Are We Really Going to be Wearing Clothes Made from Flax? A Look at the Fabrics of the Future
Much like reading food labels at the grocery store, knowing where and what your clothes are made of is the new norm. In a new study commissioned by Stella McCartney, research giant SCS Global Services was tasked with evaluating the environmental impact of 10 raw materials used in clothing-making. This was also the first study to consider categories like ocean acidification, climate hot spot impacts, forest disturbance, and key species losses (why were these never investigated before?).
Sadly, the results revealed that there’s no unicorn fabric that will save the world, but there are better options than what we’re using now. Of the 10 fibers placed under the microscope, the least detrimental, environmentally-speaking, were Belgian flax (a quick Google search revealed that it’s mostly used in making bed linens) followed by rayon sourced from recycled clothing. Among the worst offenders? Asian production from Canadian Boreal forest pulp.
According to Nicole Rycroft, Executive Director of Canopy (a not-for-profit environmental organization whose clients include H&M and Zara), “this rigorous study provides important new insights into how the choice of fiber source determines the impacts of man-made cellulose fiber on the world’s species, forest ecosystems and freshwater, as well as our global climate and human health. For Canopy, these findings reinforce the need to prioritize and advance commercial-scale production of fabrics made from closed-loop fiber solutions such as agriculture residues and recycled fabrics.”
In other words, the fashion industry needs to take a long hard look at not only bloated landfills, but also the entire chain reaction from beginning to end of the clothing production cycle.
Stella McCartney and the research team have released the full findings in the hopes that other brands will join the sustainable movement. Going forward, McCartney is committed to ensuring that none of her clothing is made in any part from ancient or endangered forest products. And if you didn’t think she was committed enough, the designer shot her Winter 2017 campaign atop mountains of discarded packaging at a recycling plant.
I for one can’t wait to see what her first pair of flax boots look like.