Unsustainable fabrics, I would say in plain words are the most harmful fabrics in fashion. These fabrics are fatal not only for the environment but also for human skin. Brands and retailers are selling unsustainable clothing items unhesitantly and we are either negligently or buying them in lack of awareness. We are taking a lot of toxins by using these fabrics in our daily lives and we can stop all this if we are really aware of what we are buying. By spreading this awareness we can stop insane use of toxic fabrics.
I’ve been buying cotton and linen since my teenage years when I actually started shopping for myself (got the habit from my parents). But still I wasn’t so aware of harmful and unsustainable fabrics in fashion, and sometimes I ended up buying them. These unsustainable fabrics are heavily processed with toxic chemicals which are not only Impossible to degrade biologically but also cause skin cancer. While washing, microfibres releases from clothes blow through drainage and stay forever in soil and water which pollutes soil and underground water. And yes, it reaches somehow to us again via our food and daily use products.
Some of us don’t even know what are these fabrics which have been making us and environment so sick since long. For example, what we think of satin is as an alternative of silk but it is a pure synthetic unsustainable polyester which is a processed polymer and actually processed part of crude oil. Which is not biodegradable at all, it can be recycled which is a relief. But we really need to omit such poisons from our lifestyle. For that, we need to know these culprits.
Polyester and Nylon
Polyester is a man-made fiber. It’s very resilient and can withstand a good deal of wear and tear. It fades less and also cheaper but doesn’t mean that its processing is easy and cheap. It goes with a lot of processing with harmful chemicals in order to make it clothing friendly because originally it is a crude form of plastic. Now, how can we take plastic as our clothes, if we are trying to cut plastic use as bags? And also with every wash, polyester clothing looks cheaper and poor for example, a 100% cotton made jeans look new with every wash but if jeans are the polyester mix, it may have elasticity but it loses its fit and shines after 2-3 washes. And if you find any article encouraging polyester, understand without any doubt that they’re just propaganda to create a misconception and promote fast fashion by the fashion industry. Nylon like polyester is a type of plastic derived from crude oil. Producing nylon is a very chemically intensive process that creates nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas that is 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
Rayon is made from plants, but it’s not eco-friendly because of its toxic production and the deforestation associated with it. Viscose is also a semi-natural fibre derived from a bamboo plant which also involves chemical processing as well as the deforestation. So naturally, these fabrics are harmful to people and to the environment.
THE ALTERNATIVE: TENCEL/LYOCELL OR SILK
TENCEL/LYOCELL is more eco-friendly alternative compared to rayon/nylon and also it pollutes less than viscose but involves the same amount of usage of wood pulp. It has a recycling circle which minimises harmful waste going into the environment.
Silk has the lowest making process and also 100% natural which is less harmful to the environment in comparison to other fabrics. It has also sad involving animal cruelty while boiling cocoons in the process of deriving silk out of them. If buying silk look for unbleached or naturally dyed from ethical and sustainable brands.
MOST ORGANIC ALTERNATIVES: COTTON, LINEN, JUTE AND HEMP
India is the largest producer of jute and second largest producer of cotton and silk. It is also a medium of 35 million employment in India. Producing jute, cotton, linen and hemp is natural. And these fabrics are biodegradable and doesn’t cause deforestation or environmental damage. Still, producing 100% organic cotton is a goal in order to avoid pesticides and harmful chemicals. There is a conspiracy going on against natural cotton that it requires a lot of water for irrigation in India where every Indian does not have drinkable water. But it is also the same as the US and other textile industry countries. And every country is making progress with this issue but only speaking against Indian cotton industries is a big sham.
A lot of known textile brands like ZARA, MARK & SPENCER, H&M, RALPH LAUREN, LEVIES etc use Indian cotton.
Linen is made from flax, hemp from marijuana. Jute grows like a plant. Three of these fabrics are 100% biodegradable. Linen and cotton products comparatively a bit more expensive than synthetic products but we can buy them in the lesser amount which a kind of good thing in order to consume less. This is the way we can contribute our part to save the environment and will also encourage ethical fashion.
Wool, cashmere, alpaca, mohair is animal-based sustainable fabrics. Some people categories leather in sustainable fabric but any leather product comes heavily processed which make it difficult to degrade. And also it involves animal cruelty. So, it can be your personal choice to choose or not. I personally avoid using leather products.
Did you reach here? If so, yay and I really appreciate it! I know it’s a lot to digest. What to do in this case? I’m not saying that you throw all polyester, nylon or acrylic from your wardrobe, the goal is to minimise or stop purchasing unsustainable fabrics or products. And I’m not saying that you renew your wardrobe again, but we can make some small efforts which will be a big change together:
- All I’m saying is that if you purchase in future make sure you buy sustainable products. Doesn’t matter the price or the brand.
- Think before you buy things if you actually need them or not.
- Make sure that you buy from the brands who actually sell ethical fashion.
- Use washing bags and eco-friendly detergent. You can also use baking soda to make your unsustainable clothes skin friendly.
- Also, it’s not bad to reuse second-hand items. Thrifting allows you to spend less. There are a lot of thrift online shops like ThreadUp, Etsy, Poshmark, eBay, The Real Real and Vestiaire.