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Sustainable Fabrics:
What I have learned

by Anna Godefroy

Do you feel that almost every brand on the high street offers an eco-friendly range? Words like ‘sustainability’, ‘transparency’ and ‘ethical’ are used more often than ever in the world of fast fashion. Naturally, you can’t help but wonder — is sustainable fashion just another marketing stunt? Is it good for the planet?

At Laurence, I admit it's not perfect. There is a lot of work to be done to achieve a 100% eco-friendly business. I strive to use sustainable materials as much as possible.

I'm new into this business, and I'm continuously learning from my manufacturers to understand production processes better and ensure they are ethical, not harming those involved or the planet.

I want to share more about what I’ve learned so far in this industry, about the fabrics I picked, and I also want to bust a few common myths.

Is Your Cotton T-Shirt Really OK for the Planet?

Organic cotton is the most popular sustainable fabric out there. We often feel good when we buy 100% cotton. But in fact, the ‘traditional’ cotton requires toxic production process. It negatively affects the land and air quality around the farming area, as well as the lives of those involved in the harvest. Moreover, it is often blended with synthetic fabrics like acrylic or polyester. They are known for being extremely harmful to the environment.

What makes organic cotton better than its traditional counterpart? To start with, it is grown and produced adhering to organic agricultural standards. The process of producing doesn’t damage the soil or pollute the air. It uses 88% less water (from groundwater and lakes or rivers) and 62% less energy than non-organic production chain (source: aboutorganiccotton.org).

The use of organic cotton is slowly getting more known in the fashion industry. Well, kind of. I was in Paris last June and none of the fabric resellers at Saint Pierre (the Mecca of fabric trade in France) were selling organic cotton. Some even asked me what it was 😂

But generally speaking, there is more knowledge around organic cotton production process and transparency.

That makes it one of the most reliable sustainable options for the fashion fabrics out there.

At Laurence, I don’t create a “side” collection with organic cotton. All my products made of cotton are certified organic. The facemasks are made of 100% certified cotton. I aim to keep this fabric for all our future designs whether it will be cotton dresses or scarves.

Fabrics Made of Recycled Plastic: The Good, The Bad, The Learnings

All Laurence bags are made of a fabric that is created using recycled plastic bottles. Recycled polyester is made by melting down plastic bottles and re-spinning them into a new fibre. It is embraced by a range of sports and accessory brands. Just like every new process, it is causing some debate around sustainability. I did the research before settling on this particular material and here is what I found.

Re-using plastic before it reaches the ocean to create accessories is a brilliant way to reduce the pollution of landfill and water. Five soda bottles create enough fibre for one XL T-Shirt! (Source: Luise Hakasi ‘Black Times For The Blue Planet’).

The process impacts the environment less and causes less emission to the land than the production of any other synthetic fabric 👍

Fabrics made of recycled plastic have not avoided controversy. Some studies found that they can release microscopic plastic fibres to water when washed in a washing machine. To avoid any potential damage to the environment, we advise hand washing Laurence bags. If you prefer to machine wash them, ensure to use a special wash bag like GuppyFriend.

What About Bamboo and Other Alternative Textiles?

Viscose, Tencel and bamboo are sometimes deemed as great alternatives to cotton. The latter is sometimes credited to be a crown jewel of sustainable fabrics. But that’s wrong!

Unfortunately, the process to turn bamboo from raw material to fibre involves chemicals like sulfuric acid and carbon disulfide. They are extremely toxic and pollute soil, air and especially water around factories. The production of widely-used viscose or Tencel fabrics has very similar issues where toxic chemicals are needed to work with the raw material. 

So definitely not good options!

What Does It Mean To Be A Sustainable Fashion Brand?

I can agree that there’s no such thing as a completely harmless fabric or a truly transparent production process. You, as a consumer, need to look beyond the final material. Challenge the brands you love to learn more about the production process, materials involved and instructions for disposal.

Transparency is the best policy when it comes to being eco-friendly.

You can count on me to keep on sharing Laurence' sustainability journey. As I learn more about fabrics and new alternatives and work with new suppliers, I will stay transparent and true to my brand DNA and my personal values.