We started this project with one main mission in mind: to create a line of clothes that we love and will be able to share with others, and to keep integrity at the forefront of all aspects of the supply and production chain. Being committed to that, we’re learning–surprise!– that there’s more to it than we realized. There’s frustration in the learning and obstacles alongside the inspirations, as well as some exciting realizations that not everything is completely doomed and that good work is being done to improve the quality and production of what we wear.
So when people ask–What will your clothes be made out of? When are they coming out?– we have to remind ourselves that we’ve embarked on a slow fashion journey, that we are joining a movement that is doing things differently, that along with others we are creating a new paradigm that is both unfamiliar and unpredictable and both our patience and intention are key every step along the way. In the meantime, however, I’d love to share a bit about what we’ve learned and found!
As far as textile sourcing, we’ve pinpointed 3 fabrics that we’re really excited about potentially using:
1) Hemp – Hemp (Cannabis Sativa) is arguably top on the list of up-and-coming fabrics. In terms of sustainability, it has no equal. It grows so densely it requires significantly less land per unit and suppresses weed growth, therefore minimizing the need for herbicides. It grows quickly and efficiently, using less land and taking less time from seed to harvest than more traditional crops and can be harvested not only for fabric but for the seed as well (oil from the seeds can even be used as biofuel!). Because the roots reach so deeply into the ground , it actually aerates and supports healthy soil that is both disease and pest resistant, thereby minimizing the need for pesticides and fertilizers and enhancing its value as a cover crop. According to one source, 1 acre of hemp will produce as much fiber as that which can be grown on 2-3 acres of cotton. Because of hemp’s close relation to the marijuana plant (though hemp itself cannot be used for the same purposes), the potential for hemp as a raw material in the slow fashion movement is currently limited by certain legalities. We’d love to see significant change in this area.
2) Linen – Linen comes from the fibers of the flax plant. It is one of the oldest fabrics used on the planet, proof of its use dating nearly 10,000 years, going back to the beginnings of civilization along the fertile crescent in Egypt, the Dead Sea and later on in many areas of BC era Europe. It has a special place in American pioneer history, as many homesteaders had their own patch of flax which would be hand processed, spun into fiber and woven into cloth. Linen became less economical to produce as the textile industry began to emerge and was surpassed by cotton after the invention of the cotton gin in the late 18th century, therefore becoming more expensive and less accessible to the not-so-wealthy. With new technologies, however, simplifying the production and processing of flax, it has enjoyed a renaissance in recent years as an affordable and fashionable choice in fabrics. Because it is 100% natural, it’s completely biodegradable. We love it for its beauty, versatility and simplicity–all the reasons that it’s endured for thousands of years as staple in clothing production in many parts of the world.
3) Lyocell – a lovely discovery! For those of you who aren’t familiar with Tencel (the brand name for lyocell, from the European Company Lenzing), it is incredibly soft, light but weighty, smooth and drapey in all the right ways. While man-made, it is sustainably produced using a “closed-loop” system, meaning it uses minimal resources has little to no waste. You can read more about the process on the Lenzing website or a quick google search will lead you to other third party sources that talk about lyocell. Even though it is technically a synthetic fabric, it is made with all-natural materials in a low-impact manner that makes it completely biodegradable! This may be our favorite thing about it.
Hopefully, we will be producing garments made from Hemp, Linen, or Lyocell, or a blend of two or all of them. Many of the fabric swatches that we’ve ordered from EnviroTextiles in Colorado or Kendor in British Columbia (two very helpful and sustainably-minded companies) have been awesome and we can’t wait to see how they’ll work into our designs.