Constance Jablonski by Nick Dorey for Twin Magazine

Constance Jablonski by Nick Dorey for Twin Magazine

Conventional / Non-Organic Cotton

Characteristics
Soft, good absorbency, print well, machine-washable, strong, color retention, shrink, biodegradable.

Main Suppliers
China, India, United States

Manufacturing
Genetically modified (GMO) fiber is harvested, cleaned and separated from the plant seed by machines. Conventional cotton stands for about 50 percent of the world’s fiber production and roughly 25 million tonnes are produced each year.

Environmental impact - High!
Conventional cotton need fungicides, insecticides, herbicides and other scary pesticides and fertilizers to intense the production process. It take up 3 percent of the world’s arable land, which is highly damageable for biodiversity. Demand huge amounts of fresh water, i.e one cotton t-shirt demands nearly 20 000 litres.

The fiber cause severe health impacts on workers in the field and on ecosystems that receive excess doses of the agricultural chemicals that leak from farms. And requires chemicals, water, and energy to prepare and dye the final cotton fabric.

 


Organic cotton

Characteristics
Same as conventional cotton

Main Suppliers
Turkey, Syria, Tanzania, Brazil

Manufacturing
The crop is grown with natural compost instead of chemical pesticides and fertilizers. Weeds are removed with innovative machinery or hand labor. More time consuming, don’t deliver as much and demand more skill than conventional cotton.  

Environmental impact - Relatively low
Don’t completely reduce the need for water, but better than conventional cotton.  The absence of toxic chemicals make work considerably more safe for labourers.  The final organic fabric may be dyed using heavy metals and toxic substances. Look for products certified by the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), which requires the use of certified organic cotton manufactured according to low-impact processes.

Source: Céline

Source: Céline


Maartje Verhoef by Lachlan Bailey for WSJ March 2015

Maartje Verhoef by Lachlan Bailey for WSJ March 2015

linen & hemp

Characteristics
Same as conventional cotton

Main Suppliers
Turkey, Syria, Tanzania, Brazil

Manufacturing
The crop is grown with natural compost instead of chemical pesticides and fertilizers. Weeds are removed with innovative machinery or hand labor. More time consuming, don’t deliver as much and demand more skill than conventional cotton.  

Environmental impact - Relatively low
Don’t completely reduce the need for water, but better than conventional cotton.  The absence of toxic chemicals make work considerably more safe for labourers.  The final organic fabric may be dyed using heavy metals and toxic substances. Look for products certified by the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), which requires the use of certified organic cotton manufactured according to low-impact processes.


silk

Characteristics
Strongest natural fiber, high elasticity, drapes beautifully, feels light and breathes, good absorbency, non-conductor of heat similar to wool, not machine-washable, normal shrinkage, recyclable.

Main Supplier
China & India

Manufactured
Protein/ or animal fiber made by the silkworm. The worm feeds on mulberry leaves until it spins a cocoon of silk threads around itself. The cocoons are then boiled, which makes it possible for machines to unravel the silk threads. Since the process is time-consuming as well as complex, the silk fabric tends to be more expensive than other textiles. About 0,15 percent of the world’s fiber production consist of silk.

Environmental impact -  Relatively low
Since the production process creates less waste than any other textile, need minimal chemicals and is recyclable, the textile is regarded as one of the most sustainable materials in the fashion industry. However, the production process is unpleasant since it kills the wild worms alive. Peace Silk however is made from the cocoons of semi-wild and wild worms in India that have emerged from their cocoons naturally. Wild-crafted silk also helps maintain the forest habitat of worm by linking the livelihood of tribal spinners and weavers to the existence of these trees.

 

Source: Alexander McQueen

Source: Alexander McQueen


Natalia Vodianova by jean-Baptiste Mondino for Numéro

Natalia Vodianova by jean-Baptiste Mondino for Numéro

Wool

Characteristics
Strong and durable, good absorbency, naturally fireproof, non-conductor of heat similar to silk, naturally elastic causing rapid wrinkle recovery, preferably not machine-washable, relatively recyclable. Variants such as lambswool, cashmere, mohair, alpaca etc.

Main suppliers
Australia, New Zealand, China, Argentina, Russia

Manufactured
Protein fibers that comes from sheeps, goats, llamas etcetera. Stands for circa 3% of the world’s fiber production

Environmental impact
Conventional wool = High, Organic wool = low
The general production of conventional wool compared to a conventional cotton knit use 228 percent worse chemistry, 249 percent more energy and 8 percent more water. However, it is not nearly as resource-intensive as cotton. On the plus side,  wool last long and requires less washing compared to other textiles.  Organic wool producers use no chemical pesticides or insecticides on their sheep, and follow the same standards set for USDA organic meat, dairy and other animal-fiber products.