Consumers are beginning to look at their labels…
But do they like what they see?
In today's world, consumers are increasingly aware of the longevity and environmental impact of their favourite pieces, including their knitwear. So, what do you need to know about the fibre behind your next sustainable knitwear collection?
From acrylic to polyester, cotton to yak wool, we'll explore the benefits of each and provide you with the knowledge you need to make informed choices regarding your knitwear.
So, without further ado, let’s get into it.
Firstly, what are natural and synthetic fibres?
Natural fibres are made from natural sources, while synthetic fibres are artificial and often produced in a lab. Natural fibres are generally more expensive, environmentally friendly, comfortable, and durable. Synthetic fibres are cheaper, produced in bulk, and, more often than not, less sustainable.
Synthetic fibres are manufactured fibres produced through chemical processes often using petroleum-based materials or other polymers. These fibres are designed to mimic the characteristics of natural fibres, such as cotton, wool or silk.
Here are some familiar names that you may often spot on your label.
Acrylic is a synthetic fibre that is commonly used to make jumpers. It is made from a polyacrylonitrile polymer derived from coal, air, water, and petroleum. It is often mixed with other fibres like wool or cotton to improve their durability and moisture-wicking properties. Unfortunately, acrylic tends to pill or fuzz over time, and it is not as breathable or moisture-wicking as natural fibres.
Polyester is a synthetic fibre often blended with other fibres to improve durability. It is lightweight, durable, easy to care for, and often used in activewear and sportswear. Polyester is also moisture-wicking, which means it can absorb and release moisture, keeping the wearer dry during physical activity.
In comparison, natural fibres are derived from plants, like cotton or linen, or animals, like wool, cashmere, yak, mohair, and alpaca. They are regenerative, biodegradable, breathable, and comfortable to wear.
But which are the best natural fibres for fashion collections?
Combed from the undercoat of the Cashmere goat, cashmere is soft, warm, and lightweight. It’s lightweight, breathable, and hypoallergenic. Cashmere fibres are finer and softer than wool, making them more delicate and, in turn, more expensive.
The downside? Cashmere is typically on the pricier side, and cashmere goats have been known to cause desertification. So, it might not be the best choice for your next sustainable collection.
You know we can’t write about the best natural fibres without mentioning yak, right?
Yak wool is hand-combed from the underbelly of the yak (a large mammal found in Asia) and was traditionally used for weaving and felting.
Today, yak wool sees no limits. The yak does everything from jumpers to socks to hot water bottles.
The best part is that yak wool takes some of the best qualities of cashmere but is more affordable and sustainable. In particular, yak wool is:
Warm: Yak wool is 30% warmer than cashmere, making it an excellent choice for toasty sweaters.
Soft: Yak wool fibres are soft and fine, which makes them comfortable to wear against the skin. Unlike some other natural fibers like wool or mohair, yak wool is not prickly or itchy because the scales on the fibres are smooth.
Durable: Yak wool fibres are resilient. This means that sweaters made from yak wool can keep their shape very well.
Moisture-wicking: Yak wool is also moisture-wicking, which means it can absorb and release moisture, keeping the wearer dry and comfortable. This makes it a great choice for outdoor activities or sports.
Sustainable: Yak wool naturally molts from the yak every summer, so harvesting it does not hurt the animal and it has low environmental impact compared to synthetic fibres that require significant amounts of energy, water, and chemicals to produce.
It almost sounds too good to be true, right?
Wool is a natural fibre from the fleece of sheep and is a popular choice for sweaters because it is warm, durable, and can be spun into various textures and thicknesses.
Wool fibres have a natural crimp that makes them elastic, meaning they can easily stretch and return to their original shape. Different breeds of sheep produce different types of wool, such as merino, which is soft and fine, or shetland, which is coarser and more rustic.
Wool is also moisture-wicking, absorbing and releasing moisture, keeping the wearer warm and dry.
Unfortunately, wool is not ideal for consumers with sensitive skin, as it can be itchy or irritating, making it difficult to wear.
Cotton is a natural fibre that comes from the seed pods of the cotton plant. It absorbs moisture, so it won't feel clammy when worn next to your skin. However, cotton is not as warm as wool, and it can stretch if not cared for properly, meaning that it might not sit as a wardrobe staple but more as a seasonal piece.
Alpaca is similar to wool in terms of its warmth and durability, but is softer and less itchy, making it an excellent choice for people with sensitive skin. It comes from the fleece of alpacas, which are native to South America.
Mohair is a soft, lustrous fiber that comes from the hair of the Angora goat. It is known for its lightweight, warmth, and silky texture. Mohair fibres are long and robust, which makes them resistant to shedding and matting.
Long story short, natural fibres offer a variety of benefits, including sustainability, biodegradability, and natural properties such as moisture-wicking and antimicrobial.
As we know, the demand for natural and environmentally friendly products is growing rapidly. By choosing natural fibres, you’re helping to reduce the fashion industry's environmental impact and promote a more sustainable future.
Consumers realise that a product's quality and performance depend on where it’s made and what raw materials are used to manufacture it.
So, are you ready to take the first step towards a warmer, cosier and more sustainable fashion collection?