Are they really a sustainable alternative?

Are they really a sustainable alternative?

When we talk about sustainable fabrics, the natural textiles they are the ones that quickly appear in our imagination. We immediately think of cotton or wool, which are the natural fibers par excellence, those used to make most of the garments that we know, from T-shirts, jeans, sweaters and coats. But are they all natural textiles sustainable?

With the rise of fast-fashion and the need to produce the largest quantity of garments in the shortest time and at the lowest possible cost, synthetic textiles were gaining ground, displacing those of natural origin in price and quality. To keep up with the growing demand for garments, natural textiles They were increasingly industrialized, mixing with synthetic fibers to lower costs, thus the famous cotton / polyester or wool / acrylic blends appeared, losing quality and properties along the way. In turn, the processes involved both in cotton crops, such as in the extraction of animal hair or the manufacture of silk, also grew disproportionately, becoming less controlled since more and more water and chemicals were needed to carry them out. , putting in risk the environment.

© Karla Acosta.
Animal and natural resource conservation has been a priority for many luxury brands.

The nobility and quality that characterizes the natural textiles In its purest state, it became a luxury good that knew how to be adopted by different firms to differentiate itself from the massiveness of the fast-fashion. But even so, those fabrics made from natural fibers continue to consume large amounts of natural resources. As the conversations about sustainability advanced, with the appearance of slow fashion As a way of consuming fashion in a more conscious way, the use, processes and consumption of natural textiles were rethought, trying to optimize resources through responsible and ethical practices to recover their quality.

What do we call and what are natural textiles?

The natural textiles are those that are obtained from fibers of natural origin, be it vegetable or animal. The best known and most used fabrics around the world, and since time immemorial, are those manufactured from:

  • Cotton, grown in fields.

  • Wool O animal hair, that are obtained by shearing or haircutting the animal.

  • The silk, that is obtained from the thread produced by a particular species of worms.

  • Flax.

Are all natural textiles sustainable?

Not necessarily. The industrialization of natural textiles and the processes used to manufacture them are far from sustainable. As Emily Chan, sustainability editor at Vogue Global Network, puts it: ‘According to WWD, 2,700 liters of water are needed to make a simple T-shirt, versus 243 liters to make one with organic cotton. In addition to the excessive use of water, cotton plantations are constantly sprayed with pesticides and chemical products to preserve them and ensure their performance, affecting both health and the environment.

The same happens with animals, the higher the demand a natural textile, the greater the amount of animals that are needed, being more those exposed to being exploited for commercial purposes. The vegan movement does not consume or use textiles that come from animals, even if they are natural and have animal care certificates. Today, it is no longer possible to say that a textile is sustainable just because it is of natural origin.

© Getty Images.

What is the importance of quality seals or certifications for natural textiles?

A natural textile is sustainable when its production complies with certain regulations, which are implemented through certifications. Responsible and ethical practices that characterize sustainable fashion, Validated through different quality seals, they are what today give value to textiles and garments. These certificates exist both for the organic cotton even for wool, to ensure from the traceability and quality of the practices used up to the products used during the production processes, ensuring a positive impact on the environment and those who work in it.

To know if a textile is sustainable it is necessary to know, in addition to the fibers that compose it, how are its processes. Today, the best alternative is to choose natural textiles that have been recycled, thus reducing the amount of waste that is discarded.


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