'Rana Plaza, a building in Bangladesh, housed a number of garment factories, employing around 5,000 people. The people in this building were manufacturing clothing for many of the biggest global fashion brands. More than 1,100 people died in the collapse and another 2,500 were injured, making it the fourth largest industrial disaster in history. The victims were mostly young women.'
During the Covid-19 pandemic lots of us have re-evaluated what is important in our lives, and many of us are now looking at ways to ensure our fashion choices take into account sustainability and ethics. Fashion Revolution Week looks to bring people together to ensure that human rights and the rights of nature are addressed. This year the focus has shifted from 'Who Made My Clothes?' to 'Who Made My Fabric?'. This is because the further down in the supply chain we look, the murkier it gets for both workers and the environment.
It is a constant battle to find out where and who produced the fabric that we purchase at Sew Me Sunshine. We always ask this question to our suppliers and follow up with it, but we still don't always get a clear answer.
At Sew Me Sunshine we have taken the following steps to ensure we are sourcing fabrics that are better for the environment and the workers who produce the fabric:
Organic fabrics (typically cotton) are made from products that have been grown using methods and materials that have a low impact on the environment. They are grown in an environment where no pesticides, and no fertilisers are used. For a fabric to be GOTS certified (Global Organic Textile Standard) they must meet specific processing standards (for example 95% of fibres used must be certified as organic), as well as meeting an ecological (for example not using harmful chemicals) and social criteria (for example working conditions must be safe and hygienic). At Sew Me Sunshine we stock a variety of woven and knitted fabrics that have been GOTS certified.
We stock a large range of fabrics that have been Oeko Tex 100 certified. When a fabric has this certification you can be certain that every element of the fabric has been tested for harmful substances meaning that it presents minimal health risks. Fabrics that are Oeko Tex 100 certified are ideal for children's clothing.
At Sew Me Sunshine we look to stock more natural fibres, such as linen. Linen is made from the fibres of the stem of the flax plant. The fibre does not have any insulative properties allowing the wearer to feel cool. Linen yarn is stronger than a similar weight cotton yarn which means that it can be more loosely woven. Linen can be combined with other fibres. Linen is seen as a sustainable fibre because the flax plant grows naturally and requires no additional water other than rainwater. 100% linen fabric is biodegradable and recyclable.
3. Fabrics containing TENCEL™, Bemberg™ Cupro, ECOVERO™, ECONYL®
We stock a lot of fabrics containing TENCEL™ fibres at Sew Me Sunshine. TENCEL™ is actually a brand name of lyocell. For a fabric to be called "tencel" it must contain at least 30% branded TENCEL™ lyocell fibres produced by the Austrian company Lenzing AG. TENCEL™ fibres are derived from sustainable wood sources, harvested from certified (FSC) and controlled sources. TENCEL™ fibre production is known to be environmentally responsible due to Lenzing's innovative closed loop production process where water is recycled and solvents are reused during the solvent-spinning process.
More of our suppliers are now using viscose that contains LENZING™ ECOVERO™ fibres. This is a sustainably certified viscose fibre. These fibres are derived from certified renewable wood sources using an eco-responsible production.
Lenzing AG who certify TENCEL™ and ECOVERO™ fabrics not only focus on the environmental impacts of their fabric production, but they also focus on the human rights of their workers.
Cupro is perfect for the eco-conscious seamstress because it is made out of fibres from the cotton plant that are often discarded. Bemberg™ Cupro which is a brand of curpo fibre produced by Asahi Kasei. These fibres are produced using innovative technology and techniques that reduces the environmental impact, for example the fibre waste from the Bemberg™ manufacturing process is reused as fuel for power generation.
At Sew Me Sunshine we are now stocking activewear and swimwear fabrics that are made from ECONYL®. ECONYL® is a product of Aquafil who are committed to respect and increase human and environmental prosperity. Nylon waste, otherwise polluting the Earth, is transformed into ECONYL® regenerated nylon. It's exactly the same as brand new nylon and can be recycled, recreated and remoulded again and again. They use old carpets destined for landfill and fishing nets to produce ECONYL®.
All of these certified fabrics will only be listed on our website if we know that the supplier has received the certification from the manufacturer. If we do not have this then the fabrics will not be listed as containing these fibres and will simply be listed as either lyocell, viscose, cupro or nylon.
4. Deadstock Fabric
We source deadstock fabric at Sew Me Sunshine, these fabrics are ex-designer fabrics from well known high street stores and designer brands, and fabrics that are leftover from textile mills. Although sourcing deadstock is not the solution to the fast fashion industry it is positive that we are able to put them to good use rather than the fabrics being taken to landfill or burnt. Unfortunately, when it comes to deadstock fabric we are not always aware where the fabric was originally made, which means we are not sure of its original impact on the environment or human rights.
Moving forward we will continue to question suppliers about how and where the fabric we purchase is produced, and we will continue to be transparent to our customers.