Sustainable fabrics – what we’ve learned so far

So, in an earlier blogpost we wrote about two types of fabrics that could be considered sustainable: fabrics that are made (entirely) from recycled (plastic) fibres and fabrics that are made from natural fibres, like wood pulp or bamboo.

In the mean time, we’ve been up to a lot! Not only have we registered at the chamber of commerce, we also opened a bank account and contacted several potential suppliers for sustainable fabrics.

We received some samples from fabrics made out of rPET (using recycled plastic, partially recovered from oceans).

One of the challenges we face as a sustainable start-up, is the minimum order quantity. Our plan is to gradually build up our business and not create a large stock – both from a risk perspective and a sustainable perspective. At this point we’re still developing our garment designs and patterns, and in order to create high-quality active gear, we’re also keen on creating samples, testing them and perfecting them before going into production.

#deadstock

That’s why, in order to be able to produce some samples of our first garments, we’ve been looking for other options. We found a possible solution in so-called deadstock fabrics. These fabrics have already been produced, but have never made it to the store or customer. In a way, we could see this as being sustainable, because it’s already there, so no new resources have to be used. On the other hand, we don’t always know how sustainably or ethically these fabrics have been produced, or if they’re not simply the result of overproduction.

Fortunately, we found a small amount of a great organic cotton fabric that we can use to create a sample of our first garment. That way, we know the production process has been sustainable. Now we can first decide on the right fit and pattern, before taking our next steps into sales and production.

Finding sustainable fabrics

It’s our dream to create 100% circular sportswear. To get there, we’ll need to learn a lot about the whole process from idea to end product. In this blog series we’d like you to join us in our journey towards this goal.

Our idea is to start with leggings, sports bras, and unisex t-shirts and hoodies. Organic cotton seems to be the obvious choice when it comes to producing the hoodies. But for the other products, it’s a bit more complicated.

We want our products to be sustainable (and ideally circular), but quality and comfort are equally as important. That means the textiles we’ll use need to meet our standards in terms of sustainability, but also functionality: it should be elastic, breathable, resistant and durable. Our first research currently points in two directions: Econyl® and Tencel™.

Econyl®: regenerated nylon

The Italian company Aquail produces Econyl®by recovering nylon waste, such as fishing nets that can no longer be used, or textile production scraps normally destined for disposal, and transforming it into a new yarn, having the same characteristics as nylon made of virgin raw material.”

Tencel™: cellulosic fibres of botanic origin

Tencel™ states on their website that their textiles (lyocell and modal) are “produced from sustainably sourced wood by environmentally responsible processes.”

The textiles seem to be very suitable for active wear:

TENCEL™ cellulosic fibers are naturally structured to manage the transportation of moisture. Submicroscopic canals between the microscopic fibrils of cellulose fibers regulate the absorption and release of moisture, which contribute to your performance of physical activity by keeping your body pleasantly cool and dry.” https://www.tencel.com/active

Recycled nylon versus naturally structured fibres

From what we know now, both textiles seem to have their pro’s and con’s. Econyl® seems to be closest to circular, as it’s produced from regenerated nylon and textile production scraps. But it’s still a plastic based fibre. In the end, do we want to keep this in our system?

Tencel™ on the other hand is produced sustainably from natural fibres, but requires the use of new natural resources – all be it from FSC certified forests. Do we want to keep using virgin resources to produce new products?

What’s next?

Obviously we’d like to see, feel and experience the materials ourselves and discuss possibilities with the manufacturers. Still, there might be a whole world of other innovative fabrics out there that we don’t know of!

Please leave us any advice below, or contact us!