After designing your fashion line, you have to determine what fabric to use. It is important to consider which materials best suit the designs in your clothing line. Each material you will use affects the final product’s feel, consistency, and look.
Swimming With Sharks
In 2008, Speedo created “the rubber suit” for swimmers in the 2008 Olympics. The swimsuit enabled the wearer to increase buoyancy and limit drag, causing them to swim faster. It achieved this feat by compressing the swimmer’s body while trapping air. According to Speedo, 98% of swimmers who won medals in the 2008 Olympics can credit the rubber suit. Subsequently, the Olympics banned this swimsuit.
In 2009, Speedo tried to replace this swimsuit with one inspired by shark skin. Within their epidermis, sharks have hard tooth-like structures called denticles, which allow for bends and changes in shape, propelling the shark further. In one experiment, a swimmer wearing a suit made from synthetic shark skin clocked swim speeds similar to the average shark.
The materials you should use for your clothing depend on whether your core concern is product minimums, the environment, or product feel.
If you worry about high minimums when manufacturing your product, opt for polyester over cotton. Generally, cotton requires high minimums for printed patterns or designs.
If you want to create an eco-friendly line, steer clear of synthetics such as polyester or nylon. They are both non-biodegradable and damaging to the environment. According to Superego, “the production of nylon emits nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas 300 times more dangerous to the ozone layer than carbon dioxide. The production of polyester requires much water, the contaminated water after usage is flushed back into the waterways.”
If you are producing a seasonal line, it isn’t a question of what fabric to use, but rather, how much of it to use. Fabric belonging to winter wear tends to weigh heavier than that of summer wear.
Natural Fabric Fibers Vs Synthetic Fibers
Natural fibers come from natural sources such as plants or animals. Examples of natural fibers include cotton, wool, flax, and silk. Synthetic fibers are man-made fibers, produced from chemical compounds known as polymers. Polyester, nylon, and rayon are popular synthetic fibers in the fashion world. If a natural fiber is taken from an animal (like wool), it is warmer than synthetic fibers. While acrylic (a synthetic fiber) is also soft and warm, it is less “breathable” than natural fibers such as wool.
Only 1% of clothing is recycled back into clothing; 73% are sent to landfills as solid waste. One problem that hinders clothing recycling is that many clothing articles consist of both synthetic and natural fibers, which are difficult to separate. Tyton BioSciences seeks to eliminate this issue by using technology to separate the two. Tyton’s technology has caught the eye of some famous fashion brands like H&M, Adidas, and The Gap, who hope to source recycled or sustainably sourced materials.
It is anticipated that in 2050, fashion will account for 25% of the world’s carbon budget.
Take cotton for example. Even though cotton is a biodegradable, natural fiber, if not produced sustainably, it can be harmful to the environment. Its cultivation process requires a lot of water, with a single pair of jeans needing between 10,000 and 20,000 gallons. Cotton also accounts for one sixth of pesticides used globally, which negatively impacts farmers and local communities with damaging chemicals. According to the World Health Organization, around 20,000 individuals in developing countries die of cancer or suffer a miscarriage due to the chemicals sprayed on cotton. Instead, fashion companies should use organic cotton, whose cultivation process has low impact on the environment. Forward-looking fashion brands are doing this and more to try and limit the environmental harm of building a clothing line.
Make Way for Linen
While cotton has gained a name for its adverse effects on the environment, linen has gained popularity. Lyst, a global fashion search platform, says that the summer months of 2019 have seen a 46% increase in searches for linen items since January 2019.
Linen is a more sustainable fabric than cotton, with one hectare of linen absorbing 3.7 tons of CO2 each year and 1kg of cotton consuming 22,500 liters of water. While linen used to be featured in loose silhouettes, many designers are now using it in sharp blazers and shift dresses.
Repurposing Discarded Apple Peels
- Apple leather from apple peels that juicing and compact factories discarded
- Pinatex (pineapple leather)
- Aquabase nappa – a synthetic leather made with 100% recycled polyester in a non-toxic, water-based process
While No Saints sneaks look like a typical leather sneaker, they are certainly more environmentally-friendly.
As you consider what fabric to use for your next fashion line, bear in mind your key concerns and methods of dealing with them.