A SUSTAINABLE APPROACH
It’s time to abandon our disposable society, to turn your back on fast fashion and become Eco-Chic. The new generation of crafters and makers are an environmentally aware crew embracing sustainability with a, ‘can-do’ approach.
LINEN – THE ORIGINAL SUSTAINABLE FIBRE
Cut Couture caters to these crafters using only natural linen fibres. There is not a thread of synthetic fibre or fabric in a Cut Couture Kit. The collection is made from 100% European linen fibre and woven into one of the most future friendly fabrics in fashion.
The selection of linen was a no brainer! An environmentally friendly all-rounder, linen has wicking properties so is cool and comfortable to wear, resists dirt and stains, and has no tendency to pill. It can be machine-washed at high temperatures or steamed with only moderate shrinkage. Linen is one of the strongest natural fibres, twice as strong as cotton, and is non-allergic, antibacterial, and antimycotic.
Turn your back on throw-away-fashion as linen gets softer with repeated washing and wear, lasting for decades. The longevity of linen is unquestionable. In fact the oldest garment ever discovered is over 3000 years old and is 100% linen If, in the unlikely event that, you wish to dispose of your linen garment (because it will most certainly not wear out!) it is 100% biodegradable, in as little as 2 weeks if cut into small pieces before composting.
The growth of flax to produce linen does not exhaust land that could be used to produce food. It grows on poor quality ground unsuitable for most other crops. When grown in its ideal geographical zone, the cultivation of flax produces no waste. All parts of the flax plant are used: the long and short fibres and seeds are made into textiles, paper, varnish, oil, animal fodder and bio-materials. After the plants have been pulled (harvested), the root remnants fertilise and clean the soil, thereby improving the productivity of soil for 6 to 7 years. Growing flax requires no irrigation, no fertilisers and no herbicides and pesticides, and therefore does not pollute rivers or groundwater. Flax even retains 3.7 tons of CO2 per hectare per year. (Ref 1)
PRODUCE & DYE HAPPILY
Planet Earth is being poisoned. It is reported that the clothing industry is accountable for over 20% of industrial water pollution in the world. Having worked in the international textile sourcing business I saw first-hand the impact of the farming, process and production of cotton goods on the world and its people. I have seen the vast swathes of land turned over to cotton production rather than crops, over 50% of which of which ends up in landfill. (Ref 2) Cotton farming is responsible for 24% of insecticides and 11% of pesticides, despite using only 3% of the world’s arable land. (Ref 3)
As flax does not need irrigation or pesticides and as your fabric is not pre-dyed, through purchasing a Cut Couture Kit you are reducing some of the huge consumption of water and chemicals required in industry to produce and to dye fabric and garments. Over 2500 litres of water is required to process and dye one cotton T-shirt in industry and 16% of that is used in the dying process. (Ref 4) If you choose to add a splash of colour to personalise your garment you are adding just that, a splash. To hand dye your one-off piece It will take only 6 litres of water to dye and the same for hand washing and rinsing. Because linen is so absorbent it takes less dye to reach a rich colour. I have achieved beautiful deep shades on 500g of linen fabric from dye designed to colour just half that amount.
As your kit is pre-cut from undyed fabric you are dyeing ONLY the fabric needed for the garment. Approx. 15-25% of dyed fabric ends up on the cutting room floor when producing garments from dyed fabric as even the most efficient of lay plans in industry have offcuts. Therefore 15-25% of the dye is used unnecessarily. By dyeing your own garment at home not only are you using exceptionally less water than in industry, you are producing zero dyed fabric waste. After dyeing your garment the desired shade you can also use weak dye baths to dye other garments or fabrics pastel shades, until the dye bath is completely exhausted.
In future I hope to learn more about, and to introduce to my range, natural dyes. Those who follow my Instagram will have seen my excitement over experiments to date! One step at a time, my aim is to eventually offer a totally natural home sew and dye kit to environmentally aware, contemporary makers.
CUT OUT WASTE ON AN INDUSTRIAL SCALE
When developing my range my aim was to produce as little waste as possible, if not zero waste, at the cutting stage. I have found that each style cut individually by hand during the sampling process leads to 30-35% of the fabric as off cuts. This is generally the case with all home sewing. However, by using one fabric quality to produce several styles, pieces can be slotted around each other to create better efficiency. By then using sophisticated software to digitize patterns and create computerised lay planning and automatic cutting, efficiency can be increased further which, in my case, has resulted in only 17.5% of the fabric as offcuts over 5 styles. And these off cuts have not gone to waste. Each kit contains a bundle of these offcuts for sewing, colouring or decorative technique samples. All my care labels are printed on offcuts.
The remaining 2 bags of small pieces (10kg or 6.5% ‘waste’) have been donated to a local school for craft projects. Mission achieved – Zero Waste.
SUSTAINABLE TRANSPORT & PACKAGING
As a sustainable approach is at the core of Cut Couture, I do not profess to be perfect in this respect but I do profess to be aiming to achieve the lowest possible environmental impact from development to delivery and to have an honest and open approach to providing information about the process from start to finish. Transporting anything internationally has environmental consequences, but unless the UK textile industry has a miraculous recovery, which I doubt will happen in my lifetime, now that textiles is no longer part of the current UK curriculum, we have to import much of what we use to create garments in the UK as sustainably as we can.
Today, the European Union grows over 80% of all flax fibre. (Ref 5) However, due to the demise of the textile industry over the last 50 years, Europe is no longer the biggest spinner of linen yarn or weaver of linen fabric. As with most textiles, China is currently the largest producer and exporter of linen. (Ref 6) Especially with regards to qualities suitable for garments. Now this obviously comes with problems from a sustainable transport perspective for garment makers in the UK. However, when I met my supplier Grace, at an International Trade Fair in London she worked with me to find an efficient and environmentally conscious way to transport the fabric from her factory in China to the cutting factory in Lancashire. With TNT’s ‘hitch a lift’ method of airfreight for non-urgent shipments, I was able to wait for what would have been an empty space on a plane about to depart with bulk cargo to the UK, then my small shipment was slotted in and ‘hitched a ride’.
Determined to keep the environmental impact of my products to a minimum, I have ensured that your Cut Couture Kit is delivered in a box made from recycled materials and itself is fully recyclable. All packaging is biodegradable. Including the plant-based sealing sticker, the contents sticker and the sugar-cane mailer bag in which your kit is delivered. Lancashire spun 100% Jute is used in both the packaging and as one of the component of my dye kits. It is Biodegradeable and compostable with very similar properties to flax. Like flax, jute is a rapidly renewable and durable plant fibre which grows in 40 days with little or no requirement for pesticides, fertilizers or water other than rain. (Ref 7) The jute plant absorbs more carbon dioxide than it releases oxygen and its efficient growth means it uses less land to cultivate than other crops. In fact, jute can increase soil fertility if the leaves of the crop are mixed with the soil before flowering.
Our jute twine has been produced locally for generations by James Lever 1856 Ltd. It is in its natural state and has had none of the harsh chemical bleach often applied to cotton string. After using it to tie dye your garment why not re-use it for colourful packaging string or garden twine.
SUSTAINABLE COMPONENTS NATURALLY
A conscious decision was made to include no nylon zips or synthetic elastics and interfacings in Cut Couture styles. Only natural, biodegradable components will find their way into your kits.
Threads, designer labels and tapes are 100% cotton, buttons are natural coconut. Recycled paper envelopes used to contain your components have natural string ties rather than synthetic gums and written instructions are printed on recycled paper.
As they are not biodegradable, kits include a complimentary air erasable pen, pins on a polypropylene holder and plastic based measuring tape. I hope you will use these three items for years to come and, when necessary, to recycle the plastic elements of these responsibly. Tailors chalk could of course be used rather than the pen provided but in my opinion is not as precise, easy to use or effective as the air-erasable pen.
FOOTNOTES AND REFERRENCES
1. Linen – the original sustainable material. Produced as part of Fashioned from Nature. Ran from 21 April 2018 to 27 January 2019 https://www.vam.ac.uk/articles/linen-the-original-sustainable-material)
2. Fashion and Waste: An Uneasy Relationship https://www.commonobjective.co/article/fashion-and-waste-an-uneasy-relationship
3. Edge Fashion Intelligence – Fashion Industry Waste Statistics https://edgexpo.com/fashion-industry-waste-statistics/
5. Bast Fibres – Size of Production https://www.commonobjective.co/article/bast-fibres-size-of-production
6. Where is linen Fabric Produced – https://sewport.com/fabrics-directory/linen-fabric
7. Farmers told to grown Jute to increase soil fertility – https://www.deccanherald.com/content/80226/farmers-told-grow-jute-increase.html
8. Little Fingers : Child labour in the Garment Industry. https://www.trustedclothes.com/blog/2017/04/02/little-fingers-child-labour-in-the-garment-industry/