The Value of Plant Dyed Clothing, July 9, 2022There are many reasons why we as a brand have decided to commit to using plant dyes for all of our collections. First and foremost, plant dyes, coming directly from plants, connect us more to our botanical environment through our clothing, much more so than synthetic dyes do. The message of Bodies As Clothing is to remind us, through the communicative tool of fashion, that everything is interconnected, ultimately to this idea of 'nature'. The idea that came about during industrialisation that humans and nature are separate is something that we as Bodies As Clothing are aiming to dispel: Humans and Nature are one.
As plant dyes come directly from nature, there is also much less energy, waste, and resources needed to make plant dyes versus synthetic dyes. More benefits of plant dyed clothing include: Being non-toxic, non-allergic, and biodegradable. This means that plant dyed clothing is great for your skin, your body's largest organ that slowly absorbs all of the ingredients of your clothing. As everything is interconnected, this means that plant dyed clothing is not only good for your own body, but also the other bodies of Nature, such as the ocean, rivers, and other waterways. This is what inspired our first collection, Forgotten Lungs, a reference to our oceans that produce more than 80% of our planet's breathable oxygen. Using plant dyes, we help ensure that all of the processes used to create our first collection protect and do not harm our oceans, our 'Forgotten Lungs'.
Moreover (and this is something that most people don't know!), plant dyed clothing has a more effective UV absorption rate than synthetically dyed clothing in general. This means that wearing plant dyed clothing and apparel will protect your skin from the sun more effectively than synthetically dyed clothing.
Plant dyed clothing does however have some downsides. The natural colouring, although more vibrant, gradually fades over time, and may change colour when it reacts with sweat or other acidic liquids such as lemon juice. Many of us have learned to appreciate these faults of plant dyes!
Overall, natural dyes are infinitely better for the environment and our bodies.
The Cost of 'Sustainable Fashion' May 27, 2022
One of the most common questions I've heard and been asked at sustainable fashion panels is, 'How can sustainable fashion actually be affordable?'. To that my answer is: It's a matter of a supply and demand, plus a shift in values. Currently, less than 10% of textiles produced are made of natural fibres (linen, cotton, hemp, silk), and less than 5% are made of certified organic natural fibres. There is a small supply of raw materials to make 'sustainable fashion'. A whopping 52% of all textiles produced each year is polyester, which is a plastic fabric made from petroleum. Furthermore, only 14% of this polyester production comes from recycled inputs. Not to be confusing, but we think recycled polyester and nylons are ok for minimal swimwear like swim briefs and bikinis, but because of the health issues surrounding microplastics in our food chains and the fact that we're still absorbing the petroleum based chemicals through our skin when we're wearing petroleum based fibres, we're not really fans of polyester, recycled or not.
Bodies As Clothing firmly believes that textiles made from natural fibres that are not pushed through a chemically intense process from fibre to finish (Bamboo rayon, I'm looking at you!) are key to sustainability. But a key has multiple parts: A handle + shaft, and the actual cut part of the key that stores the code and information to turn and create a shift.
On the material side (the handle + shaft part of the key), there is clearly a lack of supply of natural fibre based textiles produced yearly in the world to make completely biodegradable, natural clothing. As Adam Smith, the father of economics and his 'invisible hand' have taught us, low supply whilst there is still demand means prices will be expensive.
Now, to get into the actual cut part of the key that stores the code and information to create a shift: This part of the key lies in the more abstract psychological state of consumer behaviour. Since the onset of the industrial era, the average cost of a new set of clothes has gone down drastically, and people want it ready to wear right away. Why so? This is perhaps largely because of the invention of plastic based fibres that are cheap to produce, easy to scale, and quick to make, combined with the lightning speed of electrical communications and transport links. Petroleum based fibres and the large corporations that produce the plastic textiles and the collections of clothing with them are also largely subsidised by governments; which makes them appear even more affordable to their natural fibre, plant dyed, independently owned business counterparts. Because of this economic shift in the production of textiles, and big fast-fashion giants like H&M and Zara, it became normal for people to think that a t-shirt should easily cost less than 15 euros. When we take a step back, shouldn't we be spending more money on our clothes that are meant to protect and keep us company intimately against our bodies for years to come rather than spend a comparable amount on a drunken Friday night meal?
This is where the paradigm shift lies at the tip of the key. A shift in how much we value our clothing needs to change in order for fashion to be truly sustainable. Clothing isn't something disposable or quick to change, clothing is like our second skin, and human beings that respect the gentle balance of life, we must respect our second skin that interacts with the delicate balance of the interconnected systems of life.
Until raw materials for sustainable fashion become more affordable and a paradigm shift occurs in consumer behaviour regarding the value of clothing, sustainable fashion will continue to appear 'expensive' and not affordable.