Fabrics and sustainable fashion
Choosing proper fabrics for clothing is one of the most problematic phases in the sustainable fashion design proces. Although diversity is important to sustainable development, cotton and polyester are representing 80% of all fibres used in the fashion industry which can be seen as a problem. On top of that it is impossible to determine which fibres are more environmentally friendly, natural fibres or manufactured fibres as each fibre has its own environmental burden. Some fibres like cotton or viscose need a lot of water for its production, while polyester needs a lot of energy. Some natural fibres have a big environmental impact during cultivation (pesticide use). Synthetic fibers, which are by-products from petroleum production, are not renewable resources. However, they can be recycled into high-quality materials more easily than cotton, which is usually downcycled.
Linen fibre is made from the stem of the flax plant. Flax is the only cellulosic plant indigenous to Western Europe, although it grows in many parts of the world if the climate is proper to its needs (temperate maritime climate with good soil). Linen is environmentally friendly fiber which requires relatively little irrigation and energy to process and is 100% biodegradable. In comparison with commercially grown cotton, only one-fifth of pesticides and artificial fertilizers are required. Linen fibers are the strongest of all plant-based fibers. The fibres range in length from 20 to 130 cm and come in natural colours such as ivory, tan and grey. Linen fabric is durable, hypoallergenic, resistant to stains and gets softer, smoother and more beautiful after every use. Finished linen fabric is versatile and can vary from very fine and smooth to heavy, rough and stiff.
Did you know that 100% linen fabric needs only 2-3 weeks to fully biodegrade?
Love Your Linen
Based on my research and personal experience, as well as recommendations from our fabric suppliers, I have put together some essential tips for caring for your linen pieces:
- Whether you choose to wash linen by hand or in a washing machine, I suggest using a gentle cycle and a mild laundry detergent suitable for delicate fabrics.
- Avoid using bleach, as it can damage the fabric.
- When washing in a machine, make sure not to overload it and allow the linen to move freely.
- It's best to skip the dryer and hang your linen pieces to air dry. If you need to iron your linen garment, do so while it's slightly damp to make the process easier.
- If your linen piece looks wrinkled after washing and drying, a medium iron will help it return to its original shape.
- To prevent any shine or smoothness, iron the wrong side of the fabric.
By following these simple guidelines, you can help ensure that your linen pieces remain looking and feeling their best for years to come.
And what is your favourite thing about linen?
K. Niinimäki, »Tenents of sustainable fashion,« Sustainable fashion: New approaches, page 12 – 31, 2013.
K. Fletcher, »Material diversity«, Sustainable fashion and textiles: design journeys, Second edition, page 7-50, Routledge, 2014.
C. Hallett, A. Johnston, Fabric for Fashion; The Complete Guide; Natural and man-made fibers. London, 2014