We all know the simple changes we can make in order to reduce our consumption of single-use plastics, whether it’s buying a reusable bottle or using metal straws instead of plastic ones. However, when it comes to fashion, dressing sustainably can seem a little more complicated.
Along with cutting out plastics, we can start by being conscious about what we’re consuming and taking steps (however small) as individuals. One thing I was asked after writing a piece on sustainability was which fabrics are the worst for the environment. And believe it or not, it’s not an easy question to answer. You often can’t simply label fibres as “goodies” or “baddies,” but there are a few to avoid.
There are three stages in which an item can prove harmful: First there’s the impact of the raw material, then there’s the process of creating the garment, and finally you need to consider what happens after you’ve used it. “These are the three areas we try to get the consumer to understand and to look at,” Nina Merenzi, founder of The Sustainable Angle, explains. The nonprofit organization teaches brands about sustainable materials and updates them on new advancements via the Future Fabrics Expo event.
One thing Merenzi stressed to me is that not every natural fibre is inherently sustainable: “Silk is natural, so a lot of people think it must be good, but with silk, there’s a processing problem, as it needs a lot of heat and chemicals. Just because it’s natural doesn’t mean the industrial silk factories are good.”
My afternoon at the Future Fabrics Expo made me realise just how complicated and nuanced this subject is. However, we can simplify it by looking for certain things on clothing labels. Keep scrolling for the fabrics that Merenzi suggests you avoid—and her sustainable alternatives.