We’re all so much more environmentally conscious now than we were this time ten years ago. 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? Let’s take a look at some innovative materials which are inspired by nature.
As one of the oldest fabrics in the world, hemp is now widely used in creating garments. 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!
The hemp plant itself is also pest resistant, meaning that it doesn’t require any harmful herbicides, fungicides or pesticides to yield — an added bonus is that it doesn’t need much water either, and only a small amount of surface area to grow successfully. 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.
Linen is a popular material for a whole host of garments such as men’s casual shirts, suited best to warmer climes, renowned for its breathability and comfort – plus, it is also used in other household items such as bedsheets and towels. 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. Linen products are timeless wardrobe staples, and they look brilliant in white or alternatively muted tones like ecru, ivory, tan and grey.
While conventional cotton is notorious for its chemical reliance and a dependence on a copious amount of water needed to flourish, the fashion industry has found an alternative, natural product. 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.
TENCEL™ (Lyocell/ Modal)
An Australian firm have pioneered the production of TENCEL™, combining and then dissolving cotton scraps and wood pulp, sourced from certified sustainable forests. 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 an 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.
The materials that make up our day-to-day outfits are changing, and we could certainly be seeing a lot more of these new innovative nature inspired fabrics in the future.