Re-use and recycling are popular blitz style ways to green your wardrobe – for example buying second hand clothing, or altering an old outfit. But some garments are better bought new – shoes, sports clothing, underwear etc. In that case it might be better to focus on sustainable, eco-friendly fabrics. These can be made from unconventional natural materials, or composed of recycled plastics, wool or cotton. After all, new cotton is an environmental disaster – literally, in the case of the Aral Sea. It’s a crop with a heavy human cost as well – many cotton farmers and labourers are indentured, and in reality, little more than slaves.
Hemp is the most famous eco friendly fabric. It is a fast growing plant that requires no herbicides and few pesticides. As a fine woven fabric, it absorbs more water than cotton, is 3 times as strong, and blocks 95% of the sun’s rays. Hemp is no longer coarse and ugly; hemp silk is a popular luxury item, often used for bridal underwear. Bamboo is another fast growing plant, which is naturally resistant to both pests and weeds. It can also be spun into a fine, silky fabric, a popular alternative to jersey cotton. Nettles are even better than these two sartorial greats. Once established, a single hectare of nettles would produce enough fibre for 100 shirts, plus assorted dietary and industrial by-products. It’s long fibres, easy propagation and high quality when mercerized, make it the idea eco fabric.
Re-cycling and repurposing fabrics is another great way to minimise landfill. The most popular form of fabric recycling is to recycle discarded plastic bottles into fibres. This has been used to great effect for swimwear, and for sportswear – Under Armour are just one of the companies out there making polo shirts from recycled bottles. The fabric can be bleached and dyed like ‘normal’ cotton, and creates soft, stylish garments. Crafters and small traders have experimented with unravelling and re-knitting garments, as well as utilising factory surplus. Many more designers specialise in dissembling and remaking clothing for high fashion, couture style garments. These have been retailed by organisations like TRAIDRemade, who sell gorgeous one off garments online and in their bricks and mortar shops – at reasonable prices too, putting paid to the idea of eco fashion as either shabby or super priced.
- Helen Gallagher, exploring eco-friendly fashion and high end, high quality
- for Catwalk Golf.