Be a (Eco) Material Girl

Get to know all about eco fabrics that are tailor-made to keep you stylishly gorgeous and green in this new year

Issue: Feb 2015

Go green with environmentally friendly fabric and stay sustainably stylish
Go green with environmentally friendly fabric and stay sustainably stylish

Be green, live green and now, dress green. One of sustainability’s latest and sexiest incarnations is sustainable fashion or eco fashion. Simply put, it is clothes made by using environmentally and socially responsible sources and production methods.

One of the pillars of sustainable fashion is, of course, the eco fabrics used. The main bulk of eco fabric comes from natural fibres grown in controlled settings sans pesticides, herbicides, chemicals or synthetic fertilizers; and produced with a reduced carbon, energy and pollution impact as well as less waste compared to their standard counterparts. Many, like cloths from bamboo or wood, are also made from renewable sources.

Inside gives you the insider’s guide to the most popular eco fabrics.

1. Organic Cotton

Although it is a natural fibre, cotton itself is not very eco-friendly as it is grown using a lot of insecticides, pesticides and water.
Although it is a natural fibre, cotton itself is not very eco-friendly as it is grown using a lot of insecticides, pesticides and water; thus green advocates make a distinction between regular cotton and organic cotton which is grown without harmful chemicals

What is it?

Cotton grown without harmful chemicals.

Why it’s eco-friendly

Cotton is a natural fibre but one that is grown at a great expense to the environment. Nearly a quarter of insecticides and 10 per cent of pesticides used in the world are for cotton growing. To grow enough cotton for one t-shirt requires 257 gallons of water and a third of a pound of chemicals.

So, cotton grown eschewing traditional methods (organic cotton) is a bonus to the Earth.

Why it’s good for you

Apart from the fact that chemicals are bad for the Earth and harmful to the farmers who use them (according to the World Health Organisation, up to 20,000 deaths each year are caused by pesticide poisoning in developing countries), residual chemicals in the fibre can hurt you as well. They can irritate the skin, cause rashes and even headaches and dizziness.

Where to find it?

Lemongrass House Singapore has fisherman's pants, Batik shirts and cotton robes made with organic cotton for both children and adults
Lemongrass House Singapore has fisherman’s pants, Batik shirts and cotton robes made with organic cotton for both children and adults; H&M is the biggest user of organic cotton in the world
Photo credit: Lemongrass House Singapore and H&M
Started with its line of baby clothes in 1999, today MUJI has organic cotton shirts for both men and women as well as organic cotton denim pants
Started with its line of baby clothes in 1999, today MUJI has organic cotton shirts for both men and women as well as organic cotton denim pants
Photo credit: MUJI

2. Hemp

Hemp is a natural fibre that is favoured as an eco fabric because it yields more fibre per square metre compared to other plants
Hemp is a natural fibre that is favoured as an eco fabric because it yields more fibre per square metre compared to other plants, requires no chemicals to grow and is highly versatile

What is it?

Hemp is a herbaceous plant belonging to the cannabis sativa species.

Organic hemp is hemp that is grown without chemical pesticides and fertilizers.

Why it’s eco-friendly

It yields more fibre per square metre compared to any other plant, requires no chemicals to grow, is a high-yield crop that can be cultivated in just 100 days, requires little water and crowds out weeds so it improves the soil it is grown in.

Why it’s good for you

Hemp is highly versatile. Its tensile strength is eight times that of cotton so it can be made into sturdy ropes. But it can also be woven into soft fabrics that feel like linen or flannel. Plus, the material softens with age. It is also hypoallergenic and does not irritate sensitive skin.

Where to find it?

H&M's line of organic hemp clothes is not only stylish but super comfortable
H&M’s line of organic hemp clothes is not only stylish but super comfortable
Photo credit: H&M

3. Linen

Linen is made from flax, a crop that requires very little pesticides to flourish
Linen is made from flax, a crop that requires very little pesticides to flourish

What is it?

True linen is made from flax, a crop that requires very little pesticides to flourish.

Why it’s eco-friendly

Besides being grown chemical-free, linen is also 100 per cent biodegradable. Its production requires five to 20 times less water and energy compared to other fabrics. Linen does not dirty easily and so needs less detergent, water and energy to clean.

Why it’s good for you

Linen is twice as durable as cotton so you know your clothes will last. It drapes well and softens with age without weakening the fabric. In cool weather, it retains body heat; in hot weather, it absorbs up to 20 per cent of its own weight in moisture so you are always comfortable.

Where to find it?

H&M also has organic linen suits for men made from plants grown without chemical pesticides or fertilizers
H&M also has organic linen suits for men made from plants grown without chemical pesticides or fertilizers
Photo credit: H&M

4. Silk

Silk is a natural fibre that is eco friendly as silk cannot be produced with chemicals
Silk is a natural fibre that is eco friendly as it cannot be produced with chemicals since silk worms are sensitive to chemicals and will not develop unless the leaves are pristine

What is it?

A natural protein fibre produced by silk worms.

Why it’s eco-friendly

As a natural fibre, it does not require chemicals to process. In fact, silk cannot be produced with chemicals because silk worms are sensitive to chemicals and will not develop unless the leaves are pristine.

Organic silk comes from silk worms living in organically grown mulberry trees.

Why it’s good for you

Silk is soft and comfortable to wear. But its smoothness has functional benefits as well – it repels dirt. Silk is also an all-weather cloth, keeping you warm in cool weather and cool in warm ones. It is highly absorbent and can soak up as much as 30 per cent of its weight in moisture without feeling damp, and it dries quickly. Because of its natural protein structure, it is hypoallergenic, too.

Where to find it?

H&M has organic silk outfits that feel great on the skin and are good for the Earth, too
H&M has organic silk outfits that feel great on the skin and are good for the Earth, too
Photo credit: H&M

5. Wool

Wool is a wonderful fabric to wear because it is absorbent and breathes well, leaving you feeling light and airy
Wool is a wonderful fabric to wear because it is absorbent and breathes well, leaving you feeling light and airy

What is it?

Fibre made from sheep’s hair.

Why it’s eco-friendly

Once only worn by grannies and babies, wool is making a comeback because it is entirely natural. Wool is made without chemicals.

Why it’s good for you

Wool is amazingly absorbent, drawing moisture into the core of its fibres and keeping you dry for a longer time. Wool breathes well, too, so it allows for some measure of ventilation even as it insulates.

Where to find it?

H&M uses recycled wool for some of its outfits in its Conscious Fashion line which makes the green cloth even more eco-friendly
H&M uses recycled wool for some of its outfits in its Conscious Fashion line which makes the green cloth even more eco-friendly
Photo credit: asking H&M

6. Lyocell

What is it?

Lyocell is a fabric made from wood pulp.

Why it’s eco-friendly

Because it is made from wood pulp, it is both biodegradable and recyclable. Lyocell also requires less carbon emissions, energy and water to produce than conventional fabrics.

Why it’s good for you

It is naturally wrinkle-free so it is easy to maintain and energy is saved since you won’t need to iron your Lyocell outfits.

Where to find it?

Lyocell is perfect for jerseys, knits and woven fashion garments
Lyocell is perfect for jerseys, knits and woven fashion garments
Photo credit: H&M

7. Bamboo

In the search for sustainable sources of natural fibres, bamboo has become a prime candidate
In the search for sustainable sources of natural fibres, bamboo has become a prime candidate because it can be easily grown without fertilizers and quickly replenished

What is it?

What we used to hang clothes on, sit on (bamboo stools) and discipline children with (remember the dreaded cane?) has been co-opted by the fashion industry to be made into cloth.

Within this category is also organic bamboo. This means that beyond the fact that the bamboo is grown without chemicals, the fabric it is made into is produced without chemicals as well.

Why it’s eco-friendly

It grows easily without fertilizer and can be replenished quickly. It does not require any pesticides either.

Why it’s good for you

It is naturally antibacterial and repels odours so you are healthy and fresh smelling. As an added plus, bamboo is a very soft fabric.

8. Soy Fabric

Soy fabric is cloth made from byproducts from manufacturing soy foods like tofu
Soy fabric is cloth made from byproducts from manufacturing soy foods like tofu

What is it?

Fabric made from byproducts from manufacturing soy foods like tofu.

Why it’s eco-friendly

It is the ultimate in reusing waste and waste reduction.

Why it’s good for you

Soy fabric is super soft, almost like cashmere. They are good for underwear and bras because its long fibres make the cloth soft and silky.

While there is a wide enough range of eco fabric in the market, there is a note of caution, though, as you shop green. Some of the benefits of using eco fabrics are negated by the fact that the dyeing process uses a lot of chemicals or the fabrics are blended with other non-green cloths. Where possible, buy outfits in natural colours, and read the labels at all times. Then you can know for sure that you are being sustainably stylish.

Shop with us:

H&M
2 Orchard Turn
ION Orchard
#B2-28
Singapore 238801
Tel: (65) 6509 8702
www.hm.com/sg
Lemongrass House Singapore
Raffles City Singapore
#03-07A
Singapore 179103
Tel: (65) 6100 0309
www.lemongrasshouse.com.sg
Lemongrass House Singapore
4 Tampines Central 5
Tampines Mall
#03-08
Singapore 529510
Tel: (65) 6100 0113
www.lemongrasshouse.com.sg
MUJI
200 Victoria Street
#03-10F
Bugis Junction
Singapore 188021
Tel: (65) 6336 7885
www.muji.com/sg/
MUJI
2 Orchard Turn
#B4-16
ION Orchard
Singapore 238801
Tel: (65) 6509 9321
www.muji.com/sg/
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