Shopping sustainably is increasingly important in this day and age, now that we are more informed on the environmental crisis facing the planet. Even if you consider yourself environmentally aware, you may not have considered purchasing sustainable fabrics as either a problem or a solution. However, ethical, sustainable purchasing habits can actually help address many of these issues in ways you may not expect.
How does the textile and fashion industry impact the environment?
When we purchase fabric or clothes, we may not consider the long process from raw materials to finished fabrics or garments, but it is a responsibility of consumers to understand how purchasing habits can influence the planet for bad or good. Textile manufacturing often requires a huge amount of water which is the most precious commodity on the planet. Harmful dyes which are used in textiles can all too often end up in rivers close to factories. We are all now enlightened by TV programmes like Blue Planet which have made us aware of the impact of microfibres, commonly used in leisure wear but which pollute oceans.
How are fabric shops helping consumers?
Fabric shops across the country, including Fabrics Galore, are doing everything they can to make themselves completely aware of where fabrics originate. When you buy sustainable and deadstock fabrics from these shops, you can rest assured that we do everything we can to ensure they were not made using unethical practices, such as sweatshop labour or child labour. We want our customers to have confidence that raw materials for our fabrics are grown and processed without exploiting our planet and workers. We all want to feel great about the fabrics we purchase, and that includes feeling great about knowing under what conditions they were produced. Of course, throughout the industry there is a long way to go here as there are still limitations in supply chain research but Fabrics Galore is asking all the right questions to find out as much as we can about how and where our fabric is produced.
What does deadstock mean?
Deadstock fabrics are considered ‘leftovers’ from previous projects, where the excess materials are no longer required. Utilising textile waste is a popular choice for eco-conscious consumers, as otherwise, this excess fabric could potentially go straight to landfill even when it's new and unused. Textile houses and garment factories often have a large amount of leftover fabric, which many people are happy to purchase, preventing unnecessary waste and brand-new materials being produced but not used. By using scrap or deadstock fabrics, it is a smart way to craft new projects in an environmentally sustainable manner since they use existing materials, which might otherwise go to waste. This also contributes to saving precious resources like water that are employed in the manufacturing process.
What global standards are there for fabrics?
Garments should always be checked for chemical content certification labels such as OEKO-TEX® and GOTS. OEKO-TEX® fabrics are textiles that have been certified free from hazardous chemicals; textiles and textile products are labelled and certified based on their safety. The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) is also important to look out for, as it defines high-level environmental criteria which textiles need to meet, ensuring fabrics meet environmentally and socially responsible manufacturing standards.
How is Fabrics Galore supporting sustainable shopping?
Fabrics Galore has been inspired by Jane Makower who recently presented at an industry event proposing a 4-point sustainable action plan for fabric shops and consumers of fabrics:
Buy and sell more eco-friendly materials–including recycled fibres. Be aware that fabric choice is key - natural fibres like cotton are often not sustainable as they require a huge amount of water to process.
Know where our fabric has come from - or find another way to give our customers confidence that it is grown and processed without exploiting our planet and our workers. Choose fabrics which meet the GOTS standard and brands which show traceability.
Ensure that the fabrics we stock do not have dangerous chemicals in them and preferably were not processed with harmful chemicals. Look out for fabrics with the OEKE-TEX label. See our article on OEKE-TEX for more information on this.
- Encourage and celebrate responsible consumption – embrace the “Slow Fashion” Movement.
Here at Fabrics Galore, we truly believe that ethical, sustainable fabrics can make a difference and we encourage and celebrate responsible consumption. We take a lot of care to seek out suppliers who share our values, which also means checking that the fabrics we stock do not have dangerous chemicals in them - or were processed in a harmful way.
We are increasingly on the look-out for eco-friendly materials including recycled fibres. We always consider a fabric’s provenance and proof of whether it is produced responsibly. Does it meet GOTS? We ensure that the fabrics we stock are safe–we favour Oekotex standard 100. We applaud our customers who are already doing their bit to save the planet by making something of lasting value to keep and cherish, and want to encourage this attitude of creating for the long-term, which can sometimes be lost in the ocean of the high-street shops and fashion ’seasons’.
As a business, we are committed to working towards a sustainable future in the fabrics industry. For example, we always use compostable packaging for our online orders and thermal till rolls, which include carbon offset in the cost, so they are more expensive, but much better for the environment. We also stock a wide range of deadstock fabrics, which you will often find in our Sale section on the website.
We would like to credit Jane Makower for her contributions to this article in her fascinating presentation “Textiles and a Sustainable Future.”