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Peak textiles - Feb 22

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Prince Charles Tells Us to Get Woolly Again

Bonnie Alter, Treehugger
Prince Charles has a new project. He is pushing wool as a fashionable and eco-friendly fabric for clothes. That may seem odd as many of us wear wool sweaters as a matter of course. But it turns out that's not quite the case. With the trend for throwaway instant fashion, cheap and synthetic fabrics have taken over the market.

People are looking up-market to cashmere now and wool is perceived as not so desirable. Some think that it is too bulky, too itchy, and too hard to wash. Time for an image change and who better than the Prince of Wales who himself has received the award of World's Best-Dressed Man by the British edition of Esquire magazine.

Wool is a wonder fabric and is so environmental. It has been around since the Stone Ages. It is a sustainable, natural product and its production involves lower carbon emissions than man-made fibres. It is a natural insulator and is naturally fire retardant and is completely biodegradable. And it retains warmth and is recyclable.

With the serious decline in the usage of wool, sheep farmers are suffering and so is the wool industry
(18 February 2010)



Farmer changes to whiter Lleyn sheep to get better price for wool

Valerie Elliot, Times
Most sheep farmers rear for meat, but Malcom Corbett, 58, who keeps a flock of 750 in the Redesdale valley near Otterburn, Northumberland, is also keen to get the best possible price for his wool.

He has therefore changed the breed of sheep he keeps from the traditional Scottish Blackface that is popular in the uplands to a white-faced, white-fleeced breed from the Lleyn Peninsula in North Wales.

The whitest wools achieve the highest prices because they can be dyed, whereas the black and grey fleeces from hardy hill sheep are coarse and too dark to dye, so fetch very low prices.

Despite his enthusiasm for the Lleyns, his last cheque was just £600, £1 for each fleece, while the average cost of shearing a sheep can be as much as £1.40...
(25 Jan 2010)



US Consumer Watchdog Says Shoo to Bamboo Textiles

Warren McLaren, treehugger
Last week the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) advised it had sent out letters to 78 US retailers advising them to stop labelling clothing as being made from 'bamboo.' Any company that fails to correct its advertising and labeling may find the FTC imposing penalties of up to $16,000 per violation, or as the FTC did last year suing four companies for falsely claiming that their clothing and other textile products were made of bamboo fibre. The Federal Trade Commission believe such claims are deceptive.

Not Bamboo, But Rayon
The FTC contend that the fabric are in fact 'Rayon', a textile made from reconstituted cellulose fibres. There is no official textile classification for Bamboo. In a statement entitled "Have You Been Bamboozled by Bamboo Fabrics?" the FTC, USA's consumer protection agency, state that rayon production use "toxic chemicals in a process that releases pollutants into the air." Going on to say, "Extracting bamboo fibers is expensive and time-consuming, and textiles made just from bamboo fiber don't feel silky smooth.

Confused Eco Shoppers
Even the FTC acknowledge that bamboo "stands out for its ability to grow quickly with little or no need for pesticides," but it doesn't want environmentally conscious shoppers to think they are getting an environmentally blameless product when they buy soft bamboo textiles.

And seems that they may have their work cut out for them turning this confusion around. A 2008 consumer environment survey (PDF) asked consumers to rank fibres by whether they were safe or harmful for the environment. Consumers rated bamboo second for environmental safety, just under cotton, apparently oblivious that bamboo was in essence rayon, which they attributed to near the bottom of the list

Obviously the bamboo textile industry has been good at its marketing. And Treehugger has, at times, been complicit in spreading this erroneous message around the place...
(9 February 2010)



Fashion Week Launches, What does green fashion really mean?

Ashwin Seshagiri, Planet Green
This morning, despite the massive storm that has hit the east coast, red carpets were unveiled, lights were lit, and thousands of iconic designers descended upon New York City for Mercedes Benz Fashion Week. It is a world-renowned event that showcases the latest trends, designs, people, and even materials in the fashion world. As interest in green increases at breakneck speed, that last part has taken on a new level of importance for clothing design.

In fact, some of the most vocal environmental activists in popular culture focus their efforts on what's happening in fashion. Even celebrities have thrown their hats into the green ring. Jason Mraz, for example, made a splash at the recent Grammys by showing up in a suit made from recycled plastic.

Fashion Week has taken significant strides to addressing sustainability at the event too, announcing earlier this month that it will be carbon neutral, showing how seriously it sees the issue as well.

But all this seems to be talking around what's really at the heart of greening the fashion industry: what does sustainable fashion mean?

What is sustainable fashion?
There was a really interesting article about in the Financial Times recently, of all places, which wondered the exact same thing. Is it about using only organic materials? But then we get into the tricky world of what organic means.

The writer of the Financial Times article talked about pre-organic clothes for instance. When most of us hear the term pre-organic, we can probably imagine happy sheep strolling through lush pastures with babbling brooks and chirping birds--wool that comes from a place untouched by the hands of toxic chemicals and substances. In fact, points out the writer, pre-organic means a material like cotton or wool that came from a place that hasn't received organic certification yet, pretty much the exact opposite of what we'd hope to expect.

If not organic, then what?
Upcycling has become an it word in the green world recently. Upcycling is effectively the process of taking old or discarded items and remanufacturing them into completely different products. Jason Mraz's plastic suit from before is a great example of upcycling, or this woman's handbags made from old leather jackets. Events at Fashion Week will even feature some cool new upcycled designs, like Project Runway winner Irina Shabayeva's new collection made out of Tupperware.

...Innovative ideas like upcycling aside, inventor Saul Griffith has a different idea of what sustainability means when it comes to design or fashion or most other things we use or consume. He calls it heirloom design. You've probably heard of the term heirloom somewhere before (my guess is having to do with antiques or tomatoes) --Griffith calls it something that will not only last through your lifetime and into the next generation, but that you also want to keep that long because it's beautiful, functional, and timeless.

It's about maximizing the usefulness of a piece of clothing so that we're not so quick to chuck it away. Sometimes, as Fashion Week looks to showcase the newest and coolest, it's easy to forget about the things that are built to last--and, more importantly, last past next season. Sheena Matheiken, the woman behind The Uniform Project, however does a great job of reminding all of us that it's possible to be fashionable and stylish and wear the same dress every day...
12 Feb 2010

Editorial Notes: Photo credit: flickr/Kris Haamer

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