Resources that that the fashion industry relies upon have become notably more environmentally influenced in the past decade, and growing concern over the damage related to manufacturing processes have prompted designers to change their attitudes. Sustainability is creeping its way up on the agendas of garment technologists across the world, but which materials have taken the most inspiration from nature?
With some guidance from CT Shirts take a look at some of the innovative materials dominating the clothes production line, inspired by nature.
Valued for its lightweight breathability and comfort, linen garments are a popular choice for both office wear and abroad in warmer climates — but the material is also a sought-after addition in towels and bed sheets. However, not many people know that linen is a plant derivative! It is made from the stem of the flax plant, and growing linen is not an excessive time nor water consuming process. It rivals cotton on durability, and it even gets stronger with every wash. As an organic fabric, when it is untreated it is biodegradable, making it a brilliant choice for the environmentally conscious among us. Linen products are timeless wardrobe staples, and they look brilliant in white or alternatively muted tones like ecru, ivory, tan and grey.
Hemp is one of the oldest materials in the world, and it has become heavily involved in clothes manufacturing processes. It’s derived from the stem of the hemp plant, and the resultant product shares a lot of similarities with linen. The qualities of hemp garments help to keep you warm in the winter and cool in the summer months, making it an extremely versatile choice to incorporate into items for every season. It is also extremely UV resistant, making it great for swimwear!
One notably advantageous quality of the hemp crop itself is that it is pest-resistant, meaning that it doesn’t require harmful herbicides, fungicides or pesticides to yield — while it also only requires a small surface area and minimal water to grow adding further benefits. Plus, as it grows, it returns much of the nutrients it uses to the soil, making it good for the surrounding ecosystem. The hemp can be produced into fabrics through an entirely organic process as well, which adds to the environmental benefit.
Traditional cotton creates high quality garments such as mens knitwear, but it is known to rely on chemicals and copious amounts of water to thrive, making it less efficient to produce on a mass scale — well, the fashion industry has developed a natural alternative. GOTS cotton has been manufactured to rival traditional cotton. The production process doesn’t require any harmful pesticides — which have been linked to causing cancer in the past. This material takes a holistic revision of the classic production methods of cotton, while maintaining all the benefits of being a natural fibre. It is a breathable, sustainable alternative which can be incorporated into various garments.
TENCEL™ (Lyocell/ Modal)
Another established ‘natural’ fabric has been manufactured successfully by an Australian firm and TENCEL™ Is now a mainstream material for clothes production. It is produced by combining and then dissolving cotton scraps and wood pulp, sourced from certified sustainable forests. The material is essentially cellulose fibres and it produces a light and multi-purpose fabric, which has soared in availability in recent years. It is 50% more absorbent than cotton, unshaken by moisture, and with an impressive anti-bacterial quality, it is the ideal choice for activewear garments. In terms of efficiency, it is far cheaper and less resource consuming than producing conventional cotton. As well as this, it is biodegradable which is a sought-after quality in a society which is looking more and more towards finding new ways to limit our input onto landfill sites.
Creating TENCEL™ garments requires the use of petrochemicals, but the impact from this is limited through a closed-loop system which recycles the solvent.
The fashion industry is certainly embracing a new generation of naturally derived fabrics, representing the shift in attitudes linked to the growing awareness of climate change.