Eco-fabrics are touted as being sustainable, strong and the way of the future, but do they have a longer shelf life than non eco-fabrics?
I caught up with seven amazing designers who responded to the question:
Do you think it’s truth or myth that eco-fabrics will last longer than traditional fabrics?
It is myth to believe that we can answer questions of sustainability by placing eco and traditional products into one basket and weighing them. Like people, not all eco-fabrics, or products, are created equal. At the heart of the myth is our desire for an easy answer and, unfortunately, there is no easy answer to be found.
Our job as designers (and consumers) is to research with diligence and apply the results of our diligence to our products (and purchases), thereby creating the most highly sustainable and durable product available on the market today. Given those parameters and working within those guidelines, it is an absolute truth that our eco-fabrics and products will last longer.
In writing this, I am reminded of one of my all-time favorite quotes from famed American interior designer Sister Parish, “(E)ven the simplest wicker basket can become priceless when it is loved and cared for through the generations of a family.”
These generations will provide an answer to the “truth, or myth,” that we have exercised due diligence as designers today.
I don’t believe that is true. If you are talking about garment production, many eco-companies create better quality clothing via superior sewing. Hence, the garments will last longer because they are made better. But in contrast, many non eco-fabrics are made with synthetics that will actually outlast natural fibers.
I think that it depends on which type of eco-fabric you’re talking about. We ended up using a lot of organic silk and cotton in our line, and although they are the obvious choice since the look and quality match that of treated silks/cottons, I think that the “eco-movement” is too relatively new to have overwhelming evidence either way.
I think what the drive to be eco-friendly has instilled in us is a willingness to look at new technology and fibers that were not originally considered for this market. For instance, 50 years ago you needed to line your garments in fragile silk fabric to be in the designer market, but these days the textile industry has made huge advances to the point where fibers from a recycled soda bottle can be woven into a strong satin fabric that feels great against the skin. All of our woven garments have been lined in this recycled PET satin instead of silk, which will in turn give them a far longer life.
Quite simply, I believe that fabrics such as organic cotton twill are more durable and will last longer. The seeds used in organic farming are chosen for their natural hardiness and resistance to pests. The cotton is made without the heavy uses of chemicals, and it has a sturdier, more natural feel. Not only that, but it feels good and is better for your skin, and has also been made with a higher intention and purpose. So all these factors combined to me present a clear-cut choice. Buying organic cotton is a sweeter and smarter investment, for you and for the earth, and it will continue to inspire and implement greener choices in all areas of life, like a stone gathering moss.
In our opinion there’s a great deal of truth in this. Everything has a life cycle and truly only time can tell. But two key points for people to remember are:
1.) We want to choose fabrics that naturally break down and
2.) We want to look for fabrics that, upon purchase, have had less processing done, which has an impact on the overall quality and life of the item.
Many designers are already using fabrics that are known for durability and long life, such as hemp and others. And, we are consciously researching and wanting to select fabrics that are processed using sustainable methods. We are also looking into lower-impact dyes to minimize the breakdown of conventional fibers. Design decisions like these are all important to the life of our goods.
Consumers play a large role in this, as well. Treatment of the garment matters! Taking proper care of your clothes will help you get lots of extra mileage out of them. Over-washing and certainly dry-cleaning has an impact on the life cycle of any piece of clothing. The way we treat stains, care for and store our garments can add or subtract from the longevity of our clothing.
At M641, we choose to create fashion-forward designs that are also timeless for this very reason. And, really everyone can support their own sustainability efforts by purchasing wardrobe pieces that can be used over multiple seasons. Thus, clothing is less likely to end up in landfills having surpassed ever-changing fads.
We really don’t have the technical experience to answer this question since we do not manufacture “eco-fabric,” however, since we rescue a substantial amount of our goods (and most of those goods were manufactured 20-50 years ago), we can confirm that there is a definitive difference in the quality of fabric.
Premium fabrications, of course, are available today – but at premium prices and in limited quantities. In this regard, our rescues (aka: Doucette Duvall eco-fabrics) surely have a longer (and happier) life.
As a clothing designer using organic cotton in my pieces, I spend a lot of time discussing the importance of organic cotton versus its conventional counterpart. I find that consumers can easily understand how organically-grown cotton, which is free of pesticides and herbicides, can be a healthier decision for not only them, but farmers and their families.
However, I find that there are misconceptions about the durability of clothing made from organic fabrics versus conventional ones. Some consumers feel that the pesticides and chemicals (such as formaldehyde) used in conventionally-made clothing acts as a protective barrier against numerous washings. Therefore, they feel that conventional clothing is more durable.
This statement is simply not true.
Just as we humans can build up our immune systems to fight against disease and make our bodies stronger, organically grown cotton plants can do the same. We hear time and time again that taking medicines such as antibiotics can hinder our body’s ability to fight disease naturally, often needing us to take stronger medications to fight even the smallest of infections. This is exactly what happens with the cotton plant!
Simply stated, when cotton is grown organically, its fibers grow stronger since it has to defend itself against pests naturally. It is also not weakened by chemicals during the growing process. Clothing made from organic cotton can last longer than conventional, making it not only a great value but yet another reason why choosing organics is a much better decision than conventional cotton.