60% of Our Clothing is Made from Plastic- How Can You Understand the Fabric Content of Your Clothes - VOUS Contemporary Clothing

60% of Our Clothing is Made from Plastic- How Can You Understand the Fabric Content of Your Clothes

What do you know about the fabric that you wear?

Acrylic is one of the most popular materials for winter clothing and is often used as a lightweight substitute for wool due to its heat retention qualities. What many of you may not know however, is that this fabric is particularly damaging to our environment and even to your own health. Acrylic is a synthetic fibre and is derived from fossil fuels. Its production requires the following process:

 When heat and pressure are applied to a fossil fuel such as petroleum or natural gas, a soft plastic solution is formed. This plastic solution is passed through spinnerets to create a fibre. This fibre is then allowed to solidify and is washed and cut ready for fabric production. Acrylic fabric is produced when the acrylic fibres are woven together to create a fabric.

The production of Acrylic involves several chemicals, the main chemical being acrylonitrile. Acrylonitrile has been associated with a range of health problems which includes an increased risk of cancer for workers exposed to this chemical. As Acrylic is highly flammable many producers treat the material with flame retardants (further chemicals) in order to combat this issue. However, these also add more potentially harmful chemicals to the mix.  

As Acrylic fibres are essentially plastic, the fabric offers little breathability. This means that moisture, heat and oils are trapped close to the skin which exacerbate issues such as acne and dermatitis. As the fabric itself heats up (due to an increased body temperature from limited breathability), it releases any harmful chemical residue leftover from production.

Acrylic fabrics also pose an end of life problem. Essentially plastic, these fibres don’t biodegrade. Research has shown that it takes up to 200 years for Acrylic fibres to break down.

Even before Acrylic fabric reaches landfill, it sheds plastic particles (or microplastics). Microplastics represent a key environmental problem in the modern world and garments such as acrylic clothing are a major contributor. One load of laundry can release up to 700,000 microfibres. These microfibres (again essentially plastic) go on to litter the air, the ocean and the soil.

 So, how do you tell if your clothing is made from plastic? One easy way is to look at the care and content label sewn into the seam of a garment. By law, every piece of clothing is required to be labelled with its fabric content. Fabrics such as Acrylic, Polyester, and Nylon are synthetic fabrics and derived from petroleum making them a form of plastic.

The good news is that there are alternatives to synthetic fabrics. These are wool, linen, hemp and cotton. Understanding the content of your clothes is important as it offers you the choice as to what you wish to expose your body and our environment to.

At VOUS we also understand that finding clothing that is free from plastic in mainstream fashion is hard (and time consuming!). This is why we promise to NEVER use plastic-based fabrics in our garments. It is our pledge to you always.

If you want to learn more about the difference between natural and synthetic fabrics read our blog here.

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