The make-up of a fabric was once completely unimportant to me. I would prioritise style and price above all else.I began to realise fabrics are a major contender in the environmental impact fashion has.

With more research, we have become more aware of how fabrics are made, how they last, and how they impact the environment in their life cycle. There have also been developments into more friendly fabrics that benefit workers, wearers and the worlds resources. So here’s what we’ve found so far, a rough guide to help us re-evaluate the items we choose to buy.


What’s the difference between natural and synthetic fabrics?

Natural fabrics: Made from materials found directly in nature. That’s animal coats, plants and leaves. Examples include wool, cotton, silk, hemp, flax (linen) and leather.

Synthetic fabrics: Synthetic materials are a man-made product created through a chemical or manufacturing process. Put simply, think of these fabrics being “twice removed” – from their natural source material (a natural fabric). Examples include Nylon, Polyester, Acrylic and Spandex.

When cotton ain’t cool

While being a strong, breathable and versatile fabric – cotton comes with it’s own problems. According to the Pesticide Action Network, it is the most pesticide intensive crop in the world, injuring and even killing many people every year. Herbicide, a chemical defoliant is commonly used in aiding the mechanical harvest of cotton. These chemicals take a toll on the environment but also stay in the clothing after production. These chemicals are released through the life cycle of the item. So, when we throw that cotton t-shirt in the washing machine, those chemicals are being released into our domestic water systems. Yikes. On top of that, pure cotton takes between 1-5 months to break down.

Worried about your woolies?

Excluding the nature in which wool is obtained, it is the processes in which it is created that is the most harmful to humans and the environment. In 2013 scientists supported by the Pesticides Action Network, found that Organophosphates used in the making of wool were linked to; “excessive tiredness, headaches, limb pains, disturbed sleep, poor concentration, mood changes, and suicidal thoughts”.

Is it a no for Nylon and Polyester too?

These synthetics are made from pesto-chemicals and are non-biodegradable. One of the worst features of nylon is it’s greenhouse gas emissions, 310 times more than carbon dioxide. Lubricants for the cooling of polyester along with the requirement of vast amounts of water make it another energy hungry, non-biodegradable fabric.

Then there’s Rayon (Viscose)

An artificial fibre often disguised as being Eco-friendly as it comes from wood pulp. The eucalyptus tree is often used which needs a substantial amount of water. To make the fabric sulfuric acid and caustic soda are used which are extremely hazardous.

So what does this mean for us when choosing fabrics for clothing? Fear not, fashion loving folk. Over the coming months we will explore more sustainable fabrics and ways of shopping. We’ll also be doing more in depth research of certain fabrics. We need clothes, we love clothes! We also understand that no matter what fabric we choose, it will take a certain toll on the environment. Here at STIALL our commitment is to only buy organic cotton from now on. The more we learn, the more changes we will make.

Thoughts or suggestions? Get in touch, we love to hear from you!

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