As a designer, one of the most important questions I have to answer is what type of fabric I will use. The answer would be so much easier if I were designing conventional clothing that didn’t care how it was harvested or what harmful environmental consequences it caused.
Manufacturing eco-friendly clothing is important to me because I don’t want to harm people or the environment. I want to make sure that I’m creating a product that will benefit customers instead of harming them, which is why I want to remain transparent.
I want Sotela to be a conscious clothing line that is eco-friendly, essential and ultimately benefits you.
Choosing fabrics for a clothing line can be tricky because you have to take drape, feel, durability, function and care into consideration. Certain dresses only look good with silkier fabrics, but those slinkier fabrics may feel too thin. Durability, function and care are essential and the reason why customers decide to buy a product. I don’t want to design a dress that will fall apart after several wears or only has to be dry cleaned.
Apart from the actual feel and durability of the fabric, I have to decide what environmental factors are more important to me. Some eco-fabrics are better than others because they are produced more naturally without chemicals, but may use more resources such as water. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as 100% sustainable. There will always be an environmental impact when creating new products, but it is up to the manufacturer to determine what is acceptable for their target audience.
Here is where it gets confusing- eco-fabrics break into natural fibers or man-made fibers. Natural fibers such as organic cotton, bamboo, hemp and lyocell use less chemicals to create, are biodegradable and don’t contain carcinogens. Man-made fibers consist of recycled PET (recycled plastic water bottles), vintage and deadstock, which are considered eco because new resources aren’t being used.
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know I’m not a fan of plastic and try to minimize its use. There haven’t been any studies on the effects of wearing fabric made of plastic, but I didn’t want to risk it. Deadstock is leftover fabric from clothing manufacturers, which is a great option for reducing what gets thrown away in landfills.
The question is, do I want to use resources to produce a fabric that won’t be harmful to my health, or recycle a fabric that has already been produced, but may have pesticides or other chemicals?
I sometimes go back and forth between the two fibers because I try to live a lifestyle that is more natural and free of toxins, but I also like recycling and reusing. Every person has their own idea of sustainability, and it is beautiful to see so many clothing companies making an effort to be more eco-friendly with their fabric choices.
Even though there isn’t a 100% sustainable option for clothing, I’m pretty damn happy we are moving towards it by either considering more natural fibers or reusing leftover fabrics, which also lessen environmental impacts. I’m still undecided in my fabrics, but I’ve narrowed it down to several such as organic cotton, modal and tencel.
For the sake of not being totally redundant, Cara of Bien Faire posted an extensive fabric guide on her blog. Check it out here. You can also see the breakdown of natural fibers on The Notepasser Blog.