Back in 2010 when I was looking to source my first range for O2wear, I considered several different manufacturers. I really wasn’t very familiar with bamboo fabric at the time, but the manufacturer I was interested in using specialised in eco-friendly alternatives like bamboo. When I saw and then felt the fabric I was sold, not only could I manufacture using a sustainable raw material like bamboo, I wasn’t going to have to compromise on feel or appearance to do so.
But what really makes a fabric sustainable and eco-friendly? You can read a long list of the benefits of bamboo clothing on my website here, but of course these are just the benefits. There are no miracle fabrics that can negate our impact on the planet and more often than not, sustainability is relative. That is to say, how much better is it than cotton for example? I could tell you that it uses a lot less water than cotton (which is true) and that the bamboo crop is naturally anti-fungal and disease resist so it doesn’t need fertilisers etc which contaminate soil and water ways (also true). However bamboo does need some additional processing to turn it in to the fibre we see and use, a process not needed by cotton.
So the truth is, it is very hard to say just how much better it is, and I don’t think anyone probably can. It seems that for every fabric, whether it be organic, wool, leather, cashmere, cotton, synthetics or bamboo there are pluses and minuses. Then of course you could delve in to the carbon footprint of the growing and manufacturing process, animal vs plant or the freight and distribution of the raw material and finished product. The list goes on and it will differ from material to material, business to business. So where does that leave us?
To me, thinking about the sustainability of the fabric or clothing manufacturing is only one small piece of the equation. I think you need to take a broader look at a company when asking this question. It’s not just about the product but the philosophy of the business and I think it is in this regard that I can say O2wear lives up to its sustainable, eco-friendly credentials.
First and foremost is that I never set out to create a fashion company. The proliferation of fast fashion companies pumping out the latest and cheapest ‘on-trend’ items, manufactured to last about as long as it takes for the next 8 week fashion cycle to come around is perhaps the most unsustainable and un-ecofriendly practice of all. Not to mention the human toll this must take on workers, but that’s for another blog post.
Buy less, choose well and make it last is the principle I (try) to live by and guides many of my decisions when it comes to O2wear. I don’t create seasonal ranges or items that are only to be worn a couple of times before they are no longer in fashion. O2wear pieces are made to last, to be worn daily, year after year and to give you greater flexibility with your wardrobe, helping you to get more out of what you already have by layering. Really it’s about less stuff, less waste, less thinking and just keeping it simple!
Of course I still believe that the materials and manufacturing process used by a company are incredibly important and I aim to do this in the most sustainable way possible, but I strongly feel that the best thing we can do for long term sustainability is to buy less, choose well and make it last! And I hope that in a small way, O2wear makes this a little easier for you to do.