Research by the most relevant international consulting firms indicates that millennials are increasingly aware of the fashion items they choose, how they are manufactured and under what conditions; a growing trend that even the brands that move the needle of mass consumption of fast-fashion cannot ignore.
In this context, “eco-friendly” labels are becoming increasingly popular in a market where organizations are seeking to establish a definitive and genuine partnership with sustainability, traceability and ethical production.
Fashion demands sustainable natural textile fibers .
Within this new scenario, textile production using organic natural fibers is gaining real and persistent momentum. According to a study conducted in 2016 by Textile Exchange among the 71 leading brands, companies are setting ambitious targets for adopting sustainable raw materials. Sixty-one percent of the participating companies have set targets to switch to a more sustainable source of cotton, of which three-quarters are targeting organic cotton.
It is very important to bear in mind that a garment made with a natural fiber, such as ordinary cotton, does not produce a less ecological impact than if it were made with a synthetic fiber. In fact, according to global and well-founded research, conventional cotton is one of the most polluting raw materials. So, what are the most recommended options? What are their benefits?
Before reading further, I encourage you to immerse yourself in each and every one of the articles we have written about natural, sustainable and organic fibers where you will find information and references from the most prestigious research on new fashion fabrics.
Conventional vs. Organic Cotton
While conventional cotton is one of the most widely used raw materials in the textile industry, it is also one of the most polluting, not only because of the water footprint it represents, but also because of the amount of toxic gases and pesticides involved in its production. In short, this material contributes to erosion and global warming; this, together with the lack of traceability of its production, makes it one of the least ecological and ethical fibers.
However, organic cotton is slowly but surely positioning itself as one of the best sustainable options. According to this report by Well Dressed, organic cotton cultivation represents a 93% reduction in toxic components. This lack of agrochemical inputs translates into benefits for the environment, for farm and factory workers, for people living in nearby towns and for consumers. On the other hand, organic agriculture also means respecting the principles of social equity and the standards of the International Labor Organization.
New possible scenarios
The Well Dressed’ report sets out three new scenarios for change. The first scenario considers the replacement of existing fiber sources by new or traditional alternatives. The second scenario considers direct means to reduce chemical demand with existing materials and processes -through organic cotton farming and substitution with less toxic chemicals. The third scenario considers the implications of potential and innovative “smart features”, such as new coatings that prolong the life of a textile product or reduce the number of times an item of clothing should be washed by increasing its resistance to stains or odors.
Natural Sustainable Fibers
In previous articles we have listed and analyzed examples of natural fibers with a high potential for sustainability and whose cultivation falls within the parameters of ethics and CSR. In order not to repeat the contents, we will only mention five natural fibers that the report considers as essential natural textile fibers, which are new sustainable and replacing alternatives to those currently used by the fashion industry.
Hemp from organic farming
The production of hemp fiber from the Sativa cannabis plant is not new: this material has been found in archaeological remains of more than 8,000 years old. What are its benefits? According to SimplyFabric.com, this crop produces, using the same portion of land, 250% more fiber than cotton; it also requires no pesticides, eliminates weeds without herbicides, controls erosion of the surface layer and produces oxygen. It is a renewable resource that can be grown in as little as a hundred days and is extremely versatile and resilient.
Linen, bamboo and eucalyptus from organic farms
Like hemp, the sustainable cultivation of these products is proposed as a natural eco-friendly alternative to conventional cotton.
Not only do alpacas adapt better to their environment and generate less desertification than other animals, but they also produce a fiber seven times stronger than wool. On the other hand, it is the farmers themselves who collect the fiber and sell it, or even export it, and thus are the first to benefit from the added value of their work, improving their quality of life.
In short, several options of natural and ecological fibers are demanding more prominence in a textile market that demands greater traceability and sustainable production. The objective, in the face of this new scenario, is to make these natural raw materials a competitive option for large chains and global brands to choose for the majority of their products and not just to launch some green lines or models; a strategy that currently makes no sense because the consumer has already deciphered that it focuses more on a marketing initiative than on a real concern for sustainability.