Posts in: fibers

Fashion Fabrics Spotlight

BT Cotton: Environmentally Sound or Savage?

Cotton Plant

Cotton is a fashion industry staple; perhaps the most widely used material for garments. With so many designers and companies using the fiber, it comes as no surprise that it is one of the most difficult textiles to regulate. As of late, cotton’s impact has been a big one, both socially and environmentally. In this contemporary world of sustainable fashion, steps are being taken to find alternatives, however, coming to these solutions is a matter of trial and error and still a work in process.

One such example is Bt Cotton. “Bt” stands for bacillus thuringiensis, a bacterium used by organic farmers as a pesticide. Scientists have introduced it into cotton crops by genetically altering cottonseeds. While this can certainly be considered a triumph from a scientific standpoint, the pros and cons are still being weighed.

BT cotton is a pretty out-there concept, and the benefits are certainly interesting to consider. For starters, the bacterium Bt is much gentler than most pesticides, as it is poisonous only to a select few bugs. Since the seeds already genetically contain a pesticide, it largely reduces the need to do sprayings. This saves us a lot of resources, including water and fuel oil. There is also the fact that it eliminates waste, such as the disposal of insecticide containers. Additionally, without the costs and process of pesticide application, farmers are better able to manage their time and expenses. This is especially beneficial for smaller farming businesses.

However, there are those who are skeptical about Bt cotton. As mentioned, in order to grow it, the seeds must be genetically altered, which is a cause for alarm to some. It is difficult to pinpoint exactly what future consequences of altering natural seeds could be. For example, there is a gene contained in the plant that is resistant to certain antibiotics, and there are concerns that this could transfer to humans. There are claims overseas that Bt can be linked to crop failures as well as disease.

As with any scientific development, we must consider whether this will seamlessly integrate into the natural world or whether we’re playing with something of which we cannot know the real consequences.

What do you think of the debate? Would you use Bt cotton in your collection?


Fashion Fabrics Spotlight Independent Designers

Textile Crush: Angharad McLaren

As fashion designers, we can all appreciate a beautiful piece of fabric. But more often than not, it is the garment created with the fabric that truly brings it to life. Not true for the whimsical textiles dreamed up by woven designer Angharad McLaren. She contrasts the traditional, domestic process of dobby and jacquard weaving with a sporty aesthetic inspired by nautical “adventures” and activities such as windsurfing and sailing.

Woven Designer Angharad McLaren

This adventurous spirit translates beautifully to textiles. Weaving is usually a more subtle medium. However, McLaren pushes the process to its creative limits with designs that are bold and unique. What first caught my eye were the colors. I’m not usually a fan of neon, but McLaren made the pops of highlighter hues work so well, I might have to change my opinion! Electric green suddenly seems right at home next to soft corals and blues, while a combination of lemon yellow and shocking pink allude to a hint of the 80’s but still retain a modern look.

Equally as bold as the color palette are the weave structures. McLaren’s most intriguing works are mainly her three-dimensional experiments. In many pieces, the way the fabric is sculpted mimics the zigzag pattern of twill. This design element celebrates the simple pattern, and also elevates it to a whole new level. She is not afraid to cut up her beautiful work in order to stitch it back together to create new, interesting repeats.

Another unique element is McLaren’s use of unusual materials. Staying true to her sports-inspired aesthetic, she incorporates ropes, neoprene, wires, silicone, as well as yarns that are transparent. Mixed in to contrast with more traditional yarns, these materials are a fun surprise for those who examine the fabrics more closely.

McLaren has a line of products available for purchase, and is available for commissioned work. Visit www.angharadmcLaren.co.uk for more info.

Fashion Fabrics Spotlight

Researchers Create Bulletproof Silk From Spider Silk and Goats Milk

When we think of silk, it evokes a clear vision of glamous; gorgeous evening gowns, elegant kimonos, and slinky chemises. It is expensive and delicate, a high-maintenance fabric that needs to be treasured and cared for. However, these associations may be changing in the near future. In light of recent advances with the material, silk could soon in fact be categorized in the same group as Kevlar. “Bulletproof silk” was developed by Dutch artist Jalila Essaidi and the Forensic Genomics Consortium.

bulletproof silk

So how can such a flimsy, fragile material possibly protect a person from a bullet?

This seemingly miraculous textile is created from spider silk. This fiber has only recently begun to be explored in-depth but already it is proving to be a valuable material, having been used in violin strings as well as a beautiful weaving made from the silk of golden orb spiders.

The material is not only beautiful- it is also stronger than steel. The process of manufacturing bulletproof spider silk sounds a bit like science fiction, but it is in fact very real. The silk is engineered using goat’s milk that contains the spider fibers. This mixture is then spun into bulletproof thread and made into fabric.

While a bulletproof fabric is of course very useful, Essaidi has taken the project a step further, using the soft, thin material to its full advantage. With the silk, she has been able to produce a human “skin” that can be grafted to a person!

Will textiles soon make us invincible? Not quite yet. Currently, the material can only stop “partially slowed” bullets, but not ones at full speed. Even so, the product is still in development and could likely reach that point in the future. In terms of the fashion community (and the community at large) it casts light on just how valuable textile development can be.

Fashion Trade Shows

TexWorld USA – Open for Registration

As fashion designers, textiles are your medium.  You dream about hand, drape, silhouette, wovens, knits, prints….. They act as a constant source of inspiration when creating your work. So staying on top of industry trade shows and fully understanding everything that is available to you as a designer is quite important.

So with that, we wanted to remind you that registration is open for TexWorld USA!


Event Dates:
July 19-21, 2011

Exhibit Hall Hours:
Tuesday, July 19 10:00AM – 6:00PM
Wednesday, July 20 10:00AM – 6:00PM
Thursday, July 21 10:00AM – 4:00PM

Jacob K. Javits Convention Center
655 West 34th Street
New York, NY, USA

See you there!

Fashion Industry Resources

Only Two More Days!: Zero Waste at Parsons Design School

Zero Waste Denim

Can you produce a garment with zero fabric wasted?  Of course you can.  All it takes is a little adjusted thinking when it comes to patternmaking.  Your patterns become as thought provoking and design oriented as the clothes themselves.

Why should you care?  Because the textile industry has one of the most significant impacts on this planet and it makes sense to think about and implement ways of lessening your individual impact as a designer.

As a way of showing all of you fresh faces (and even you seasoned industry pros) a new way of looking at fashion, Parsons Design School along with eco-friendly clothing label Loomstate, have teamed up to put on an exhibit called Zero-Waste Denim.  “Through muslin prototypes, garment patterns, video and photography, the exhibition will provide visitors with a behind-the-scenes look at this cutting-edge approach to sustainable design, which is the focus of a new course of study at Parsons. Through the school’s collaboration with Loomstate, they will produce one of the student-designed looks as part of their Fall 2011 collection.”

The exhibit at Parsons is only on view until the 23rd at the Sheila C. Johnson Design center on Fifth Avenue. It’s open daily from noon- 6pm.  So, go check it out.  Are you up for the challenge?

Fashion Fabric Sourcing Fashion Trade Shows

Unique Textiles by Pacific Coast Knitting- Sourcing at WWD MAGIC

I love finding new fabric suppliers.  The raw materials that go into creating fashion is where my interest (and heart) really lies. The first booth I saw the minute that I walked in Sourcing at MAGIC was the Pacific Coast Knitting.  Why? Because it was full of soft, drapey, colorful, and textured knit fabrics.  Upon speaking with the owner of the company, I learned that they are based in California (which I love) however the textiles are created abroad, and the company does custom knitting and dyeing.

The website is a bit lacking but I think it’s worth shooting them an email or giving them a call.  I imagine you can request some samples of their stock.  Sheers, novelties, and burnouts in silks and cashmeres.  Sounds awesome, right?

Sourcing at WWD MAGIC

Sourcing at WWD MAGIC

Sourcing at WWD MAGIC

Sourcing at WWD MAGIC

Sourcing at WWD MAGIC

Sourcing at WWD MAGIC

Fashion Fabric Sourcing Manufacturing Resources

10 Questions to Ask Your Sustainable Fabric Supplier

As Ethical and Sustainable fashion become more mainstream, designers need to have a better understanding of exactly where their fabric are coming from.  Complete transparency when it comes to eco-friendly textiles and manufacturing processes is the only way to insure you are on the right track.

With that in mind, here are 10 questions you need to be asking everyone you plan to do business with.

1. What fibers make up this fabric? i.e synthetic or natural, plant or animal.

2. What makes these fabrics ethical? i.e. organic, low water usage, highly renewable, etc.

3. Where do these fabrics come from?  Determining geographic location helps you access the way workers are treated as well as the environmental impact of shipping the goods.

4. Is ethical animal husbandry practiced?

5. Are sustainable practices used in the cultivation of crops? i.e. wastewater recycling, crop rotation.

6. Is the fabric recycled? Can the fabric be recycled?

7. What amount of care is required for this fabric?

8. How is the fabric dyed and finished?  i.e. what kind of dyes are being used and what kind of chemicals are used to create the fabric’s finish.  ( Sand washed fabrics feel amazing but the chemicals used to make the fabric feel s that way are excessive and not exactly what I want next to my skin.)

9. Do the chemical finishes applied to the fabric in turn help minimize wastage once the garment is made.  i.e. stain resistant finishes require less washing allowing for major water conservation over the life of the garment.  It’s a “pick your poison” situation.

10. What kind of certifications does this fabric have and to what region do they apply? Do the certifications cover the fiber or fabric?

Check out this video from Berlin’s Eco Fashion Week.  The designers talk about the questions they ask suppliers, how they dye their fabrics, and why they do what they’re doing.  It’s inspiring.

Eco-fashion catches on | Video of the day
Uploaded by deutschewelle. – Watch original web videos.