The Healthy Fashion Campaign is a fashion environmental action and human health public awareness campaign. In this post, I talk about how it is possible for the industry to become a predominantly plant-based apparel industry. I talk about animal fibers being a niche market fiber and synthetic polyester being a fabric that needs to stop being produced, at least stop most of its production.
Many of us in the fashion industry is in a rock and a hard place in regards to transitioning from synthetic to plant-based. It's a challenge, and I'll continue to promote and create solutions.
There is an abundance of natural resources if we use specific plants or the earth's elements in a sustainable and health-conscious way
I think in the fashion industry, fashion professionals are responsible for producing more plant-based apparel. Fashion consumers are responsible for buying plant-based apparel. However, I don't blame any brand or fashion company that uses synthetic materials; it's an economical demand, and some of the products, because of their history, have relied on this material for so many things that we don't even have other options for certain cases. This is a very controversial subject because we, on a global scale, are confined to this synthetic material, for the most part, whether we like it or not.
Potentially, current plant-based products may create a significant number of resources depending on what they are and how they are produced. As a collective ever since the early 1900s, we have relied significantly on synthetic tech fabrics and have not even been given the chance to find other alternatives that are plant-based due to the demand for synthetic ones. When plants are backed up by technology in a healthy way, then the eco-fashion "movement" will not be a green-washed term. And even some of the current biotech fibers are not up to par with human health or for the preservation of the human race.
Sustainability is very much in fashion currently, and everyone is getting involved. Whether it's the fashion professional or the fashion consumer, we are all responsible for creating our fashion industry. There are many contradictory elements of what sustainable fashion is, similar to the new code word "vegan," which is a bunch of cheap and chemical fibers that don't belong on our bodies—this keeps the industry imbalanced and does become part of the problem.
Photo credit: Ron Lach
Natural plant dyeing is the lowest on the totem poll regarding the fashion industry's supply chain and could result in much healthier apparel. I am continuing to research the processes and selections. However, at this time, we need to develop new plant-based technology that can overtake the current chemical fibers and dyes. Mass fashion broke out in the 1930s, and before then we used four fibers: cotton, wool, flax, and silk.
As time goes on, we can’t go back to four fibers. In ancient South America, in ancient history, they used 550 different types of plants for textiles. We need to use a wide variety of plants for textiles. We have abandoned the use of plant fabrics to such a degree that we actually depend on synthetic fibers and know no other way.
One fabric that we could use for apparel textiles is nettle. I would love to see nettle become a widely introduced fabric for the fashion industry, and I'll certainly be adding nettle fibers to my future articles. I think it would be great for activewear if made as a jersey knit fabric. I'm sure it's a lack of investment that keeps this plant from being produced more, and it's perfect because it is a wild invasive weed that can be cultivated. Such is the case for most plant-based tech fibers.
In the past, I have made an herbal tea from nettle leaves, and I can only think that while wearing it, the stalks of the plant may have similar medicinal properties and be breathable. It's typically made into a coarse fabric, yet it is blended a lot with other fibers for fashion fabrics. I think that it's very suitable for interior design and upholstery fabrics produced as is, and would also be an excellent fiber for knitwear. Nettle yarn is more widely used than nettle fabric.
While it may be a more labor-intensive process to produce plant-based products, we are cheapening ourselves out of the process. Synthetic fashion = Fast fashion and is the root of unethical fashion on many levels.
I keep my own ethos and theories of what will work on a global scale consistent and aligned with my own work and research. In regards to wool, wool will always be part of the fashion industry, and many cultures, like Scotland and Ireland, rely on wool. I personally think it should always stay a minor commodity, because there are a lot of unethical ways of producing wool, and there's no need to rely on another animal's fur to keep us warm.
Animal materials, holistically, are not the best because they are not hypoallergenic, and there shouldn't be a need to "take the coat from another man's back" kind of thing. However, some people feel comfortable with animal fibers, and that is fine. I personally can’t wear furs because they irritate my skin.
I do feel like organic animal fibers will always be in consumer demand. However, if we compare animal skins to fur, it's not cruel, yet it's a continuum. If we want to go holistic to achieve animal-free harmony, we must focus on 100% biodegradable plant fashion. Yet the animal fiber market is about 1-3%), so it is OK to promote healthy animal fabrics.
The choice to use recycled polyester to stop the production of virgin materials is also an issue. It instigates more synthetic production. Many manufacturers are in demand for recycled polyester because it is such a trend that they are choosing to produce new plastic bottles simply to turn them into fabric. If it saves greenhouse gas emissions, think of all the pollution that synthetic chemical test tube fibers are causing the planet. It's not supporting the environment, and chemical fibers never have.
And from the beginning of the industrial revolution, the invention of cheap fabrics from leading chemical companies gave the opportunity for fast fashion to occur. It's actually about the consumer because they are the ones that decide where to shop, not the large sweatshops that are taking advantage of the opportunity of demand and the economy.
Photo credit: Ron Lach
Can we produce predominantly plant-based apparel?
Yes, it can be scalable and economical. There are dye companies that literally use soil to dye fabrics. How much well-healthy soil is readily available? That's where we need to switch our perspective on our resources and create new ways to dye fabrics, etc. Think of the seaweed farms we can produce and the fibers and dyes made from seaweed. We shouldn’t have a dependence on synthetics. It is possible to have a plant-based industry; it's a matter of knowledge and experimentation.
Chemicals can be safe, but only to a certain degree. Some chemicals and synthetics are harsh poisons at certain levels. I think that using plant technology is the future. For example, 3D printing is never going to go away. It gives designers fashion we never thought possible. However, it is the materials being used that need to change, and the machinery that can work with plant-based products.
We cannot blame the fashion industry
I have gone to NYC, and I have also seen the unappealing side of the fashion business. I met people, and I literally felt like there was a bug repellant between me and the fashion industry that I was introduced to at some points. There's unethical labor here in the US, let me tell you. Yet, I continue to have empathy for the situation and realize that everyone is vulnerable, and the interconnectedness is much too complex to accuse or condemn others.
There are unethical businesses in all parts of the globe. Look at America: disease and crime. I am conveying that there are underlying issues behind sickness and evil. You will find corruption wherever you go. However, exploiting and opposing the culprit raises awareness, yet blaming and accusing and actually threatening people who are not the ones that are bad—this doesn't create solutions, it makes matters worse.
We are now on a spiritual journey of spiritual awakening and I have been learning about serpent fashion and Christ fashion. I believe that the consciousness of plant-based fashion can help support a person's spiritual ascension.
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