I recently had a spirited discussion with a blogger about fabrics. I was telling her how many obstacles I had to conquer in order to offer bluesign fabric. She was only interested in clothes made with natural fibers like cotton, bamboo and recycle plastic. It dawned on me when I walked away from that (polite, yet divided) conversation that most consumers tend to know what advertisers and marketers want us to know and not the “true facts” about fabric.
Before I started Balinisports, I spent an intensive three months with Invista Fabric specialists to study the pros and cons of all the high performance fabric options. Did you know there are thousands of various fabrics and textile options? On a personal note, my dear husband is an environmental engineering consultant and I am always asking for crash courses on things I don't understand regarding the impact on the environment. Where to start? Of the thousands of ways to produce clothing today, I'll keep the focus on the two most cited ones: natural fibers and recycled plastic.
Natural fibers, such as cotton and bamboo, sound natural and wholesome enough, right? However, there are a lot of steps that take place before they can become those bright, dazzling shirts and pants we all know and love. The process usually includes toxins and harsh dyes. In addition, it takes 700 (yes, 700!) gallons of water to produce just ONE cotton t-shirt AND one-third of a pound of pesticide (during cotton growth).
Patterned fabrics, cute as they are, consume the lion's share of water. When all is tallied up, 14.3 million tons of textile waste is generated each year by cotton apparel in the United States alone. I know we get really excited when we think the products we’re using are actually reincarnated from pieces of plastic that would otherwise be filling up landfills. However, intensive bleaching and dying with harsh, often harmful, chemicals is used in order to create most colored fabrics. Just picture a trip to the hairdresser for context. If you want a bright color, the hairdresser would need to bleach/strip your hair with a harsh chemical first. The brighter the color, the harsher the chemical - and if you want multiple colors, prepare for triple the chemicals.
Bluesign regulates how water waste and material waste are handled during and after the production process. In addition, bluesign garments go through more than 100 strict regulations. Let me tell you, becoming bluesign certified, as a brand is no easy take. It takes at least half a year and you have to endure many announced inspections.
Very few factories in the world are in the financial position to take on such a big commitment. It took me 9 months of continuous pleading before our current factory granted me the contract. Bottom line? A lot of the phrases that are thrown around in the apparel world are just marketing taglines that are designed to make well-intentioned shoppers have a sense of false confidence in how a product was produced. However, there are authentic, wholesome products out there. Shop with your brand and your heart.