Know your fibres – What your clothes are really made from...

Do you know what’s in your wardrobe?

How about what fibres you’re putting next to your skin, or even sleeping in?

The answer to this question and many more can be found on the almighty care label.

But who cares about the care label, right? Once you’ve bought the item, it’ll get chucked in the wash with everything else anyway…

Wait! Before you take out the scissors for the ceremonious label cutting, take a closer look at what the care label can tell you. Aside from having valuable insight into how best to wash your item for longevity, the care label also reveals the composition of fibres you’re wearing.


Like anything, we believe it’s better to be informed so you can make better decisions.

"Is it regenerative? Is it biodegradable? Does this brand align with my values?"

When you know what fibres you prefer to wear, you can choose to support brands who are doing good things for the planet.

Fibres can be categorised into 3 key areas:

Synthetic

These are fibres made to mimic natural fibres and are formed using a chemical process. They are created by melting pellets of plastic into a polymer and extruding it through a spinneret to make a continuous filament fibre that can then be woven and knitted into textiles.

Pros: Cheap to make and buy

Cons: Made using fossil fuels / petroleum-based materials. Non-biodegradable. These fibres don’t break down as they are made from plastic, creating pollution. 

Examples of synthetic fibres: Polyester, Acrylic, Nylon, Lycra, Polyamide, Polypropylene.

Man-made, or semi-synthetic

These fibres are also formed using a chemical process, but the difference is that they use materials that are derived from a natural source. They are a blend of both natural and synthetic materials. A man-made fibre example is lyocell – The raw material is derived from gumtrees, where the pulp is used to create a fibre from in the lab.

Pros: Uses natural fibres and can be created using closed loop petrochemical solutions or eco-solvents which have less impact on the environment than synthetic options.

Cons: The production of some types can see the destruction of ancient forests to make room for pulpwood plantations.

Examples of man-made fibres are: Tencel, Rayon, Viscose.

Natural

These are fibres made by nature and are grown by animals and plants.

The raw materials are spun into yarn that can then be made into natural fabrics. Not all natural fibres are created equal though. The practices and ethics behind the extraction of natural fibres and their use is widely varied. There's more to being legitimately sustainable and ethical than just tick boxes, although looking for certification's and transparency is key to knowing you're making the right choice.

As more and more farms take a regenerative approach to farming, growers are using less chemicals and are actually taking excess carbon from the air and sequestering it in the soil, where it’s useful!

Pros: Better for the environment, less chemicals, breathable, biodegradeable.

Cons: Needs land, water and space to grow (but we kinda like seeing nature growing…)

Examples of natural fibres are: Wool, linen, bamboo, cotton, silk, cashmere, hemp.

Obviously, we’re a bit biased! But only because we want to see a more natural world. One that we feel good about passing onto our children’s children, as they gather around the fire and listen to our tales of how clothing used to be made from plastic back in our day…


P. +64 3 335 0911

© The New Zealand Merino Company Ltd 2019