Consciously Considered: SUPERPOWERS AND SHORTCOMINGS

 
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Let’s talk fiber content. No doubt, the sexiest topic in the industry.

Whether you're into fashion or not, we all wear clothes (at least I think so). And as a consumer, it's important to know what your clothes are made of, how fiber affects garment performance and what impact it has on the environment.Let's begin the conversation with an overview of the most popular fibers, their superpowers and shortcomings.


NATURAL FIBERS (NATURE-MADE)

Cotton: from a seed

Pros: Comfortable, breathes, easily absorbs water, doesn’t build up static
Cons: Can shrink and wrinkle
Superpower: Gets stronger when wet, making it ideal for washing in laundry machines

Linen (Flax): from a stem

Pros: Very breathable, strong, easily absorbs water, doesn’t build up static
Cons: Wrinkles very easily, tends to
feel more stiff
Superpower: Ideal fabric choice for hot temperatures

Wool: from sheep

Pros: Warm, good elasticity, some water-resistance, doesn’t build up static
Cons: Felts and shrinks with improper care. Softness depends on the grade (where on the sheep it came from) and fiber length (longer = softer)
Superpower: The fiber's crimp shape makes it efficiently trap heat. Ability to pill and felt creates a protective layer on the fabric

Silk: from a worm cocoon

Pros: Smooth, fine, intense luster, drapes well, doesn't easily wrinkle
Cons: Expensive, less breathable
Superpower: Doesn’t build up static. It's the only natural filament fiber, meaning it is continuous, like a thread. This is why it's so smooth, fine and drapey


REGENERATED CELLULOSE FIBERS (PLANT BASED FIBERS, MAN-MADE)

Rayon (Viscose): from regenerated wood pulp

Pros: Doesn’t build up static, good elasticity
Cons: Weak when wet, production uses a lot of chemicals
Superpower: Has a bit of the best from both worlds between the natural fibers and synthetics.

Tencel (Lyocell): from regenerated wood pulp

Pros: Doesn’t build up static, good elasticity
Cons: Weak when wet
Superpower: A cleaner version of rayon. Its production recycles chemicals used to process the fiber.

Acetate: from regenerated wood pulp

Pros: Good drape, cheap
Cons: The weakest fiber, production uses a lot of chemicals
Superpower: Has a bit of the best from both worlds between the natural fibers and synthetics.


SYNTHETIC FIBERS (Oil Based Fibers, Man-made)

Polyester: man-made

Pros: Good elasticity, doesn’t hold wrinkles, lightweight, doesn’t felt
Cons: Sensitive to heat and melting, doesn’t absorb water well (so not great in the heat), builds up static, pilling, production uses a lot of chemicals
Superpower: the #1 man-made fiber

Nylon: man-made

Pros: Good elasticity, doesn’t hold wrinkles, lightweight
Cons: Sensitive to heat and melting, doesn’t absorb water well, builds up static, pilling, production uses a lot of chemicals
Superpower: Strongest fiber

Acrylic: man-made

Pros: Good elasticity, doesn’t hold wrinkles, lightweight, doesn’t felt
Cons: Very sensitive to heat and melting, doesn’t absorb water well, builds up static, pilling, production uses a lot of chemicals
Superpower: Best substitute for wool

Spandex: man-made

Pros: Doesn’t build up static, doesn’t hold wrinkles, little pilling
Cons: Super weak and needs to be blended with other fibers, sensitive to heat, doesn’t absorb water well, pilling, production uses a lot of chemicals
Superpower: Very elastic


Want to keep the conversation of fiber content going? This week, I'm exploring the most pressing reasons you should choose natural fibers over synthetics.
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