The planet is pocked with landfills full of clothing and fabrics no one wants. The fast fashion industry encourages consumers to buy clothing every few weeks and there aren’t enough second-hand consumers to take care of all the barely-used clothing being discarded every day. Up to 85% of discarded clothing winds up being burned up and polluting the environment or dumped in the landfill where it takes hundreds of years to break down if it will at all.
There are many ways to be part of the solution to this global crisis. First, don’t buy from fast-fashion brands that encourage overconsumption of ill-made goods manufactured in sweatshop conditions. Instead, invest in quality pieces that will last for years and can be updated depending on how you combine it with other pieces. Another way to fight the fast-fashion trend is by taking care of the fabrics that you buy. Here are three fabrics that will last for years and look good the whole time.
1. Fleece and Flannel
From outfits to sheets and blankets, flannel and fleece fabric are hardy, cold-weather choices that can keep you warm even in the damp and wet. If you are looking to avoid synthetic, petroleum-based fabrics choose cotton flannel, but fleece has some benefits you can’t get from flannel. First, fleece doesn’t unravel, pill or shrink. Fleece is also less expensive, lighter weight and provides better insulation than flannel.
Because fleece is synthetic it can literally last forever without getting misshapen or falling apart. Because of its insulation capabilities, it is the perfect outdoor gear fabric. If you do need to pass it on, companies like Patagonia take your used fleece to upcycle or use in other programs they run. In other good news, more companies are manufacturing fleece from recycled PET products like plastic bottles.
2. Organic Linen
Natural fibers are more expensive than their synthetic counterparts, but in many cases, they will last far longer than the rayon, viscose and acrylic that are the common building blocks of fast fashion clothing. Linen, made from flax, is known as the most durable natural fabric and is about 30% more durable than cotton.
Linen is a fabric that actually continues to soften the longer you own it. With each wash, the fibers blend into one another creating a strong but supple fabric that doesn’t lose its shape. Linen has other benefits too. If fleece is the perfect winter fabric, linen is the fabric of summer. Linen wicks moisture and can absorb about 10% of its weight in water. It’s also antimicrobial, so your sweat isn’t going to turn it into a bacterial nightmare.
Linen is also great for the planet because flax can grow in poor soil and with little care. The whole plant is used to produce linen so there’s no waste. It’s moth resistant and safe in the washer and dryer too.
3. Organic Hemp
Finally, hemp clothing is coming into its own. With the 2018 Farm Bill, which legalized hemp production in the United States, hemp clothing was no longer only for the wealthy. Hemp is a crop like flax that can grow in rocky soil and with little water. While linen may hold the title of the “most durable natural fabric” hemp actually takes the title. It’s up to four times stronger than cotton.
After that, there are many similarities between the two. Hemp is also antimicrobial and naturally moth resistant. Hemp is also resistant to UV light so it won’t become discolored and aged looking in the sun. It’s also resistant to mildew and rot so you can keep it stashed for years and pass it on to your family. No need to worry about the landfill here!
When thinking about your own wardrobe it’s important to consider the durability of the clothing along with the impact the manufacture has on the environment. While you might pay more upfront for more durable fabrics, you’ll be spending less over the long term with textiles that never wear out.