Nature and fashion: an unlikely combo?


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By Megan Johnstone

Customers around the world are taking a closer look at their relationship with the planet. The conservation narrative has been adopted by the mainstream and fashion isn’t exempt from this. Sustainability is creeping its way up on the agendas of garment technologists across the world, but which materials have taken the most inspiration from nature? Charles Tyrwhitt, men’s slim fit suit retailer, takes a closer look…

Working with TENCEL™ (Lyocell/ Modal)

You may not have heard of TENCEL™, but it’s something that combines cotton scraps and wood pulp from certified sustainable forests and later dissolves it. The material is essentially cellulose fibres and it produces a light and multi-purpose fabric, which has soared in availability in recent years. It is 50% more absorbent than cotton, unshaken by moisture, and with impressive anti-bacterial quality, it is the ideal choice for activewear garments. In terms of efficiency, it is far cheaper and less resource consuming than producing conventional cotton. As well as this, it is biodegradable which is a sought-after quality in a society which is looking more and more towards finding new ways to limit our input onto landfill sites. The production of TENCEL™ does require petrochemicals, but they are only used under a closed-loop system, so the solvent is recycled which helps to keep waste to a minimum.

Using organic cotton

There is a new cotton alternative which comes from a natural resource. GOTS cotton has been manufactured to rival traditional cotton. The production process doesn’t require any harmful pesticides — which have been linked to causing cancer in the past. This material takes a holistic revision of the classic production methods of cotton while maintaining all the benefits of being a natural fibre. It is a breathable, sustainable alternative which can be incorporated into various garments.

Using hemp

Hemp is one of the oldest materials used in our garments and is still extremely popular today. It’s derived from the stem of the hemp plant, and the resultant product shares a lot of similarities with linen. The qualities of hemp garments help to keep you warm in the winter and cool in the summer months, making it an extremely versatile choice to incorporate into items for every season. It is also extremely UV resistant, making it great for swimwear!

Hemp plants are quite beneficial too, as they are pest resistant. As well as this, it doesn’t require much water consumption. Plus, as it grows, it returns much of the nutrients it uses to the soil, making it good for the surrounding ecosystem. The hemp can be produced into fabrics through an entirely organic process as well, which adds to the environmental benefit.

Using linen

Linen is something that we’re all familiar with. However, not many people know that linen is a plant derivative! It is made from the stem of the flax plant, and growing linen is not an excessive time nor water consuming process. It rivals cotton on durability, and it even gets stronger with every wash. As an organic fabric, when it is untreated it is biodegradable, making it a brilliant choice for the environmentally conscious among us. Keep it in its natural form and avoid opting for any white linen products — these are heavily bleached in order to achieve their pristine appearance, so choose muted tones like ecru, ivory, tan and grey.

This article is in collaboration with Charles Tyrwhitt.

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