SUSTAINABLE, AS A WORD
A tarnished word?
Is the word 'sustainable' now just a trend? How many times do we see an item or a shop stating that they sell 'sustainable' items, only to discover that only a small percentage of their products are environmentally-friendly?! But what is 'sustainable'?
When I first opened A KIND CLOTH, I had the intention of selling 'sustainable' fabrics. But as I quickly discovered, that the word can vary in many degrees. Where an item is deemed sustainable in one category, it may not be in another. So can it still be classed as sustainable?
Dictionary definitions of 'sustainable':
- able to continue at the same level for a period of time;
- able to be maintained or continued;
- using methods that do not harm the environment so that natural resources are still available in the future;
- causing, or made in a way that causes, little or no damage to the environment and therefore able to continue for a long time.
At A KIND CLOTH, we find fabrics measured on the three principles: environmental, social and economic; ethical practices. Certifications are now in place to eliminate exploitation, looking after the welfare of all, including you, the consumer. For example, Oeko-Tex® Standard 100 is one of the certifications that ensure the fabrics do not contain any harmful substances that could harm you or anyone else. GOTS ensure cotton is organic and no pesticides or other harmful chemicals are used in the growing of the crop or in the manufacturing process. LENZING EcoVero™ ensures that minimal water is used in the production, with any chemicals used being recycled in a closed-loop production.
Organic Cotton: Convention cotton is incredibly water intensive. We tend to source organic cotton where the irrigation of the crop is a lot less, due to the healthy soils, and where the crop is grown in rainfall areas.
The ideal would be to find 100% Recycled Cotton fabrics, but I have found these are currently incredibly difficult to source from mills unless you are buying in huge numbers.
Recycled Polyester: Apart from sewing threads, we tend not to stock Recycled Polyesters. Even though the most sustainable fabric is using what we already have in existence, recycling polyester relies on heavy chemical usage, and is very limited in how many times it can be further recycled if at all. It is still a plastic which leeches microplastics when washed. We would rather find and use Recycled Natural Fibres.
Deadstock: Deadstock is leftover fabric from collections in fashion houses. We choose not to stock deadstock fabric, as we do not want to create a demand for it. Fashion houses should be limiting their buying of fabrics with better designs and planning. Deadstock can often be an exploited business as fashion houses class their excess waste, that they are responsible for, as deadstock deemed to be sustainable, when in fact it is not, as it could have been avoided in the first instance. It is not currently a path I wish to go down, and there are many brilliant stores around that do sell genuine deadstock fabrics already.
100% Composition: We tend to find fabrics that are 100% of the single fibre, as this makes the item easier to recycle. If we choose blended compositions, we try to find blended natural fibres such as cotton with linen, or hemp etc. Natural fibres can biodegrade if they cannot be recycled.
Moving forward, I have realised I have a tendency to buy a lot of semi-synthetics such as EcoVero™ and TENCEL™ fibres, as there are many more exciting patterns and prints available, with fluid drape perfect for stylish wardrobes. They have lesser impact to the environment, manufactured in certified factories, and therefore are a much better option than traditional synthetic fibres. This year, I want to concentrate on finding more natural fibres such as linens and hemp varieties which are hardy crops with great properties for long-lasting clothing.
As a business, we're definitely not perfect, but we are trying. We make mistakes but we learn. Maybe using the term 'responsible' is better than 'sustainable'? As humans, we've already learned that we cannot be 100% sustainable, so we have to try to be as sustainable as we can. If there's a better option, then choose better!
The most sustainable option is to use what we already have. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. However, there are times when we do need new. At A KIND CLOTH, though most of the fabrics are virgin materials, we give you the option to choose more responsible options than just another fabric store!
Take a look at our collection of responsible, sustainable dressmaking fabrics here!
In a world where exploitation is rife, can we ever be sustainable?
The planet's natural environment does not need humans to live, but it is man that needs the environment to survive.