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June 07, 2019

1. Tencelby Lenzing AG

Tencel: you’ve probably heard of this material in the headlines of sustainable fashion blogs, but whatisit exactly? Wonder no more!

Tencel is the brand name for a brand of cellulose-based material known as lyocell, created by the Austrian company, Lenzing AG. It is composed of wood pulp from eucalyptus trees. It feels similar to silk and could replace cotton as the most commonly used material in your closet.

Tencel material

The Good:

    • Tencel is biodegradable and requires significantly less water and energy than other natural fabrics (read: cotton).
    • Tencel is a soft, breathable material that’s 50% more absorbent than cotton and easily blends with other fibers.
    • Lenzing AG sources its wood pulp from certified controlled sources like sustainable plantations.

The Bad:

    • Tencel production requires the use of petrochemical solventsbutLenzing AG uses a closed loop production cycle which reuses 99% of those solvents.
    • Lenzing AG admits that Tencel requires a lot of energy to createbut is taking measures to make sure that more and more of that energy is coming from renewable sources.
The Rad:
    • Tencel is already being used across the fashion-scape by brands like Patagonia, Reformation, G-Star Review, and (of course) The Rushing Hour!
    • Eucalyptus trees are grown rapidly, without pesticides or insecticides meaning that the local water supply is safe from runoff pollution and eutrophication.
    2. Silk

    Silk has been ubiquitous with fashion since its discovery in the 27th century BCE. Due to its flexibility and durability, it has continued to reign supreme as one of our favorite materials. Silk fibers are obtained by boiling the cocoons of silkworm pupae to loosen the fibers. Maintaining its relatively closed production loop even in the age of mass production, silk is super strong, super soft, super fire retardant, and has antimicrobial properties.

    Close up of sustainable silk material

    The Good:

      • Silkworms eat mulberry tree leaves; mulberry trees are resistant to most forms of pollution.
      • The pupae from the boiled cocoons can provide a rich source of protein for silk farmers.

    The Bad:

      • It’s hard to regulate the labor practices of the silk industry and reports of child labor make it very important for the customer to know where their silk is coming from.
      • Silkworms are killed in the harvesting processbut some brands (like The Rushing Hour!) have found ways to produce cruelty free or recycled silk fabrics.

    The Rad:

    3. Leather

    Yes, you read that correctly. While leather will never be vegan, it is actually a relatively low impact materialwhen produced responsibly.Leather is sourced from cows already being raised for meat. Tanneries are actually using a byproduct of another industry, ensuring that nothing goes to waste.

    Close up of leather, a surprisingly sustainable material

    The Good:

      • Leather comes from a renewable source, uses little water and is biodegradable.
      • Leather is so durable that most leather products become unusable due to broken zippers rather than wearing out, meaning that the leather itself can be repurposed!

    The Bad:

      • Leather is controversial because some people are uncomfortable using animal-based products.
      • Labor practices in the leather industry are difficult to monitor and the chemicals used in some tanneries can be dangerous.

    The Rad:

      • Reused leather products generate significantly fewer greenhouse gas emissions than synthetic alternatives.
      • Vegan? Don’t despair! Pinatex, a pineapple leaf fibre created by Ananas Anam, is a plant-based biodegradable material that is comparable to leather.

    4. Linen

    Linen fiber is derived from the stalks of the flax plant. It has been regarded as a luxury item throughout history to the point where linen sheets were passed down as heirlooms due due to their extreme durability, insulating qualities, and breathability.

    Close up of linen, a sustainable material

    The Good:

      • Linen fabrics are strong, resistant to insects, and biodegradable. They’re actually stronger when they get wet and will soften with every wash.
      • The flax plant can grow in poor soil without pesticides and needs less water than cotton

    The Bad:

      • Linen gets its luxury status from the fact that it’s production takes a very long time compared to other fibers.
      • Linen is prone to wrinkling and, while itcan be worn without being ironed, creases make the fabric more likely to tear.

    The Rad:

      • Linen can rehabilitate poor-quality soil.
      • Linen absorbs 2.1 tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere for every ton of linen fiber processed.

    5. Hemp

    Hemp has been demonized due to its family resemblance to its cousin, marijuana. It does not contain enough THC to get anyone high, no matter what your friend’s cousin’s coworker claims. It has been used to make clothing for thousands of years all over the world.

    Close up of hemp, a sustainable material, used in shirts

    The Good:

      • Hemp doesn’t need much of anything to flourish: it’s a low energy, low water, andnopesticide or fertilizer material.
      • Hemp fabrics are durable, insulating but breathable, and highly resistant to UV rays

    The Bad:

      • The stakeholders in the cotton, synthetic, and paper industries invested in propaganda since the 1900s to make sure that hemp couldn’t break into mainstream closets and usurp their cash crop.
      • Hemp has been legally bundled with its “Cousin Mary Jane”, leading to strict rules about where it can be grown.

    The Rad:

      • Cottonshould be nervous. Hemp uses 4x less water and yields twice the fiber per acre that cotton doeswithout chemicals.
      • Hemp returns 60-70% of the nutrients it takes from soil while cotton strips it barren.
    6. Organic Cotton

      Cotton typically requires lots of energy, water and chemicals to keep up with demand which risks the contamination of local water sources and strips the soil it grows upon of its nutrients. Organic cotton plays by its own rules. It is grown without the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides and it produces significantly less greenhouse gas emissions while being indistinguishable from its problematic sibling.

      The Good:

      The Bad:

        • Organic cotton uses naturally derived chemicals which are still capable of harming the farmers and the environment.
        • It’s very difficult to regulate what is truly organic material and greenwashing runs rampant.

      The Rad:

        • Organic farming absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
        • Organic farmers are less financially vulnerable to monopolies on farming chemicals necessary for conventional farming.
      Author's note: The technical information for each material has been cross referenced using data from Good On You's material guide and Sustain Your Style's material directory unless otherwise noted.

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      This table is for reference only doesn't represent the exact measurement of every design. Measurement range depending on the style/cut for each individual design. For fitted style, it's usually the smaller end of the range; whereas oversize fit will measure towards the larger number. 









      Bust (cm)








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      International sizing reference



      UK / AU / NZ