choosing sustainable fabrics

Process, Sustainability

Local vs Organic Textiles

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When choosing fabrics you often have to decide between different sustainability criteria. For example: whether a fibre uses more water (cotton),more chemicals in the processing (bamboo), or a locally made fibre (linen)? It is hard to weigh up the environmental impact of your decisions. Is it better to lower the carbon footprint of our fabrics by not shipping them across the globe? And if we just buy local what happens to the communities in other countries who rely on textile manufacture?

I often struggle with the decision between Organic vs Locally produced textiles. I strongly believe in the certification of textiles and I hope that one day there will be a more universal certification process whereby we can trust that our fabrics are made in an ethical and sustainable way. I use GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) certified cotton which means that it meets their strict criteria in terms of pesticides and working conditions. The cotton is grown and woven in India and so it is shipped an enormous distance to the UK and producing a lot of carbon in the process .

The linen I use is made locally here in Scotland and so has a much lower carbon footprint in terms of transport, it isn’t certified organic and although I would ideally like to use all GOTS fabrics I think that the benefits of using a locally produced linen outweigh certification. Linen is generally grown without the use of pesticides and most of the flax is produced in Europe, it uses less water than cotton and lasts much longer due to the strength of the fibres.

These decisions are personal to each designer and I believe that there should be choice, the important thing to me is that producers and retailers of fabrics are transparent when it comes to information. There is a whole lot of green wash surrounding textiles and we are constantly sold the new ‘eco-fibre’ that is going to save the planet without fully understanding the whole picture.

I question these decisions all the time in my design process and I review them constantly. I would be interested to hear from other designers about this decision making process when it comes to materials? What is more important to you? Are you let by your customers and what they choose?

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*Image is a wood block print using Scottish Linen (https://www.scottishlinen.com)