For a summer that’s on-trend and environmentally responsible, do a wardrobe edit by embracing less polluting, innovative or recycled fabrics. Take your pick!
This is the one summer fabric that is everywhere. And for good reason. It’s always been known that this fabric has all the properties you need in summer. It’s heat- regulating, absorbent, hard-wearing and looks so good! It has you covered while being breathable, provides UV protection without making you feel hot and is pleasant to wear and use, whether for a blouse, trousers, dress or bedsheet… But its advantages don’t stop there. Firstly, this natural fabric is highly environmentally responsible. Its cultivation requires little or no fertiliser or irrigation – rainwater is sufficient – and emits little CO2. Lastly, here in France we can say that our country is the world’s leading linen producer! The plains of Normandy are particularly suitable for it (they are the leading linen-growing area). The downside: while this fibre is everywhere this summer of 2022, this winter’s drought has dampened hopes for the coming year.
It’s one of the most environmentally-friendly fabrics there is. But while hemp is increasingly popular in the textile world, its cultivation is still somewhat hindered by regulations because the hemp plant also yields cannabis. However, its cultivation and processing have very little environmental impact because hemp requires neither irrigation nor fertiliser, and 5 to 10 times less pesticide than cotton. It also helps regenerate the soil. Lastly, its processing into fabric is done mechanically, without using water or solvents, and without generating waste. It is extremely hard-wearing and yields clothes that are a little more rustic than linen ones.
Cotton is one of the most polluting and water-guzzling materials. It accounts for about 2.5% of the world’s cultivated surface area, and due to its naturalness enjoys an eco-responsible reputation. Moreover, it accounts for a quarter of the raw materials used in textiles. And yet, 64% of the cotton grown in the world is genetically modified. Furthermore, after rice and wheat, cotton ranks third in the world on the list of irrigation water-guzzling crops. It takes between 5,000 and 17,000 litres of water to produce 1 kg of cotton. Cotton also requires huge amounts of pesticides. It accounts for 25% of the insecticides, 10% of the herbicides and 4% of the nitrogen- and phosphorus-based fertilisers used in the world, according to the World Health Organisation. Cotton pollutes soils and waterways, and poses a health hazard to workers. So cotton is one of the world’s most polluting crops, and its processing (washing, dyeing, etc.) require the use of chemicals that are sometimes toxic (containing heavy metals, solvents, etc.)
So if you can’t do without cotton, opt for jeans, a T-shirt or dress made of Oeko-Tex or organic cotton with GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standards) certification as a minimum. This vouches for cotton that’s produced without GMOs, pesticides or chemical fertilisers, and not bleached with chlorine. Its production process uses 91% less water than that of standard cotton throughout the production chain. GOTS-certified organic cotton is also less of a health hazard and less toxic for consumers. But the price of it has rocketed by almost 90% over the past year.
It is the Rolls Royce of cottons. Also known as the “silk of the Andes”, this species of cotton endemic to northern Peru is cultivated with little or no pesticide and without fertiliser. As a result, this variety is very rare and account for just 3% of the world’s cotton production. Its fibres are silky and very hardwearing. This is why clothes made from Pima cotton are thin, breathable, hardwearing and extremely pleasant to wear.
Tencel™ or Lyocell
Lyocell, or Tencel™ – which is a registered trademark of the Austrian Lenzing group – is a fibre of natural origin that feels like silk or viscose, but is far less polluting. Being soft, flowing and pleasant on the skin, it is used to make dresses, nighties and T-shirts. Tencel™ is produced from eucalyptus, beech or birch from sustainably-managed forests, processed using non-toxic solvents, and is 97% recyclable.
Ecovero and Refibra are two other environmentally-responsible materials similar to Tencel™, developed and marketed by the same group, which specialises in this type of innovative fabric.
This vegan leather is made from grape must, i.e. all the solid and dry matter (skins, stalks and pips) remaining after the grapes have been pressed or crushed. Once dried and ground into powder, vegetable oil and water-based polyurethane are added to it, yielding a paste that is dyed and then dried again. It was developed and patented by Vegea company of Milan. This summer, it is being used to make vegan espadrilles.
We are already familiar with shoes soles made from recycled PET, from plastic jetsam, from recycled tyres or recycled Latex… This year, to coincide with the French Open, the eco-responsible brand Faguo launched a trainer with a sole made from tennis balls! They come not from the Paris tennis courts, but from tennis clubs in Porto near the brand’s workshops. Instead of being thrown away once they are no longer usable, the tennis balls get recycled. One tennis ball can make three pairs of soles which also contain recycled rubber.
Bioplastics or recycled PET
In summer, what better way to dress than in clothes and accessories made from jetsam, plastic from bottles also fished out of the sea and fishing nets turned into yarn? This helps the circular economy, in keeping with the zero waste philosophy.
So you’ll find sunglasses, and also clothing, swimwear, trainers and kit bags made from these materials.
Several brands – based in major French ports (La Ciotat, Lorient and La Rochelle) – offer stylish bags, clutches and accessories made from cut and recycled sails. These are generally collected from private individuals and then processed, and the bags are made in partnership with organisations helping people into employment.