Thursday, July 1, 2010

Sustainable and Ethical Materials to Look Out For

By Kevin S Longworth

New, upcoming and established designers don't necessarily shout about their ethical credentials anymore, probably due to a combination of awareness that the subject bores some people to death or conjures up images of hair shirts and the fact that really, in their eyes, all fashion should be ethical. As a consumer it's worth knowing what to look out for in terms of sustainable and ethical materials so you don't get sucked in by labels claiming to be green.

Sheep's wool is one of nature's most sustainable, durable and comfortable materials and is not only an ethical material in terms of how it is grown, manufactured and refined but also for the fact that it demands to be washed far less often than a lot of other materials and at a lower temperature. Wool has a natural capacity to repel moisture and odours, meaning that unlike cotton it stains less easily and stays fresher for longer.

Linen is a material that has been produced from flax by humans for a long time and it remains a popular choice for mainstream and ethical fashion labels alike, in fact, it would be very difficult to tell the difference between a garment from each based solely on the linen used. The flax crop requires very little human involvement as it grows well and happily without the aid of pesticides and fertilisers and this not only makes it sustainable but also largely organic and therefore better for the environment and for our skin and respiratory systems.

Just like the flax crop from which linen is produced, bamboo requires very little human interruption and grows quickly and easily without the need for chemical enhancements. Ethical clothing brands are pioneers of this hypoallergenic and fast drying material and it is definitely one to keep an eye out for in the coming years.

We all know that a lot of clothes are made from cotton and we're often led to believe that a garment which carries the label 100% cotton is better for us than a man made equivalent but unfortunately, cotton crops often require pesticide treatments because they are prone to disease and pests. It takes a lot more effort to produce organic cotton than not and you'll probably see a slight premium as a result until producing it organically becomes as cost effective and non labour intensive as the non organic version.

So rather than searching for ethical clothing that won't cost the earth (in both senses of the saying), try instead to look for the ingredients label as this will give you an idea of how sustainable, ethical and organic the item really is. So called organic clothing can be misleading so rely on your own research not what the marketing company have manipulated.

There are many ethical mens clothing items now made from fairtrade sourced materials and organic clothing for garments that haven't cost the earth to get to us.

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1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the post! Another great material is alpaca fiber! Check out