, Natural Life Magazine).
- Cotton: A natural material, thought to be sustainable, the fibre is actually the most environmentally intensive to produce due to the heavy use of pesticides, fertilizer, and water (Nadine Farag, Man Repeller).10,000 litres of water go into the making of the most popular cotton outfit, a pair of jeans and t-shirt (Marieke Eyskoot, This is a Good Guide).
- Silk: Silk, is a natural, biodegradable, and environmentally low impact material, but the quantity of silkworms used to make a kilo of silk is 6,600 worms (PETA)!
Finally, and most importantly for us:
- Animal Based: Our favourite, WOOL! Wool has several sustainability qualities, such as long lifespan capability. It is a naturally occurring fibre designed to keep mammals warm. Products made from wool tend to be washed less frequently at lower temperatures, it is one of the most recycled textile fibers, and once it reaches the end of its lifespan, wool biodegrades Since wool is a natural fibre, it does not release microparticles of plastic into the water supply whenever you do laundry. Speaking of laundry, the nation is wrongly plagued by the idea that wool and cashmere are dry clean only products. These fabrics can easily be washed in your home, with care and delicately. We are so excited that Campaign for Wool is spreading the message with their ‘Wool Care’ event coming to Covent Garden the 11th- 12thin October.
#30Wears Test + Know Your Brands and Materials
Eco Age, a company founded by Livia Firth, aims to certify sustainable brands to make ecological shopping easier. Firth started the 30 Wears Test campaign, which involves the buyer asking themselves if the product of interest will be worn at least 30 times to assess its value and quality (Amy de Klerk, Harper’s Bazaar)It’s a simple question that will not only save you money but prevent you from throwing away more clothes in the long run.
Start taking note of brands that aim for sustainability. Some brands to keep an eye on are, Reformation, Finisterre, People Tree, Mud Jeans, AllSisters (swim), Stella McCartney, and so many more. The high street are also trying to take a sustainable approach and are introducing sustainable ranges into their collections.
Invest in Season-less clothing
Instead of purchasing seasonally-dependent items, purchase items that can be universally worn through most seasons instead. These items can be key pieces used interchangeably and made unique with accessory pairing.
The obvious, but often overlooked, method of shopping vintage can be the solution to a common complaint when cleansing a wardrobe.
Knowledge is power, and when we have the power to live sustainably and be fashionable at the same time, what do we have to lose? At Lola Swift, we wholeheartedly believe that sustainability is the only way forward and that production should always be ethical. Our products are made to last both in style and quality.