By Daniela Degrassi
Today I’d like to share an article I wrote for Ethical Brand Directory, a sustainable living, education and networking platform for consumers and business owners. As the organization name gives away, it was first born to showcase a directory of brands with sustainable values and operation standards. With its founder Roberta Lee’s passionate efforts, EBD has developed into a global network and now an academy, helping ethical and sustainable brands owners to connect, learn and grow their business. I was happy to join EBD in its early stages in 2016 with my former vegan bridal-friendly line Annaborgia. I’m proud today to continue my collaboration with Roberta as a blog contributor. My articles focus on weddings of course, with particular attention to sustainable and ethical choices and practices so dear to EBD’s conscious readers. My latest article “The Future Of Bridal Fashion Is Green” explores the new wave of plant based textiles that courageous bridal designers are using for their collections putting earth first, while their glamorous results are second to none.
Bamboo silk gown by Sanyukta Shrestha
THE FUTURE OF FASHION IS GREEN
It’s no surprise that wedding celebrations and sustainability are not a pair made in heaven. In 2018, wedding costs hit all-time high in UK with an average of £30,355 according to a recent survey by Bridebook, mentioned on The Independent.
The survey also reveals that only 16% of UK brides make the choice of wearing a dress they will be able to re-wear again.
While there are ways to recycle or donate your wedding dress brides can now also begin to make more responsible, eco-friendly choices when purchasing the gown of their dreams.
For the past few decades, the most common fabrics used in bridal wear have been polyester blends and silk. We are by now quite familiar with the damages polyester can do to our environment. Silk, on the other hand, may not seem as threatening, but its processing and transportation costs unfortunately do lead to pollution. Also, animal rights activist (like yours truly) will point out its production is not at all ethical. Extracting raw silk starts by cultivating the silkworms on mulberry leaves. Once the worms start pupating in their cocoons, these are dissolved in boiling water in order for individual long fibers to be extracted and fed into the spinning reel.
Luckily, for eco-friendly brides AND animal lovers, the future is bright.. and.. green!
Eco-conscious bridal designers are now embracing the use of earth-friendly fabrics and testing out new technologies to offer both sustainable AND ethical choices. Today we are taking a journey to re-discover ancient natural fibers, that have been used for long by our ancestors and are finally seeing a new life to allow the mindful brides of today and of the future to take that walk down the aisle standing tall as fierce environmentalist in their glamorous ethical gowns.
Hemp is by far THE most sustainable fiber of all, taking only 60 days to grow pretty much in any condition, requiring much less water with no pesticides nor fertilizers needed. Hemp is a carbon consuming plant, and its healing roots system can transform toxic fields into fertile soil.
While it was once blended with real silk to create softer textiles, nowadays technologies can transform hemp fibers into finer, light weight silk blends, wrapping and draping delicately to achieve that perfect bridal feel.
Anti-bacterial and biodegradable, bamboo fibers are becoming more and more popular when it comes to making fabric. From bedding to clothing, industries are making more products with bamboo fabric, extolling the virtues of using the alternative source to cotton. For bridal wear, bamboo silk has the same natural sheen and softness of silk, and it’s far less expensive to produce. Bamboo is ready for harvesting within 4 years and does not require re-planting as its extensive root base sprouts new shoots readily.
Bamboo silk gowns by Sanyukta Shrestha
Bamboo is certainly the most versatile fabric used for wedding gowns at the moment. British Bridal Designer Sanyukta Shrestha makes a stunning use of bamboo silk in her new “Entwined Love” collection, as we recently unveiled on The Kind Bride. Just a few weeks ago we also shared Luna Bride Spring Collection showcasing some gorgeous bamboo silk gowns.
NETTLE LEAF FABRIC
Nettle is a herbaceous plant which has jagged leaves covered with stinging hairs. Nettle cultivation uses much less water and pesticides to grow. This perennial plant has not only being used for the past two millennial for its anti-inflammatory properties but it has been used as a textile since the Bronze Age in Europe as well as Asia. With the arrival of cotton and silk in the 16th century, nettle was pushed aside for a few Centuries, until the arrival of today’s new advances spinning technologies that makes it easier to produce finer cloths that can range from every day wearing to a delicate bridal worthy nettle organza.
BANANA STEM FABRIC
This biodegradable natural fibre is made from the stem of the banana tree and it is incredibly durable. Banana fiber is similar to natural bamboo fiber, but its spin ability, fineness and tensile strength are said to be better.
Banana fabric is a beautiful textile that mimics real silk, and acts as a great green and vegan alternative. While it is certainly a unique idea, it is not new. People have been making fibers out of banana stems since the early 13th century, in Japan. But as with nettle, using banana trees as a source of fibre to make textiles declined as other fibers such as cotton and silk from China and India became increasingly popular. And just like with nettle, banana fibers are making a come back! Fabrics made from banana fibers are soft and supple, as well as breathable and a natural sorbent. They tend to have a natural shine to them as well and are often compared to silk.
USA based Silviyana Bridal implements banana leaf fiber in some of their designs, like the Antoinette Gown.
LOTUS STEM FABRIC
Using lotus fibers to weave into fabrics might sound exotic in the western world but in countries like Thailand or Myanmar for example, villagers have been using lotus fibers for rare fabrics for centuries. The process is quite time-consuming but produces a luxurious fabric that feels like a combination of silk and raw linen. After harvesting the lotus stems from lakes, the artisans slice the end of the stems and pull out the long, thin fibers from the centre. This has to be done within three days of cutting or the result will not be as desirable. The obtained threads are then washed and hung to dry and finally handwoven on looms into fabric. Lotus fabric has unique properties: it is naturally soft, light, especially breathable, and almost wrinkle free.
While Piñatex leather is now on popular demand, pineapple fiber is not a novelty in places like the Philippines.
Piña fiber is the ingenious fabric derived from the leaves of the Spanish Red Pineapple and is the finest of all Philippine hand-woven fabrics. Pineapple fibers are an ivory-white color and naturally glossy. This delicate and dreamy cloth is translucent, soft and fine with a high luster.
Since piña fabric is hand loomed by only a few weavers, it is very precious and scarce, which also makes it expensive. Piña cloth is simple and elegant. Products created are considered a work of love and patience. Therefore, a piña garment is considered as an heirloom. The major end use of Pina fiber is the Barong Tagalong, wedding dresses and other traditional Philippine formal dress.
Weaving and embroidery jobs enable women, especially, to earn salaries that allow them to be home rather than being forced to travel abroad to become domestic workers. Training weavers is difficult, however, since it requires meticulous patience and dedicated practice. As piña fiber production gains momentum, thousands of jobs for weavers are created.
This will lead to huge potential and economic rewards for indigenous weavers, their families, and their communities. It will raise the standard of living and benefit the country.
ORANGE FIBRE FABRIC
Amongst these re-born natural and bridal-friendly fibers, there are now new technologies that can even transform food waste into textiles. Mushrooms, apples, grapes, you name it.. their fibers are going to reinvent fashion textiles in the near future!
One recent breakthrough was achieved by two female Sicilian entrepreneurs. Observing the increase in food processing over the past 50 years that gradually generated an enormous amount of non-edible byproducts, the founders of Orange Fiber have identified and developed a tremendous opportunity for the application of industrial ecology, allowing them to reduce waste as well as pollution by transforming citrus juice byproducts into a new and sustainable product.
Orange fabrics are formed from a silk-like cellulose yarn that can blend with other materials. When used in its purest form, the resulting 100% citrus textile features a soft and silky hand-feel, lightweight, and can be opaque or shiny according to production needs.
The resources we need to make our future more sustainable are everywhere around us, even for fashion. We just need to recognize, repurpose and cherish earth’s gifts. While we try to make sustainable choices day after day, how meaningful it can be to feel connected with our planet even in the significant moment of exchanging wedding vows!
A feminist and independent spirit since she could remember (her childhood heroines were Pippi Longstockings and Katharine Hepburn) Daniela Degrassi found her creative outlet as a lifestyle photographer, working mainly in Northern California where she lived for 15 years before moving back to her native Italy to continue to be her autistic sister’s primary caregiver. Vegan since 2014, she found a perfect way to carry her message of compassion while celebrating her love for the wedding industry launching The Kind Bride in February 2018.