Fabrication Fascination (October 2016)


Sustainability is not a simple concept, it is vast, complex and often quite personal to particular people, cultures and environments. Bamboom jersey in particular is a material that has caused be no amount of distress, to say I have spent time, on countless occasions, contemplating its actual ecological impact and the ethics of its use would be an accurate statement.

Although in essence bamboo is a natural fibre it is often produce in a similar way to rayon, which can be extremely pollutant; this is because it is a both energy and chemically intensive process. So, using the chemically intensive method, by the time it gets to its fabric state it is more synthetic than natural although there are some methods that do not require as much chemical or energy input but they produce a fabric that is not as smooth or soft, does not drape in the same way or have exactly the same surface texture as the increasingly popular bamboo fabrics used within lingerie.

As a plant it is naturally pest resistant and so does not require the use of pesticides, chemicals or fertilisers but this does not mean that they are not used. Unfortunately it can also contribute to depleting nutrients from arable land which can make it hard to grow anything else on the land for a while although it has also been argued that some types of bamboo actually assist in the rebuilding of eroded land. In addition some breeds of bamboo can take an average of three years to fully mature before it can be harvested, although this is not true for every type of bamboo.

China is thought to be the only country that commercially farms bamboo but sadly the country do not appear to have any environmental guidelines, laws, bylaws or standards of expectation in relation to their cultivation of bamboo as a crop.

Sometimes it may have to travel a great distance to get to its production or point of sale location, whether as a fibre, a fabric or finished garment this can have a negative environmental impact which can be higher or lower dependant upon the mode of transport and fuel used.

Now I am not say down with bamboo, but I do not feel that it sits neatly with sustainable fabrics simply because it is from a natural resource, sustainability is so much deeper than that and bamboo jersey does not appear to embrace this ethos. Although as it is technically more synthetic than natural so it lasts longer and could probably be used multiple time and in this way reduce waste, so there are a variety of positive to it. I just wish it was represented more accurately with less “green washing”. Personally I try to avoid it altogether as it is not a simple task to trace the fabric and discover its true history, I wish fabrics held their own history. This is not to say that in the future I will not use it as there is a method which produces a fabric similar to linen or hemp which could be done in a sustainable way but is expensive, also if there was a way to make it here in the UK without negatively impacting the environment or society i would definitely think about using this fabric.

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