Why Linen Is Enjoying a Fashion Renaissance
Why Linen Is Enjoying a Fashion Renaissance
Is Linen Sustainable?
Natural fibres have long been heralded as the most ‘sustainable’. However, growing and processing fabrics like cotton and viscose can be highly taxing on our environment. Often, they leave behind scarred landscapes, a lack of biodiversity, and have huge implications for the people that rely on the land to live. There are, however, better ways to grow and process fibres to make fabric that is natural and biodegradable. Linen is an ancient fabric, boasting a long list of benefits for you and the environment, and as Tagwalk recently reported, even designer brands are increasingly utilising this amazing fabric in their collections.
Linen is widely recognised as the first plant based textile fibre to be used by humans. It has been dated to be approximately 38,000 years old. This isn’t so crazy when you understand how little intervention is needed to process the fibres into fabric. Flax, the plant that linen is made from, is grown predominantly in Europe, around 95% is grown in France, Belgium and the Netherlands. This is because the moist soil, and warm but not hot temperatures are optimum for flax growth.
Little irrigation is needed as the plant thrives with only dew, moisture already available in the soil and natural rainfall. When one linen shirt is purchased, it’s estimated to save 13.5 bottles of water. Growth is quick too, around 100 days, and the crop can be rotated, meaning that no land is wasted. Flax is actually helpful in preparing land for future crops. It consumes very little nitrogen from the soil and it’s long taproots actually boost the integrity of the soil it grows in. Additionally, it doesn’t need any chemical pesticides to grow, and so remains a chemical free material.
Once grown to maturity, flax is pulled from the ground and laid out for the retting process. This 100% natural process involves alternating sunshine and rainfall to eliminate the pectose that binds the fibres to the woody stalks. Everything is then separated out using a technique called Scutching, then Hackling takes place in order to sort the fibres to begin spinning. All of which happens in a region local to the growth of the flax. This element ensures that the carbon footprint of growing and processing linen fibre is lowered because it doesn’t have to be transported a large distance in order to complete the supply chain.
Benefits of Linen Clothing
So Linen is undoubtedly a low impact fabric to produce, but why do we wear it? Whilst linen is breathable like cotton, unlike cotton it also boasts temperature regulating qualities which make it cool to wear in Summer and insulting in the colder months. It’s absorbent whilst allowing liquid to pass through. This makes it an excellent candidate for athleisure and activewear. The fabric is also well loved by fashion designers. Christian Dior once stated that ‘ linen is to the couturier what marble is to the sculptor, a noble material.’ So as well as being a technical fabric, it also has huge possibilities when used for our everyday, and even our evening wardrobes.
Fashion designers are adopting linen
Brands such as Arkitaip have adopted linen as their signature fabric. The mother daughter design duo Michi and Lea Weiser have championed the fabric since their label launched in 2018. They believe that linens' hygienic and technical qualities, coupled with it’s incredible structure when finished, makes for the most beautiful, not to mention sustainable pieces of clothing. In an effort to combat the myth that linen is just for resort wear, the brand also offers incredible tailored trousers and coats perfect for Autumn.
Recently linen has been cropping up on the high fashion catwalks too, spotted in collections by Jacquemus, Fendi and Maison Margiela. According to catwalk search engine Tagwalk, linen use saw an increase of 102% on the catwalks, with 49% of brands showcasing at least one linen look in their collections. Although statistics like this can sometimes seem a little dry, this marks an important growth in ‘non sustainable’ brands using more sustainable fabrics. Especially fabrics that aren’t traditionally considered ‘luxury’ like linen. If this increase continues, it’s promising that we may start to see a reduction in the use of less environmentally favourable fabrics.
By Lucy Kebbell
Lucy is the Founder of sustainable style platform The Vendeur, and now The WIP, a digital membership platform for eco aware brand founders, entrepreneurs and side hustlers. To find out more and to support the upcoming Kickstarter campaign, please subscribe and follow them on Instagram @thewip.work