The Problem with Synthetic Fibers
If Shell N Fashion designed and manufactured clothing made mostly from plastic, how many of you would buy clothing from us? Some of you? None of you? Whatever your answers were, I’d be willing to bet every penny in my bank account and then some that the answer is all of you.
Why is that? Because that’s literally what most of you guys are wearing everyday (me included)! Polyester, Nylon and Acrylic are all synthetic fibers that I’m sure you all have heard of, and probably have somewhere in your closet right (Relax- this is a no blame game)?
While everyone has heard of these materials, what a lot of people- unfortunately- don’t know is what they’re made from.
Synthetic, according to the dictionary app on my iphone (if you must know), literally means “not real or genuine; artificial; feigned” aka FAKE. In other words, it’s basically just plastic that’s made from Petroleum. If that’s the case, how long do you think it would take this stuff to biodegrade? Think HUNDREDS if not THOUSANDS of years.
Why should you care?
According to Newsweek in 2016, the number of textiles that Americans toss each year was 14 million tons (I’m sure that’s gone up!). Just how much is that? That’s about 7 millions cars plus all their nasty toxic emissions.
Yes, textile waste is damaging to the environment!
Think of all the dyes, bleach and other random chemicals that go into the fabric when making clothing! When you throw the clothes in a landfill, as they decompose they give off Methane- a greenhouse gas that warms the atmosphere and causes global warming (if you don’t remember your chemistry). NO, Global Warming is not a hoax- if you believe that, please go get educated.
Not only does this affect the atmosphere but the chemicals also soak into the groundwater, and when it gets burned in an incinerator, it goes into the air.
Congrats guys, you’re basically breathing, eating, and drinking contaminants!
So what do we do about it?
Well first off, the next time you fall in love with a piece of well embellished plastic at the mall, think of the 22 BILLION pairs of jeans at the landfill. Or the net equivalence of it anyway according to Angela Chao of Utterly.
That being said, being ethical and sustainable doesn’t mean you shouldn’t shop! Summer is the perfect time to have fun with fashion. With all the weddings, parties, and vacations coming up, who wouldn’t want to invest in a new outfit now and then?
Unfortunately summer doesn’t come without it’s ick factor. I’m SURE I’m not the only one who has struggled to look cute on a date while wearing entirely inappropriate fabric for the heat and humidity. FYI, that the dress ended up drenched in sweat and pit stains and my date ended up covered in my melted make-up. On his white shirt.
BUT we’re not here to talk about the importance of setting spray (which it is!). We’re here to talk about the right summer fabric to stay dry and comfortable while remaining sustainable.
So, without further ado, here are some tips for a sustainable summer wardrobe:
1. Look for natural fiber fabrics– natural fibers are better for our environment and nowadays there are soooo many advances.
Nina Marenzi, for instance, a Londener who runs The Sustainable Angle, which is a non-profit that focuses on ethical fabrics. She stages something called the Future Fabrics Expo every year which incorporates innovative textiles with lower environmental footprints.
I know that’s a lot of tech talk but think apple and orange pulp being processed to make vegan leather. It’s 2020 guys. If Cinderella’s pumpkin could turn into a carriage, it sure as heck can turn into a dress. (Before you go around doubting my fashion sense, there’s such a thing called dye).
While finding Apple leather may not be so easy right now, you do have some other great accessible options.
Tencel– this fabric described as SOFT and DRAPEY is actually a form of lyocell (I know, I know- here I go again with all these weird terms).
This basically means that this is a form of fabric made out of wood chips. WOOD CHIPS! Isn’t that crazy?? The wood chips are mixed with a solvent that basically forms pulp and… alright I won’t bore you with the details but long story short, the wood chips turn into soft, feminine, eco-friendly fabric.
Better than wearing plastic right?
Organic Cotton or Cotton- if you’ve never heard of cotton, you’ve been living under a rock. Or in a hole. Somewhere without fabric obviously. Cotton is fantastic! It’s soft, breathable, great in the heat, and more importantly ALL NATURAL. Aka it doesn’t have to go through some crazy chemical process to change it into fabric. If you want to take it a step further though invest in some ORGANIC cotton.
What’s the difference?
It’s not grown using all those pesticides so you don’t have to worry that some poor farmer is getting cancer to provide you with clothes (Sorry- I’m blessed with bluntness).
The best part? Linen is made out of flax plants so it’s all natural and EXTREMELY biodegradable. Just go to any vegan bakery and you’ll find some health nut munching on a flaxseed muffin.
You eat it so why not wear it?!
Silk– This queen of all fabrics is a protein fiber that’s woven by insect larvae (yuck). As much as I hate bugs, you just can’t knock silk. It’s soft, classic, anti-bacterial, and flame retardent. Need I go on?
And to the critter lovers who don’t want the silkworms to die, they have no-kill companies too.
Let me introduce you to marijuana’s “sober cousin”.
This fabric is great for winter and summer, PLUS it provides UV ray protection! The texture of the cloth is similar to that of linen and another cool tidbit- it gives back 60-70% of the nutrients it takes from the soil.
Being the “sober cousin”, doesn’t make it the boring cousin.
Deadlock fabric- cut waste; aka 20% of the fabric that fashion brands use are scrap material that end up in landfills and have never been used (Talk about WASTEFUL!)
2. Find something you’ll be happy to rewear for future occasions.
I can’t be the only one whose fallen in love with a dress or outfit at first sight only to leave it collecting dust in my closet. Buy clothes that last. Think as deeply about that next outfit as you would your next tattoo. I don’t know about y’all but I don’t go around tattooing just anything on my body. I better be darn sure I’ll love it for eternity first!
3. Second-hand local thrift shops, clothing swaps, or thredup. Thrifting is in and it’s environmentally friendly. If you want evidence, you literally just have to type thrifting in on youtube. And as a bonus, you don’t even have to leave your house anymore! Thrift online! Or BETTER, get a bottle of cab, a cheese platter and host a clothing swap! Free clothes and wine?! Are you really hesitating?!
Slow fashion is slowly making a dent but we’re not there yet. It only takes a small step to make a change. Rather than contributing to a wasteful future or (a lack thereof) slow down.
Be slow. Be fashionable.