What Makes a Shirt?
In the apparel industry fabrics are one of the sole ingredients for creating a garment. So you should have a good idea of what goes into your clothing right? If not it’s okay, you’ll know by the end of this!
Nowadays fast-fashion companies typically use synthetic fabrics (man-made fibers). These are usually cheaper but have a huge carbon footprint. Some examples that you may be familiar with are Spandex, Nylon, and Polyester.
Synthetic fibers usually take more than 20 years to decompose and some do not compost at all into our environment. Let's take a closer look at some of these fibres;
A common fabric that you sleep with is Polyester, usually found in sheets, pants, and tops. Polyester is made from plastic and can take up to 200 years to completely decompose. So, those polyester pants that you may have thrown away 10 years ago, will still be decomposing right now.
Nylon is currently found in almost all swimwear. What you may not know is that, it's made up of crude oil! This can take up to 40 years to compost into our soil. Nylon is harder to avoid, however there are not a ton of organic swimwear alternatives. Brands that do offer Nylon free swimwear include Everlane and Andie.
Natural fibers are usually 100% biodegradable and take anywhere from 1 week to 5 years to decompose. Some fibers you are probably familiar with are denim, wool, linen, and hemp.
Linen is trending right now in the fashion industry. However, a lot of brands like Target sell false linen apparel and at a closer look, this cheaper linen blend is often composed of synthetic fibers. Many slow fashion brands are however using the real deal. Linen usually composts in about 2 weeks and is one of the more sustainable fabrics.
Denim is found in every pair of jeans that you own and composts in about 2-3 years. But in order for denim to do this, it cannot be heavily processed. This would mean your pair of jeans cannot be distressed or ripped and they cannot have color variations either! So your pink pair of denim jeans wouldn’t count. There are a lot of brands out there that do offer sustainable denim, Everlane is a big supporter of this.
What Can You Do as a Consumer?
There are so many different fabrics in the world to choose from, and choosing the right one can be hard. Here are some simple steps to help guide you.
Step 1: Look at the fabric tag, this will tell you what the fabric is made of. The wash tag is like the ingredients list of your favorite candy bar.
Step 2: If possible, look for organic fibres. A lot of synthetic fabrics will be in blends but it is possible to find purely natural fibres such as 100% cotton or 100% linen.
Step 3: Mindfully purchase the garment. Do you need this shirt or dress? Do you think all of the extra steps that went into this garment are worth the impact you’ll be creating as a consumer? Being a conscious consumer, means being mindful of these questions as we shop.
We hope this provides some insight into the different fabrics that are used in everyday clothing. There are too many fabrics for companies to choose from, especially synthetic fabrics. But as the consumer, through understanding what goes into our clothing and being mindful of each purchase, we can mould the apparel industry into having a much bigger sustainable impact.