From last year’s silky milk-protein fabric, QMilch, to breakthroughs in eco-friendly yet high-end denim, the green label, as applied to fashion, is finally losing some of its crunchy non-appeal. Now two more fabrics are hitting the market, each of which combines an effective blend of technology, sustainability, and style in such a way that the industry can embrace them without feeling any (unwanted) hippie roots.
First, there’s Crailar, which feels like cotton and is made from sustainable flax. The fiber can also be cared for similarly to cotton (and, in fact, can be blended with a range of other natural materials to create variations of the fabric) and is in no way chemically altered. Both the public and private sectors have signed off on the material — the USDA granted Crailar its Biobased label, which means it meets or exceeds certain sustainability standards, while Target has apparently ordered 100,000 pounds of the fabric from Naturally Advanced Technologies, which produces the product.
The second natural fiber making its debut is abaca, which comes mostly from the Philippines (it’s also sometimes referred to as Manila hemp). And indeed, the fabric does come from a type of hemp, but leaves the health food store image behind. Abaca, which was originally used for rope, can be woven similarly to denim when blended with polyester. Even with that synthetic component, the final result is breathable and doesn’t retain heat. Asia Textile Mills, which produces the abaca-poly blend, is making inroads in Japan, where it has an account with Maasa, which sells mid- to high-priced jeans.
While celebrities in the U.S. continue to champion “green” dressing on the red carpet in order to bring a more glamorous image to the initiative, these breakthroughs in sustainable fabric technology are no less important. With the advent of fabrics like Crailar and abaca, accidental eco-dressing should become more of a norm. And, ultimately, that’s what will move green fibers solidly into the mainstream — when they’re so commonplace consumers buy and wear them without having to make an active choice to do so.