Fabric with meaning…

So in June, I was strolling in Southern Florida; and being from Baltimore, MD, of course I am in awe of the height of coconut palm trees. But until now, did I understand the magnitude. Why am I talking about fruit and trees?

Well… Its been awhile since I gave some love to the world of sustainable fashion.


Earlier this week I caught the Ethical Fashion Forum webinar of their annual showcase of what’s happening in sustainable sourcing and showcase of their suppliers.

***All images are from Ethical Fashion forum, just took pics during the presentation, see offical (and better) slides on their website! ***



Part 1: Fabrics and Fibers

Clare Lissaman, director of product and impact, did a wonderful of maintaining the flow of the webinar, and keeping our interest peaked!

So why is a webinar on fabric and fibers important? All fabric starts with fibers.


So apparently we consume 25% more fiber than 25 years ago and the increase in polyester is a direct correlation between the increase in fast fashion. Totally makes sense!

3 Major Trends

#1 Innovation from nature

We mostly use cotton. Cellulosics (ie rayon). Recent technology has figured out how to make fiber from dead silkworms, What da?!? And don’t throw your fruit away… in Italy and Sicily, cellulose fibers are being drawn from actual Oranges!

And in the Phillipines, a new use for the pineapple after the harvest, a leather alternative? Yes, its called Pinatex!  Sustainable in so many ways, for instance, allows those Phillipino farmers in that region to supplement their income. And don’t forget the role of bananas and coconuts in textiles!

Continuing on the leather alternative vibe, Cork is now being used!

#2 Technology

Love that distressed denim style? Well the amount of sandblasting required to make that look causes “stress” on the factory workers lungs, and the environment.  So one company found a way to print on that faded and holey look!

Georgia Institute of technology has invented an ingenious way to use clothing to harness electricity from solar power and movement!

#3 Provenance

There is a heavy focus on millenials and millenials-at-heart (like me,lol).  Its pretty clear that authenticity is critical.  Consumers are now holding the corporations to be more responsible. Important aspects of provenance include: the artisans’ creative ways of making their handwork/handmilling fit in the 21st century without losing their heritage; recycling fiber (i.e. taking waste from the sea and turning it into yarn); innovation like growing leather; and of course upcycling!

Source Founding Partners

So at this time the mic was turned to Christopher Stokes of Global Organic Textile Standard. I learned soooo much here! The GOTS is about organic fiber not only farm-grown but the whole of the processing to actual clothes made.

img_0852Although the materials may be 95% organic fiber & 70% organic (cellulose); the chemicals required to extract the fiber, sometimes makes it not organic.  So a high level of environmental criteria is needed through the whole supply chain.

For instance, requiring monitoring of water use, control of energy use and require effective waste of water. There must be compliance with social criteria i.e. no child or forced labor. They have found having 3rd party verification increase consumer trust and prevents “green wash” (a new term I just learned!) In fact, you can check out the GOTS website to search a company’s certification. And if you ever thought of who certifies the dyes and chemicals, 409 suppliers of colorants, look no further!  And they are in line with the Greenpeace Detox campaign!


Next, Ms. Lissaman discussed Fairtrade Cotton (UK, US, CAN, NZ, AUS).  Those at the short end (farmers) should get some of the value back and that would cause huge benefits socially.  Together farmers are more empowered.  I learned fairtrade initiative is trying to shift ownership from the retailers to farmers.  Eventually or hopefully rather cotton will come 100% from fairtrade farmers. Now I am for sure, like by far, no expert but she further went into the Fairtrade sourcing program.  So fairtrade cotton goes into spinner but the cotton that comes out but its a mass balance, so it not only benefits farmers, mills but enables the fibers to blended with other cottons & fibers.  Fairtrade Textile Standard: focuses on working conditions, wages, gender equality, environmental protection and worker’s rights. So, so important.

Barkha’s is Based in US but sources from India. Provides full service support!

Lastly, the Source Members, this part of the webinar was run by Qiulae Wong, head of marketing. So I made sort of directory below with links to the companies for designers and smaller brands.

Bebe Cotton Knitted: nice for new designers and smaller brands because they can do small runs; completely vertically integrated

Botanica Tinctoria: work with an innoative dye program in India; closed loop dye system

Ecological Textiles: huge online store; some immediately available; GOTs certified

Fee Uhssi: ethical luxury brand;works with an artist to promote ethnical minority handmade technique

Five P Venture: GOT certified; specializes in denim!

GCHandmade: based in Nepal, huge range; high end luxury; hand spun by Nepalese women

Indigo Handloom: works with 500 weavers in rural india; creates 9x moe jobs as machine woven; for every one weaver 55 people are helped

Kassim Denim: based in pakistan

Lanificio Paoletti: focuses lambwool on tweed; based in Italy since 1795; local wool made from ‘alpago’ sheep

Mehera Shaw: based in india, specialist in block printing; members of fairtrade

Nature’s fabrics: based in the US; can buy from the US

Ruaab Sewa: Artisans are actually shareholders; able to stay at home and take care of their kids

The Sustainable Angle: organized the Future Fabrics Expo

So as part of my quest of advocating for fashion through the written word, it’s important to learn and spread the word on ethical fashion. Hope you enjoyed!


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