SUSTAINABLE FABRICS

BFF Studio is passionate about the advancement of sustainability in the fashion industry and committed to doing our part for a cleaner future. We are dedicated to representing mills who are as equally dedicated to creating eco-conscious products.

 

We present our Sustainability Handbook below with information about sustainable fibers & practices and our innovative partners. Most of the information is taken from our friend, Annie Gullingsrud's book Fashion Fibers: Designing for Sustainability. Send us a message if you're interested in purchasing a copy!

Cotton

Silk

Silk

Tencel

Cupro

Naia

Naia

Polyester

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Sorona

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Hemp / Linen

Rayon

Dope Dyeing

Colored Cotton

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Botanical Dyeing

 

Cotton

Cotton is a renewable, natural resource. It is one of the top three genetically modified crops in the world, along with corn and soy. While the pros & cons of genetic modification (GM) are hotly debated, there are alternatives. 

Certified Organic cotton disallows the use of GM seeds and relies on biologic means to reduce pests. Organic cotton is more expensive due to the increased labor costs for its cultivation but studies show that organically farmed cotton reduces greenhouse gas emissions, reduces human & wildlife health hazards, and increases soil biodiversity.

In 100% cotton form, it can also be biodegradable depending on dyes and trims used. 

Sustainable options to look for: Oeko Tex Certified, Fair trade cotton, GOTS Certified, IPM (Integrated Pest Management) Cotton, colored cotton (naturally pigmented fiber that can be used undyed)

VEFA offers naturally colored cotton, CHAINTEX and VEFA offer GOTS and GRS certified yarns for organic and recycled cotton - GOTS certified products must contain a minimum of 70% organic fibers and include environmental requirements along the entire textile supply chain - https://www.global-standard.org/

 

Silk

Silk is a protein fiber produced by silkworms who feed on mulberry leaves. Silk is a renewable natural resource that in pure form is biodegradable, depending on dyes and trims used. In the case of domesticated silk farms, the chrysalis is killed to prevent them from making a hole in the cocoon and breaking the long strands used to spin high quality silk. In wild silk production, the silkworm does not die in the process but short staple fibers must be used, resulting in a rougher hand feel. 

Dyeing is the most harmful aspect of silk production so look for silk that is dyed by a Bluesign certified

dye house. https://www.bluesign.com/en

Sustainable options to look for: Bluesign certified dyed, Wild silk, Organic silk - worms feed on organic Mulberry and no harmful chemicals are used in the growing and production of fabric, Fair Trade Silk, eco silk blends

MEHO Silk offers many organic silk options as well as eco blends with fibers like NAIA and Sateri viscose

(Eco-Cosy) https://www.sateri.com/.

 

Tencel / Lyocell     - https://www.tencel.com/

Tencel is the branded version of Lyocell. It is a cellulosic fiber, which means it comes from plants. The fibers originate from sustainably sourced wood, are made into a wood pulp, and then - using a closed-loop process - are transformed into cellulosic fibers. This solvent-spinning process recycles process water and reuses the solvent at a recovery rate of more than 99%. The fibers are certified as compostable and biodegradable, and thus can fully revert back to nature.

CHAINTEX, VEFA. CHARMING, HOPESTAR, and MEHO, ZY, and MINGHE all offer Tencel and Tencel blends.

 

Cupro

Cupro is a cellulosic fiber made from cotton linter, a waste product of cotton. Like Tencel, Cupro is produced in a closed loop process, so the chemicals and water can be reused. It can also biodegrade in the right conditions.

VEFA offers knit & woven Cupro options.

 

Naia       -  https://naia.eastman.com/home

NAIA is a branded acetate fiber. It is a cellulosic fiber, meaning it comes from plants. Naia is responsibly sourced from sustainably managed pine and eucalyptus forests and is produced in a safe, closed-loop process where solvents are recycled back into the system for reuse. Naia has an optimized, low-impact manufacturing process with a low tree-to-fiber carbon & water footprint. The fibers are certified as compostable and biodegradable. 

VEFA, CHAINTEX, and MEHO all offer NAIA and NAIA blend options. 

 

Polyester is a synthetic fiber made of plastic, it is now the world's most widely used fiber. Petroleum is the main ingredient in manufacturing Polyester, an unrenewable resource that takes millions of years to form. Because of polyester's wide use and negative environmental impacts, there is more research and innovation in improving its sustainability than any other synthetic fiber. 

REPREVE mechanically recycles plastic bottles into fiber. Producing REPREVE offsets using new petroleum, emits fewer greenhouse gases, and conserves water & energy in the process.

RENU chemically enables recycling old garment and textile into newly born recycled polyester. The depolymerization and refining processes of RENU produce brand-new polyester material with properties comparable to virgin products.

Sustainable options to look for: Recycled Polyester, REPREVE, RENU, biodegradable polyester, ECOGREEN

CHAINTEX offers recycled polyester, VEFA offers REPREVE and RENU, HOPESTAR offers REPREVE, UNIONLINE offers recycled polyester, and MEGAMASTER offers recycled polyester (ECOGREEN), and biodegradable polyester.

 

Sorona is a branded fiber that can be used for outerwear, as a spandex replacement, or for natural fiber blends. First it begins as corn, it is fermented in a process similar to the production of alcohol, then TPA (terephthalic acid) is added to form a molecular bond. The result is a high performance polymer aka Sorona. 37% of the polymer is made using annually renewable plant-based ingredients, and the process uses significantly less energy with fewer greenhouse gas emissions compared to nylon production. 

 

Hemp / Linen

 

Rayon / Viscose 

Rayon is a manufactured cellulosic fiber primarily made from wood. It is typically derived from spruce, pine, or eucalyptus and is then chemically processed to form a new polymer. Bamboo and Lyocell also fall within this category. Approximately 100 million trees are logged annually for fabrics - approximately 1/3 of which are from ancient and endangered forests. The non-profit Canopy, https://canopyplanet.org/  works with brands to ensure rayon is not sourced from endangered forests.

EvoVero by Lenzing is derived from sustainable wood and pulp, coming from certified and controlled sources and the manufacturing of the fibers generates up to 50% lower emissions and water impact compared to generic Viscose. 

Tanboocel is a branded bamboo fiber from Jigao Chemical Fiber Co. It is made in a closed loop process, meaning none of the harmful chemicals are released. It uses only organic bamboo and is OEKO-TEX STANDARD 100 certified. 

Sustainable options to looks for:  Material sourced from responsibly managed forests / certified by the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council), (Eco-Cosy) https://www.sateri.com/, EcoVero by Lenzing - https://www.ecovero.com/

DYEING PROCESSES: 

Dyeing is one of, if not the most, environmentally harmful part of textile production, it uses high amounts of water and energy. The vast majority of dyes used today are synthetic. Synthetic dyes can create toxic wastewater, groundwater contamination, and certain types are even suspected carcinogens and mutagens. Natural colorants do not use harmful chemicals in their dyes. However, in order to achieve acceptable colorfastness, a mordant is required to bond the colorant molecule to the fiber molecule. Mordants can be toxic and even carcinogenic.

 

Colored Cotton

As mentioned in the cotton section, naturally colored cotton has pigmentation in the center of the fiber. Over the past 20 years, considerable work has been done to increase the number of available colors and improve the fiber length & quality. It is a great, sustainable alternative because it does not require dyeing. Additionally, colored cotton is often grown using organic farming methods because it is inherently resistant to insects and diseases.

 

VEFA offers several shades of naturally colored cotton.

Dope Dyeing / Solution Dyeing

 

Instead of the usual piece dyeing, in which the yarn is first knitted or woven into fabric and dyed as a whole, dope dyeing dyes the plastic pellets before it is melted & extruded into filament. The process uses 64% less energy, creates 78% less CO2 emissions, and uses 94% less water in processing than piece dyeing. It results in excellent color fastness, and the consistency of color reduces the need for lab dips, saving time and energy. 

MEGAMASTER offers dope dyed polyester & nylon. They have thousands of colors already formulated which allow small minimums. 

 

Botanical Dyeing