Moral Fi­bre

Re­searchers are mak­ing sus­tain­able fab­rics that look, feel and do good all at the same time.

Fashion (Canada) - - The Draw Sustainability Reboot - By Lau­ren Ha­zle­wood

Con­sumers have be­come so ac­cus­tomed to syn­thetic tex­tiles that few re­al­ize how much dam­age they’re do­ing to their bod­ies and the planet. Typ­i­cal cloth­ing dyes use harsh chem­i­cals that could be linked to health is­sues as var­ied as headaches and seizures. Mean­while, ubiq­ui­tous cot­ton, whose crops re­quire in­tense amounts of wa­ter to grow, makes fash­ion an even more en­vi­ron­men­tally stren­u­ous in­dus­try. Luck­ily, a de­sire to re­duce this re­liance on cot­ton has helped spur re­search into sus­tain­able fab­rics, and with each pass­ing year, we’re see­ing more in­no­va­tion in the field. From pineap­ple leather to milk­weed-in­su­lated coats, it’s time to re­con­sider what’s in our clos­ets and shop smarter.


Many of us have grown to love our down-filled puffer coats, but the pluck­ing process for th­ese feath­ers can be cruel and very painful. Milk­weed, which is used in some Quartz Co. jack­ets, is the un­likely hero here. Its hol­low fi­bres make it an in­su­la­tor, and it’s per­fect for stuff­ing. It’s also a win-win sit­u­a­tion: Cater­pil­lars feast on milk­weed, mean­ing the more we plant, the more monarch but­ter­flies we’ll see.


To cre­ate fi­bres from corn re­quires fo­cus­ing on the plant sug­ars. The end re­sult is a soft, anti-wrin­kle fab­ric. Ree­bok ac­tu­ally launched a Cot­ton + Corn ini­tia­tive last year to help re­duce its en­vi­ron­men­tal foot­print and re­cently re­vealed its first prod­uct: a pair of petroleum­free, non-toxic sneak­ers.


From the cost of rais­ing live­stock to the an­i­mals’ even­tual slaugh­ter to the chem­i­cal pro­cesses in­volved in dy­ing the skins, leather is one prod­uct that could use a sus­tain­able dupe. Mycelium, the “root­like” struc­ture of mush­rooms, might be an op­tion. Mycelium fi­bres grow fast and are com­pletely re­new­able and biodegrad­able. The suede­like tex­ture is also easy to ma­nip­u­late, which means the ma­te­rial can be made to look like it came from a cow or a snake.


We usu­ally dis­card pineap­ple leaves; how­ever, their strong fi­bres can be used to cre­ate soft, light­weight fab­rics that are durable and wa­ter-re­sis­tant. In fact, be­fore the rise of cot­ton, mak­ing tex­tiles out of pineap­ple was a pop­u­lar process across the globe, par­tic­u­larly in the Philip­pines. De­pend­ing on how the fi­bres are ma­nip­u­lated, pineap­ple can cre­ate a beau­ti­ful linen-like fab­ric or tex­tured faux leather.


Cannabis sativa is a type of won­der plant and, no, not just for those rea­sons. It grows quickly, doesn’t need a lot of wa­ter and re­quires very lit­tle space—cot­ton uses twice as much. In ad­di­tion, it’s a nat­u­ral pest re­pel­lent (no icky pes­ti­cides re­quired) and re­turns 60 to 70 per cent of the nu­tri­ents it takes from the soil. Hemp fab­ric is hy­poal­ler­genic, and while it may be a lit­tle stiff at first, it be­comes softer with each wear.


Around one bil­lion tonnes of ba­nana stems are dis­carded ev­ery sin­gle year, yet, sim­i­lar to pineap­ple leaves, they could be used for tex­tiles. In fact, as far back as the 13th cen­tury, th­ese stems were used to cre­ate durable fab­ric in Ja­pan. De­spite the fab­ric’s strength, it re­mains soft and breath­able, and its sub­tle sheen is of­ten com­pared to that of silk.


With the launch of a cap­sule col­lec­tion in 2017, Sal­va­tore Fer­rag­amo was the first fash­ion house to use fab­ric made from the fi­bres of citrus fruit. The de­signs were cre­ated us­ing citrus cel­lu­lose, a by-prod­uct of the fruit’s juice. The fi­bres were a pop­u­lar choice given their abil­ity to cre­ate a tex­tile that’s del­i­cate and light­weight.


This trendy fer­mented drink is com­posed of a sug­ary tea base and the sym­bi­otic cul­ture of bac­te­ria and yeast (or SCOBY). A bun­dle of SCOBY can grow into huge sheets that can be moulded, dyed and dried. The fin­ished prod­uct is tough and re­sem­bles leather, but, un­for­tu­nately, it’s also fleet­ing. The ma­te­rial has zero wa­ter re­sis­tance, which means it has a pretty short life­span.

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