Not all fabrics are the same, or better said, each material has its own characteristics, contributing to the feel of the final product it creates and having a unique finish.
The present day’s concerns about sustainability make people more preoccupied with what they wear or choose for their home furnishings. There’s, indeed, no established sustainability hierarchy for textiles, but some variants are still preferred over others. So, to make more pertinent decisions regarding clothing or soft furnishing materials, it’s essential to know some things about the various types of fabrics out there.
It’s time for fabric education – we hope you’re comfy because there’s a lot to digest.
Cotton is the most famous textile and the go-to variant for many buyers looking for both quality and comfort. It’s relatively easy to sew, which makes it one of the most favoured fabrics to make clothes with. Cotton also allows air to circulate, meaning that it’s breathable and ideal for hot summer days. It can be found in almost everything from wardrobe staples like t-shirts and jeans to towels, bed linen, and curtains. The cotton plant from which cotton as we know it is delivered grows naturally around the globe, but since the clothing industry is expanding by the day, it’s very common for this plant to be produced more rapidly than usual with the use of pesticides or other harmful chemicals. Therefore, it’s crucial to look for organic cotton that comes with the promise that it’s grown naturally. Organic cotton is biodegradable, renewable, and sustainable and can be harvested in under 12 months, based on the growing season. Our recommendation concerning choosing this material for clothes is to look for the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certification. This promises the manufacturer’s cotton is organic and that their entire supply chain is verified and certified.
Surprisingly or not, there’re more than 100 types of cotton fabric, including flannel, denim, canvas, Egyptian cotton, sateen, and damask.
Linen is often compared to cotton in terms of comfort and quality. And there’s nothing wrong with this association, but it would be helpful to know that linen has something special about it – a timeless elegance and naturalness. It’s a natural fabric spun from the flax plant, having a natural hue of ivory, ecru, tan, and grey. When untreated, i.e., undyed, linen is completely biodegradable, so if your main focus in buying clothes is on sustainability, go for shades of the likes previously mentioned.
Linen is also a strong material, withstanding high temperatures and being durable to boot. You’re likely to find a wide variety of products made from linen, from clothes and towels to napkins and tablecloths. It’s also a great absorbing fabric, surpassing cotton in this category, making it a favourite during summer.
Viscose or rayon is one of the most preferred fabrics to create patterns and textures, especially in combination with other fabrics. Rayon is a synthetic material, but it’s perhaps the most special of this sort, as it comes from cellulose and wood pulps. Facts about fabrics related to viscose include that it’s a smooth and soft material, is one of the most frequently used man-made fibres, is very flowy, and is pretty slippery. However, obtaining rayon from trees’ cellulose is quite a lengthy process, requiring a lot of skill and patience. Also, viscose tends to lose its stability as it’s washed since it has low wet strength. Thus, if you want to prolong its shelf life, you’re recommended to hand wash this type of fabric.
Silk is a material often associated with luxury, but not many people know it’s obtained mainly from silkworms. These worms line their cocoons with silk threads, i.e., saliva. It’s incredible how such a durable material derives from soft silk threads insulating the silkworms’ cocoons. Nonetheless, silkworms are typically killed while extracting the silk, so if you don’t like this idea, we don’t blame you. So, the question, “Is it possible to buy an ethical alternative to conventional silk?” is inevitably raised. Well, there’s the so-called “peace silk,” extracted after the worms have evacuated their cocoons before they’re boiled. This is also known as Ahima silk, and some other silks that fall into this category include Tussar silk and Eri silk. However, the fact that this type of silk is less harmful to the environment is not very valid.
Nothing compares with a classic leather jacket, right? Great designers can approve of this, too. From Prada to Bottega Veneta, leather garments amaze with their versatility and longevity. Some of the things that make leather such a precious material include texture, colour, surface resistance, and of course, smell. But the catch with this fabric is that its production can have a negative impact on the environment. As its name also indicates, leather is the skin of animals such as deer, crocodiles, sting rays, goats, emus, and snakes. So, animals’ welfare is at stake in leather production. And apart from this big issue, there’s the sewing process that’s sort of a burden for workers, as this fabric is one of the most challenging to sew. Despite these facts, leather clothing, accessories, and shoes are very common, so if you choose that leather jacket you’ve long been craving to complete your outfit, you aren’t a bad person. But, at the same time, if you want to make a change, you could opt for an eco-leather item that’s made from anything but animals.
Wool is the one material without which winters would be even colder than they already are. So, we guess we have to thank sheep, alpacas, and llamas for this hard-to-live-without fabric. Wool is a natural, biodegradable, and highly resilient fibre that’s soft to the touch but, at the same time, very lasting. If you care adequately for your woollen sweaters, they can last an eternity, so be sure you hand wash and dry them flat and invest in a detergent specially made for wool items.
Other prominent fabrics in the fashion industry include:
- Suede aka Nubuck leather
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