Weaving the fabrics we wear

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We recently turned our clothes #insideout for Fashion Revolution Day, to question who is involved in making our clothes, and to get people throughout the world to raise their voices and keep asking, questioning, debating, thinking, and exploring. While we need to continue asking this question of brands, we also need to be asking what are our clothes made from?

The textile supply chain is long and complicated, labour, resource, and people intensive, and has the potential to cause huge detrimental impact to our natural world, one of the most notable environmental disasters being the disappearance of the Aral Sea, which went on to cause huge social, economic, and health issues.

The fibres we choose to weave or knit fabrics with can be accountable for a great deal of their negative or positive environmental impact. The beauty of textiles weaving in particular is that a myriad of raw materials can be used to create the most intricate, textured, unique and sustainable materials. Some of the best sustainable fibre examples include naturally dyed organic cotton from Botanica Tinctoria, hand spun wools sourced from British conservation flocks used by the London Cloth Company, and low-impact locally cultivated Indian silk from Avani Kumaon. These are among dozens of mills and designers around the world which are working to reduce their environmental impact, many of which are being showcased by The Sustainable Angle at the Future Fabrics Expo.

This got our mind going when we found out about “Woven Textile Design” by Jan Shenton, a new book recently published by Laurence King which explores and explains all stages of small to large scale woven textile design and production, making it a great resource for students and designers who might wish to explore what’s behind the fabrics we wear, and push the boundaries of what a sustainable fabric is and can be through their own experimentation. Shenton is a practicing weaver whose clients include Louis Vuitton, Donna Karan, Etro, and Diane von Furstenberg. Through her book she aims to provide the starting points to design and produce fabrics from scratch, encouraging designers and makers to push boundaries as they develop their craft.

The fashion and textiles supply chain can have a lasting global impact – both social and environmental. By looking further back along this chain and exploring the very fibres your fabrics are made of, we can reach a greater understanding of what needs to be done to improve the way we create, design, buy, wear, use, and value fashion and textiles.