What are Sustainable Fabrics?

What are Sustainable Fabrics?

The word sustainable may seem like the latest buzzword, but what does sustainable actually mean? There are currently no regulations around the use of the word, so how can we know what a brand means when they say they're sustainable?

The term sustainability often brings to mind ideas of the environment, eco-friendly options and being plastic-free, but it can be so much more. At Peanut & Bumble, sustainability means producing and distributing our clothing in a way that lessens our impact on our environment and positively impacts the lives of others, whether it be the sewists that produce our garments or the children that wear them.

Sustainability is a core value of our brand and it is a guiding principal when making all of our decisions. We'll discuss other areas of focus in future blog posts, but today we'll highlight the sustainability of various fabrics and why we source the fabrics that we use.

Why P&B Avoids Virgin Polyester (Where We Can)

Polyester is the most widely used textile today. Essentially, plastic is melted down and then extruded into very thin, long strands. These strands are woven or knit together to form fabrics, which is then cut and sewn into clothing. Polyester is cheap, durable, doesn't shrink and can be recycled. Because it can be produced very quickly and inexpensively, fast fashion brands rely on polyester to keep their prices low and production speeds high.

However, polyester has a massive carbon footprint - from being derived from oil to never breaking down naturally. Globally, landfills are stuffed with discarded polyester clothing which pollute the water of nearby communities and create literal mountains of unwanted clothing that have nowhere else to go. When it's not in our own backyard, it's easy to ignore the consequences of polyester, but other populations are suffering dire consequences from our overconsumption of this textile.

Polyester does have unique qualities that can be difficult or impossible to reproduce with a natural fiber, and we believe there is room for responsible use of polyester in a fashion brand's lineup. However, wherever possible the use of natural fibers is preferred.

Natural and Semi-Synthetic Fibers

Cotton, bamboo, rayon, linen, lyocell...there are a ton of natural and semi-synthetic textiles used in apparel. The main difference between a natural and semi-synthetic fiber is that semi-synthetics are derived from a natural source (trees, bamboo, etc.) but intensively use chemicals to convert the natural pulp to useable fibers and yarn.

When Peanut and Bumble launched in 2020, we had a line of bamboo items. Customers fawned over the baby-soft bamboo items on the rack, and loved the fact that bamboo was touted as one of the most sustainable fabrics available.

Now in 2024, we no longer use bamboo for two main reasons:
- Bamboo is incredibly soft off-the-rack, but pills quickly and becomes less soft over time
- Bamboo grows quickly without irrigation or pesticides (generally why it's considered so sustainable), but the process to turn bamboo pulp into useable fibers for textiles is very chemically intensive

Our lineup now consists mainly of cotton/spandex which we use for all of our printed items, and a lyocell/cotton/spandex blend for our solid colours.

We love cotton and lyocell for a few reasons:
- Cotton is considered a natural fiber because no chemicals are required to turn raw cotton into a useable fiber for textile production. We love cotton because it's breathable, durable, washable and holds our print colours beautifully. While growing cotton often requires the use of irrigation and pesticides, partnering with responsible suppliers reduces the environmental footprint needed to create this beautiful, traditional fabric.
- Lyocell is considered a semi-synthetic fiber in that it's derived from trees and turned into a fiber using a chemically-intensive process; however the magic of the lyocell we use in our fabrics is that the production process is a closed-loop cycle. This means the chemicals that are used in the process are recycled and re-used over and over, unlike traditional processes (typically used in rayon from bamboo, viscose, etc.) where the chemicals are dumped after each production run. Combined with the sustainable harvest and regrowth of the beech trees used for pulp production, this makes lyocell one of the most sustainable fabrics available today.

Both of our main fabrics include a small amount of spandex (5% or less). While spandex is a synthetic fiber, the benefits of adding this to our fabrics is additional stretch (always amazing for comfort), and longevity. Our clothing is designed to be worn and loved over and over. Your kids are tumbling, running, climbing and exploring in their Peanut and Bumble and you need these items to last. The addition of spandex to our high-quality natural fibers ensures these can be passed down again and again.

Sourcing Sustainable Fabrics

One of the most over-looked and least-talked about aspects of sustainable fabrics is the sourcing. While a fiber itself may be eco-friendly, it's not sustainable if the workers involved are not compensated properly from the farmers to the factory workers to the suppliers themselves.

We currently have two main suppliers for our fabrics:
- Our prints are sourced overseas from a family-owned custom print shop located in Turkey. We've been fortunate to grow our brand alongside the growth of their company and enjoy a friendly relationship with the owner himself. They share our values for responsible, ethical production and have various certifications ensuring compliance with those values.
- Our solid fabrics are currently sourced from a supplier in Vancouver, BC. We've worked with this supplier from the start of our journey and appreciate their support and guidance as we've grown. They have a dedicated section for eco-friendly and responsible fabrics, and we absolutely love their quality and dedication to the industry.

Together, our fabrics are one of my personal sources of pride with Peanut and Bumble. At each market we attend, there's guaranteed to be someone commenting on how soft our fabrics are and how amazing the quality is. To also know that they're sustainably produced is the ultimate cherry on top.

The bottom line is no matter how eco-friendly or ethical a fabric is, if it sits in a closet unworn because it's not comfortable or doesn't spark joy for you or your kids, it doesn't fit the bill for us. Ticking all the boxes - our fabrics are fun, bold, unique, incredibly soft and we can feel good about their production as we head into cutting and sewing!

Send us a message if you'd like more information on our fabrics or have any comments!

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