Fibers Made Simple

All the basics about synthetic, regenerated and natural fibers you want to know!
Since it’s Fashion Revolution Week 2019, we asked Finest Fashion Site’s co-founder and PR Elin Holm to share her experiences and thoughts. Elin will guide you in three articles on how to become more sustainable and gives you effective tips on how to quit fast fashion for good.

 

Although I’m not quite where I want to be yet, the process of becoming more sustainable hasn’t been difficult for me. I think when one is trying to become sustainable, it’s all about the knowledge and conscience to make better choices every time. In these three articles, I’m going to give you tips about what drastically changed my consumption habits. Also, some easy things to keep in mind that would dramatically improve the health of our planet if more people started following them. This article is about understanding textile fibers.

 

This is the topic that has at least a million different sides to it and some could debate them all. It also comes down to your personal preference and what matters to you the most. But I’ll try to sum up the most important things I learned from studying to be a tailor and four years of working in retail. Here are some pros and cons of the most used fibers you will definitely come across.

 

First of all, there are synthetic, natural and regenerated fibers.

 

Synthetic fibers, like polyester, nylon, acrylic, and elastane are generally durable and most resistant to wrinkles, shrinkage, and stretch. They also don’t color bleed as easily. On the other hand, they are very suffocating for your skin. They are the worst in terms of thermoregulation – when it’s cold outside you feel extra cold and when it’s hot you feel like in a greenhouse. Speaking of greenhouses – synthetic fibers don’t biodegrade, so basically once they are made, they are going nowhere. This leads to major pollution. Washing synthetic clothes also causes microplastics in the oceans, which we’ll eventually end up eating when consuming fish and other seafood. So do think twice before buying synthetics and/or seafood.

 

Natural fibers, like cotton, silk, wool, linen, and hemp are complete opposites from synthetic fibers. They might not be as durable – meaning they are biodegradable. They are the most comfortable to your skin and each previously mentioned fiber has its own qualities. Wool keeps you warm but isn’t the most ethical nor eco-friendly. If you absolutely must buy it, go for cashmere, merino or Saxxon wool. They are more expensive, but at least they wouldn’t just stay in the closet, because of poor quality or itchiness. Silk is the strongest natural fiber available. It’s light and comfortable, also has excellent insulation properties – warm in winter, cool in summer. Linen/flax and hemp are basically interchangeable. They are your go-to summer fabrics. They decrease body temperature and absorb moisture.  But both hemp and linen wrinkle easily. They are more eco-friendly to produce, even if not organic. Last, but not least – cotton. Cotton is the most used fiber in the fashion industry and rightfully so. It’s cheap, very comfortable, durable, but boy oh boy how devastating to our planet! When buying cotton, always make sure it’s organic. You should watch the movie “The True Cost” (also on Amazon), where they explain everything that’s wrong with cotton, from seed to garment. Read more about it here.

 

Regenerated fibers, like rayon, viscose, modal, and acetate are usually to just walk away from. They are comfortable to the skin because they’re made of cellulose, but that also brings us to massive deforestation. Regenerated fibers have generally the worst quality compared to synthetics and natural fibers, which is the opposite of sustainability. Means that it shortens the lifespan of a product and this is something to really consider while buying clothes.

 

So long story short – synthetic and regenerated fibers are a definite no go. Always prefer natural fibers, but try to make sure they are organic. Recycled materials are also a good option.

By now we have touched two biggest issues regarding sustainability – overconsumption and harmful materials. I believe that if you manage to adopt all the simple things I talked about in this and previous article, you are already making a big step towards being more sustainable! Stay tuned for the next article, where I’m going to talk about how to become fully sustainable in terms of fashion. 

 

Want to learn more about fibers and fabrics? Click to read the following articles:

Sustainable Materials And Fibers – Masterlist and description of all sustainable fibers.

The True Cost Of Conventional Cotton – The difference between organic and conventional cotton.

The True Cost Of Leather Industry – Talks about behind the scenes of the leather industry and environmental impacts.

 

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