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FASHION

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t might sound like a list of breakfast items, but milk, sugar, bananas and crab shells are, in fact, the future of our wardrobes. A number of seemingly bizarre new textiles made from pre- and post-consumer waste, are being rescued from the rubbish heap, revolutionizing the fashion market. These fabrics are surprisingly soft, comfortable, fashionable, and easy to work with: many boast wonderful properties, such as anti-microbial and breath-ability features. Natural fabrics are generally made from either vegetable or animal sources, such as the hairs of animals, which, like our own, are protein based and in most cases obtained without harming the animal. Fibres like wool, alpaca, and silk are gathered, cleaned, combed and spun into yarns, which can then be woven or knitted into cloth. Vegetable sources are made from cellulose (the chief constituent of most plant tissues). Cotton is derived from the flowers of the plant, however many other plant fibres are derived from the stems and are known as Bast fibres (these include nettle, linen and hemp). These are harvested, softened (either by chemical or manual/mechanical processes) and then spun and woven or knitted into cloth. Cellulose based fibres require varying amounts of water to grow and process, for example, cotton is particularly needy when it comes to soil nutrients and water for processing. Rayon and bamboo are made from a sort of wood pulp, these sometimes also rely on chemicals and high water usage, although new and old methods are all being explored to reduce impact. It’s important to check the labels and swing tags when shopping as these will explain the fabric’s ecocredentials in full, if any exist. The next generation of fashion fabrics explores all kinds of unusual new raw fibre sources; here is our glossary to help you keep up to date. Basho (basho-fu) fabric is made from the spent banana plant, after harvesting the fruit. It has long been favored for summer kimonos in Japan because of its airiness and smooth, crisp surface. Like linen, hemp, ramie, and other “bast fibers” basho-fu does not stick

to the skin in hot weather. Traditionally worn by all to combat the summer heat, basho-fu is now a luxury cloth that is made in the village of Kijoka, on the island of Okinawa. New types of banana fibre cloth are currently being produced by Swicofil in Switzerland. Crabyon™ and Tencel C™ are new fibres made from the chitin in crab shells blended with Rayon. Despite being an animal source, the crab shells are processed in a similar way to Rayon, resulting in a soft fabric made from waste. It is said to be beneficial to sensitive skin due to its anti-bacterial and anti-microbial properties. It is currently commercially available as socks, undergarments and baby wear, but is likely to hit fashion markets very soon. Ingeo™ has been dubbed a “natural synthetic”, often made from corn, but can also be made from almost any naturally occurring sugar, i.e. sugar beets, sugar cane and wheat. In the future, there are hopes to produce Ingeo from agricultural waste and non-food plants. Ingeo will biodegrade, so you can dispose of it in the compost pile, however, when exposed to high heat and moisture, it has been known to break down prematurely. Lenpur™ is another Rayon type fabric made from white fir (pine tree) cellulose. Firs are a soft wood that is quicker to grow than most, and can be farmed fairly densely. The resulting fabric is exceptionally soft to the touch, and said to have thermoregulatory properties. Australian company Levant produce tights made from Lenpur. Milkofil™ is a soft new fibre and fabric made from casein in milk protein. It’s relatively expensive, but feels wonderful, is highly durable with other benefitsit has humectant properties which keep skin moisturised, it is said to improve circulation and is naturally sterile. Rayon, Viscose and Modal, Tencel, Lyocell are all made from plant cellulose but, are by some considered to be man-made as the transformation from vegetable pulp to cloth is often a long one. Newer developments such as Tencel are now made in closed loop systems where the only effluent is clean water.

SIX 38

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