One of the newest fabrics being introduced to the luxury market is apparel derived from microbes. To be more specific the root system of mushrooms. Biocouture, founded by Suzanne Lee, has woven a fabric so thin and flexible that it resembles suede. They are now looking into bacteria, yeast and algae as other sources of sustainable production from nature. Sounds a little strange? What about silk made from silkworm excretions.
Digital Printing is a technology that is gaining ground in the fashion industry. It is the process whereby prints are applied to fabric by printers. Digital printing reduces water waste by 95%, energy usage by 75% and saves on fabric waste. This is possible since set up fees are low, smaller lots can be printed and prints can be made to fit an exact measurement.
A young British company “Worn Again” is testing a way to separate precious fibers from colors and chemicals so as to be able to recycle these fibers. Clothing is collected, processed and made back into yarn. We now use 65 million tons of cotton and polyester a year and that is expected to increase to 90 million by the year 2020. If this process is successful it could mean a great deal towards reducing textile waste.
Stella McCartney, fashion designer and daughter of Paul McCartney, has been a lifelong vegetarian and a pioneer in non leather shoes and bags. She has now gone a step further by answering the fur craze with fake fur that looks so much like the real thing. All the garments being made are so authentic looking that a special band on the wrist or nape of the neck will read “Fur Free Fur” to make it perfectly clear to the customer that no animal was used in the making of the garment.
Linen is made from flax, another traditional fiber crop which needs few chemical fertilizers and less pesticides than cotton. Less chemicals and pesticides protect our waterways. It is biodegradable and can be grown in cold climates as well as off season. Because it is recyclable it can later be made into paper and used as insulation in the auto industry. Besides being extremely strong the older it gets the more comfortable and cooler in warm climates it becomes.
The softness of bamboo has been compared to the feeling of cashmere. It is highly sustainable because its vast, fast growing root system does not require replanting after harvesting. Its complicated root system is also beneficial in that it prevents soil erosion. There are two ways to produce this fabric, one is mechanically and the other is chemically. The mechanical way is far superior. Bamboo is broken down into mush using natural enzymes and then spun into fabric. The chemical way is much quicker but involves using toxic chemicals that have been linked to nerve damage. When checking labels make sure the product is environmentally friendly. Some reputable labels are Oeko-Tek, Soil Association, SKAL, KRAV or any brand that is certified organic and sustainable.
There seems to be confusion as to whether hemp for clothing, oil, food etc. is grown from the same plant as that which is smoked. There is a difference. There are different variants of the plant. The high amount of psychoactive drug compounds in the plants that are used commercially is extremely low. However just connection to the word “Cannabis ” has made it illegal to grow here in the states. This is not so in other countries where the fabric made from hemp is considered extremely environmentally friendly. It has no need to be grown using pesticides or insecticides and is drought resistant while improving soil conditions. It is not necessary to use toxic chemicals or sophisticated technology when fabric is produced from its stalks. Hemp has been used for thousands of years and is great for local economies as well as being a great sustainable fabric.