Earlier this year we witnessed the iconic and controversial Schiaparelli fashion week show that featured faux animal head bodice embellishes. While this sparked debate online for the possible promotion and glorification of big game hunting and killing of endangered species, it also prompted the question of the role synthetic fibres play in the luxury fashion industry and on some of the biggest runways in the world.
Synthetic materials are something that we associate with the highly unsustainable fast fashion industry or high-performance gear such as sports or hiking clothing (but that is not what we are talking about here). As consumer trends move away from fast fashion, it is difficult to fathom luxury fashion brands featuring (and not in small quantities) synthetic materials on runways and in stores. How important is authenticity in luxury fashion? Is there room for synthetic fabrics in a climate as eco-focused as this?
Synthetic textiles include man-made fibres such as polyester, nylon, and rayon. Synthetic fibres are typically cheaper to produce than natural fibres, making them a popular choice for mass-produced clothing, as seen noticeably in the fast fashion industry, so it is surprising to see luxury fashion brands also featuring synthetic fibres in their seasonal collections.
In 2021 polyester made up 54% of total fibre production worldwide – of that only 14.8% was recycled polyester (Textile Exchange). That figure does not include any other man-made synthetic fibres, leaving even less of the total fibre production allotted for natural fibres. Polyester is produced from fossil fuels, and the production process has damaging effects on people, communities, and the environment. Recycled polyester is beneficial because it is removing an existing material from a landfill (such as plastic bottles), however, fabric made from recycled polyester releases more microplastic than virgin polyester in the wear and washing of the material, leaving us no better off.
While synthetic textile yarns are affordable and can be produced quickly, they have several other practical downsides. For example, synthetic fibres do not breathe as well as natural fibres, so they can trap sweat and odours. They are also more likely to pill than natural fibres, making them destined for landfill faster.
Consumer trends have been steadily shifting towards more conscious and ethical fashion choices including favoring natural fibres and purchasing secondhand. The next generation of shoppers (Gen Z) holds enormous purchasing power – $360 billion in the United States alone (Business of Fashion) so we know that it is crucial to appeal to this generation.
This shift is reflected in pop culture with the reality TV hit show Love Island moving away from its partnership with the highly synthetic ultra-fast fashion and online site Shein, instead partnering with eBay and promoting secondhand fashion (Business of Fashion).
Nature knows best:
At Woolyarns we do not feel clothing should take longer than the average human life to decompose. We are passionate about creating the highest quality yarns that appeal to the conscious consumers’ desire to purchase luxuriously comfortable, long-wearing sustainable products that don’t cost the earth.
Synthetic fabrics take anywhere between 20-200 years to decompose, while natural fibres decompose easily. Cotton can take between one week and five months, and wool can take between one and five years (Close the Loop)
Woolyarns create beautiful yarns, including the luxurious Perino yarns featuring Brushtail possum down, using high-quality natural fibres including ZQ-certified merino, fine cashmere, mulberry silk, Australian cotton, and ethically sourced Brushtail possum down fibre.
Fabrics made from Perino by Woolyarns are warm, breathable, and durable – a direct contrast to the properties provided by synthetic fabrics. Brushtail possum fibre has a unique tapered fibre shape that gives Perino fabrics their characteristic softness and makes them less prone to pilling increasing the lifespan of the fabric. Garments made from Perino can last up to 20 years when properly cared for. This reduces textile waste and creates a high-quality product that can be worn, handed down, and loved for decades to come.
While synthetic yarns and clothing may be cheaper and more readily available, there is no denying the benefits of using natural fibres in the production of clothing. Perino yarns from New Zealand provide many advantages over synthetic fibres, including exceptional softness, warmth, and breathability, as well as environmental benefits.
The Textile Exchange has said, “luxury is not always synonymous with sustainability or quality”. At Woolyarns we believe when brands partner with suppliers who are passionate about these issues this does not have to be the case. If you are wanting to create high-quality, luxurious clothing that is both stylish and sustainable, Perino yarns are an excellent choice.
To find out more about Perino yarns and see how they might elevate your next collection view our yarn collection.