A Guide to Sustainable Fashion

I originally wrote this for Uncanny Pop

Everyday, the environment is a topic that is discussed daily from how our actions can have a negative affect on our planet to what we can do to repair the damage and bring about change. One way that we can do that is by being environmentally conscious towards clothing. It’s important to know how and where the clothes on your back are made and that is what sustainable fashion is all about. Sustainable fashion is part of sustainable design and is where a product-in this case clothing-is created and produced with the consideration to the environmental and social impact it may have throughout its total life span which also includes its “carbon footprint.

Here is a guide of common natural and eco-friendly fabrics and a list of sustainable fashion lines that will help you create a wardrobe that’s not only eco-friendly but also fashionable.

Fabrics

Silk: Made by silk worms there is no chemical-based synthetic processing. The only drawback is that after creating the silk,  the worms are thrown into a vat of boiling water in order for us humans to get the silk fibres.  May vegans won’t wear silk due to this, but there is an alternative: peace silk or vegan silk. Clearly labeled, this silk is made from the worm casings that are gathered after the moths have emerged and flown away. In addition, look for silk that has been dyed naturally and is as local as you can get.

Cashmere: Be luxurious and eco friendly at the same time with this fabric which comes from combing out the under-hairs of Kashmir goats.  The fabric is also long-lasting but beware of cheap cashmere as it may have been treated with chemicals and dye with carcinogenic dyes. The fabric may also be mixture with other types like polyester. Real eco-friendly cashmere clothing is expensive but it’ll last a lifetime. As the saying goes, “you get what you pay for.”

Linen: Real linen is made from flax-a crop that requires very little pest-controlling chemicals. Look for this fabric in natural shades or natural dyes and make sure to purchase linen that’s from an eco-certified clothing or fabric company. Beware the linen blends or those that are cheap and chemically treated.

Alpaca: This fabric is from Alpaca sheep that are raised naturally. That means no hormones or chemical treatments. Since this fabric comes in over 52 naturally occurring colors, there‘s no need for dye! Alpaca also keeps you warmer than wool and is long lasting. The only downside is that the fabric most likely will have been imported.

Soy: This fabric is easy to care for and is made from the byproducts of soil oil processing. This fabric is great for underwear and bras due to its long fibres which make the fabric feel soft and silky.  Make sure that the soy products you buy are certified and try to avoid “soy blend” fabric. This fabric is less eco friendly and is a mixture of soy, polyester and inorganic cotton.

Hemp: This fabric is strong, durable and naturally wrinkle-resistant. Clothes made from hemp also offer the cool hand of linen and the softness of cotton. Requiring no chemicals to grow, hemp is often regarded as the ulitmate eco-friendly fabric.  However, hemp farming is not well regulated. There is no monitoring of where its grown nor what types of  chemicals the plant may have come into contact with it.

Merino: The softest of all wools, comes from merino sheep who are bred not for their meat but for their wool. It‘s extremely soft and lacks the itchiness of other wools, which means you can be warm and comfortable. Merino wool offers temperature regulation, moisture control and anti-microbial properties.

Organic cotton: This type of cotton does not have chemicals or toxins added to it during the farming and manufacturing stages. In fact the farming of organic cotton reduces the mass use of pesticides and chemicals. Organic cotton is also becoming more popular and has been seen in stores such as H&M and the Gap. The cons are that the organic cotton you purchase isn’t also assured to be fair trade. In addition, it could be processed using conventional dyes, or treated with chemicals to keep it from wrinkling when its sent overseas. That is why whenever possible buy this fabric in the shades that its naturally grown in: cream, pale, green, and light brown. Purchase clothes that have been coloured using natural or vegetable-based dyes, and look for credible labels that indicated that the product is certified organic, sustainable, and eco-friendly. One example would be be Eco-Cert.

Tencel aka Lyocell: A new fabric that has wonderful qualities. It‘s made with wood pulp from sustainable tree farms (which makes it biodegradable and recyclable) and created with nanotechnology. There are a variety of clothing made from this fabric and it‘s very comfortable. It has 50% greater moisture absorption than cotton and it has a smooth and soft surface. It’s also wrinkle-free. However not all lycoell fabric comes from sustainable wood so be sure to check the labels. Also try to find fabric that’s been dyed with a low-chemical or vegetable colourant.

Bamboo: It is great for both hot and cool climates-bamboo clothing offers built-in temperature control. It keeps you warm in the winter and cool in the summer. It‘s also a durable fabric that is antibacterial. Unlike synthetic fabrics, bamboo repels order. It‘s also anti-static so the static won‘t stop you! The only downside is that there is a toxic chemical aspect to the manufacturing of the fabric and that’s when the bamboo loses its eco status.

Ingeo: A new fabric requires almost half the energy it takes to make cotton-inorganic and organic. The only downfall is that the fabric is made from fermented plant sugars usually derived from corn. As  we all know, growing corn takes a lot of pesticides, water, and land.

Polyester: The normal version of this fabric is made from petroleum and is way of the map in terms of eco-friendliness. However companies are finding ways to create the fabric out of recycled plastic bottles and recycled polyester fabirc! Until then, the only green polyester is vintage and let’s face it, vintage is always in style.

Now that we’ve talked about the fabrics, here’s a list of eco-friendly fashion brands.

Fashion Brands

Jonano: the clothes are made of certified organic bamboo, hemp, and their popular ecoKashmere blend-at an affordable price. The clothes are made using Fair Labor practices, their fabrics use low-impact dyes, and their packaging and mailings are printed on recycled paper.

Loomstate: isn‘t inexpensive; they‘re reasonably priced. You can find bargains on their clothing by going to websites like Greenloop and Bluefly.com

Levi Strauss: has been in the jean making business for a long time, so who better than them to lead the way in eco-friendly denim. They use organic cotton, recycled zippers, buttons, and natural indigo dye. They also donate to environmental causes on a regular basis. Levi also encourages their customers to treat their clothes in an environmentally responsible manner. In 2010, their clothes began to carry new tags that encouraged people to wash their clothes in cold water and dry them on a line. When the clothes are no longer needed, they donate them to Goodwill. Levi also works on worker rights, HIV/AIDS, Equality, and Community Engagement.

American Apparel: has clothes for the whole family at affordable prices

To see more list of eco-friendly fashion brands, click the links below:

Buzzfeed’s 13 Eco-Friendly Fashion Brands For A Cruelty-Free Closet

Elle: 7 Eco-Friendly Fashion Labels To Know Now

Eco Fashion World

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