For FW19 we introduced a new type of fabric to our line; Repreve 100% Recycled Polyester!
The use of polyester in a sustainable fashion brand is a tricky one. But I gave this one a lot of thought and wanted to share my decision process with you. I will not pretend that recycled polyester is the best thing for the planet. However, the decision to work with it comes from a place of making the best of what materials exist in the world and hopefully we come to a point where we have no new plastic/polyester.
Ok! so if you do not know what polyester is made from, it's essentially plastic. Plastic that has been processed into small fibres and into yarns and into fabrics. It's not the best user experience because, as you can imagine, plastic does not breathe. So you may notice that when you wear polyester you get more clammy and sweaty.
Let's loop back for a second.
One of my struggles with fall/winter collections is always how to make clothing with natural/vegan fibres to be warm! Now, living in Montreal this is a serious question because it gets cold! The coldest would be about -30 degrees! The typical colder weather materials are things like wool, cashmere, alpaca - all of which come from animals and are done in cruel ways, harming the animals. So as a vegan and sustainable brand, the options for keeping warm while not hurting animals or the planet is a little harder.
This season I decided to try using Fleece to combat the colder weather. I had never worked with fleece so I didn't know what to expect.
My supplier had some Hemp and Organic Cotton Fleece, as well as this Repreve 100% Recycled Polyester Fleece.
Now, when selecting a new fabric I definitely consider the fibre content but I also consider the wearability and longevity of the fabric. Since I want you to wear your clothes for YEARS and YEARS and then pass them down to other people for them to wear for YEARS. I need the fabric to be able to stay pretty and strong throughout that time. I do something called a pilling test (pilling is when the fabric makes those little balls on the surface of the fabrics - caused by abrasion and wear) I rub two parts of the fabric together really fast and hard. (PRO-TIP when shopping in a store you can do this to the garment to check for yourself!)
After doing the pilling test to the Hemp and Organic Cotton Fleece I noticed A LOT of pilling and even though I really wanted to use those fibres more than the recycled polyester, the longevity of the fabric was just not there. Especially if I am making sweaters where your arms will be rubbing against the body. So, I chose to use the Recycled Polyester.
Now let's talk about the sustainability of Recycled Polyester!
So this specific fabric is made using Repreve Recycled Polyester. Now they have a really great, easy to understand website, so I encourage you to go check it out and learn about their process! www.repreve.com.
Our planet currently has a huge problem with plastic. We have been creating new plastic and not recycling/reusing it properly and it has just spread around our planet and invaded our wildlife in the worst ways. It is not realistic to say we can just not use plastic. At this point we have SO much plastic existing in our world. In my personal opinion and what seems the most logical to me when it comes to sustainability, is that we need to reuse and repurpose the existing plastic (and other materials) we already have on the planet. STOP making new plastic and just recycle what we have until we no longer have any plastic at all. And then we can stop because it will all be gone!! Now, this process would (if other people would implement it!) take many many years because there is so much goddamn plastic everywhere.
SO in other words, I believe the most sustainable options we have are to reuse the materials that already exist in the world instead of making new ones - do we agree?
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, right?
As for the aforementioned clammy and sweaty side effects of wearing polyester, this is what my thought process is: The garments I made using this fabric are sweaters, to be worn on top of other garments. So, in my mind you will always be wearing something underneath, so one of our Tencel tank tops or hemp/organic cotton tops/t-shirts or dresses. Obviously it will get hot in the Recycled Fleece items (which is the point - I want to keep you warm!) but to protect your skin, make sure to always wear something underneath that will help absorb some of that heat.
There is the remaining issue of micro plastics. If you don't know what micro plastics are, they are basically teeny tiny pieces of plastic that shed from polyester garments (recycled or not) when you wash them. Everything from your leggings, sports bras, t-shirts, and yes sweaters. These micro plastics then end up in our water sources. Its biggest effects have been found in the ocean, ending up in the bellies of ocean animals. Obviously this is NOT ok and there are ways you can help reduce the harm being done to our planet. One way is to now own, therefore clean anything made from plastic.. which to me, honestly is kind of unrealistic... my best sports clothes are made from recycled plastic (thanks, Girlfriend Collective!) At this point in our history almost everything - even good - has negative effects on our planet. Unless you are able to fully live off reusing already existing things and not buy anything new or anything packaged and eat off your own personal farm using sustainable irrigation practices. And to be honest I don't think anyone living in a modern town or city is able to actually do that. So my opinion is that we need to weigh out our consequences and figure out what seems the best with the smallest amount of negative effects. One way to help ease the effects of micro plastics in your laundry is a Guppy Bag! It's essentially a bag that you put your plastic garments in while washing and it acts like a filter for the micro plastics - catching them so that they do not end up where they don't belong.