Let’s talk about plastic (yes, again). The same plastic that’s piling up in landfill because it takes upwards of 500 years to degrade (if it degrades at all) and that’s destroying our oceans.
In 1950, the world produced 2 million tonnes of plastic yearly. By 2015, annual production had increased nearly 200-fold, to 381 million tonnes. This exponential increase isn’t set to slow down any time soon. During this time we’ve seen a huge increase in the use of polyester (aka plastic) in the manufacture of clothing, and, more specifically, in fast fashion, since the fabric is cheap to produce. Find out more about the impact that fast fashion is having on our planet here.
Currently, almost half of the world’s clothing is made of polyester, which is an energy-hungry, non-sustainable synthetic fibre. Our vision at Culthread is one of sustainability, and we made a promise early on to be as sustainable as possible, investing in recycled materials which we use instead of virgin polyester and animal products such as traditional down.
Making high quality vegan jackets is no easy task, it took us a long time to find materials to replace down and fur without any compromise on warmth, touch, weight and quality. We discovered Thermore Ecodown, made from 100% recycled post-consumer plastic bottles. Every jacket made with Ecodown allows recycling of upto 10 plastic bottles which otherwise would have ended up in landfill. We’ve tried and tested how Ecodown feels (even out on the slopes!), so we can tell you first hand that it does a great job in terms of being light, warm and super soft.
As well our Ecodown insulation, we use 100% recycled polyester for the lining and outer shell of our brand new Hampstead jackets (launching in September 2019). There are many benefits to using recycled rather than virgin polyester materials, including:
- Less plastics going to landfill or ending up in our oceans, as our suppliers use plastic bottles that would otherwise be thrown away to make the fabric that we use for our coats
- It takes less resources to make the fabric, which is similar to virgin polyester in terms of quality. It’s production requires 59% less energy than that of new polyester according to a 2017 study by the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment. Plus, it’s manufacturing process doesn’t include the extraction of crude oil and natural gas from our planet
One of the downsides of recycled polyester clothing is that it sheds more microfibres when washed than virgin polyester. These end up passing through our sewers and into the ocean where they’re eaten by plankton and eventually move their way up the food chain and onto our dinner plates. To find out more about this, head over to our blog post about fast fashion. Culthread Hampstead jackets need little to no cleaning - if they get dirty just wipe them down with a damp cloth (they can also be dry cleaned - just look for an Eco-friendly dry cleaner near you that doesn't use perchloroethylene or ‘perc’).
The process by which recycled polyester is made is as follows:
- Collecting once used clear plastic such as water bottles, sterilizing, drying and breaking it up into small chips.
- Heating the chips and passing them through a spinneret to form strings of yarn which is then wound up in spools.
- The fibre is then passed through a crimping machine which creates a fluffy, wooly texture.
- Finally, the yarn is baled, dried and knitted into polyester fabric.
We’re doing our best to make the world see that we don’t need to be making clothing out of plastics and animal products. We have the technology and resources do things differently, and we need to do so now more than ever. It’s still much more expensive to make recycled polyester than it is to make it new, so we’re a long way from seeing fast fashion brands adopt the more environmentally friendly alternative.
Our mission is to share this information far and wide so that as many people as possible adopt a smarter view on fashion and shopping. We’ve written about our top tips on how to live more sustainably, if you’d like to read on, head over to our blog.
“Men have pockets to keep things in, women for decoration,” Christian Dior famously stated in 1954. Pockets were for functionality, and women had no need for such a thing. It was a different time… right?
Now it's the 21st century and pockets still remain an uncommon addition to women’s fashion. All girls have been in this situation. You’re wearing a pretty dress, another girl comes up to you and compliments you on it, saying “Wow, what a lovely dress!”. You turn and beam at her excitedly, exclaiming “Thank you!! And it has POCKETS!!!”, proceeding to slip your hands inside them and demonstrate exaggeratedly. Her face lights up and you spend a few moments gleefully admiring the wondrous inclusion of pockets in the summer dress and their unfathomably large size, big enough for… A PHONE. And… A WALLET. Miracle of miracles!
Pockets started to appear in men’s clothing in the 1600s, however internal pockets were nowhere to be found on women’s dresses. Women resorted to wearing small sacks tied around their waists under their petticoats in order to carry their possessions. However, access to these sacks were not exactly easy. A lot of layers were involved in women’s clothing at the time – and we really do mean A LOT. Women wore gowns, under which they wore a petticoat, with an underpetticoat beneath, and a shift beneath that. A lot of layers to fumble through to reach that small pouch!
Women started to get creative with their pocket-sacks and embroidered them with all manners of floral patterns and stitching embellishments. There was a breakthrough with the accessibility issue as well – slits in the gowns! Women could easily slide their hands through the slits in their dresses to reach into the sacks for their belongings.
The voluminous gowns of the previous centuries are replaced by a slimmer silhouette akin to the bodycon dress phenomenon of modern times. The larger skirts were traded for more figure-hugging dresses, which thus did not allow for nifty pocket pouches. Men, on the other hand, still had the luxury of slipping their hands into their shirt or pant pockets to reach their belongings. Women now resorted to a type of small handbag called a reticule that barely even fit some coins. They were completely useless and did not serve the function they were intended for. The reticules were more a status symbol than anything else, as the men were the ones who handled the money and property and well-off women would of course leave all the business and money handling to the men, rendering pockets unnecessary.
Women started to rebel in the late 1800s with a rising popularity in pocket-sewing instruction manuals, as women sought after independence. Public outrage was ignited when women started to wear trousers. The audacity of having some more fabric on our legs! How dare women do such a thing! MADNESS. Controversy was high, but women finally were on the path to equality – we had trousers, and we had pockets! With the World Wars came more utilitarian and practical clothing, such as trousers with large pockets akin to those of men and more women entered the workforce. Marlene Dietrich, a QUEEN of utilitarian looks and oh-so-chic pockets was a pioneer for female equality, fought against sexual oppression and inspired countless fashion trends that we still love to this day. Modern icon Coco Chanel famously refused to ride a horse in a skirt and took the trousers off a male ride to wear as her own. A legend by all accounts! Triumph was, however, short-lived. As per usual, the world of men and fashion were obsessed with slimming down women’s figures in the name of “femininity”, thereby slimming down the silhouettes of the trousers women had fought so hard for. The loose-fitting “man-styles” women had been wearing during the war periods were replaced with skin-tight trousers, once again eliminating our beloved pockets. Sigh. (Also, the late 1990s trend of tight low-rise jeans did not help AT ALL with the pocket issue… sorry Britney Spears.)
And thus we come to the modern day struggle against the patriarchy for equal pocket rights. There were moments where menswear-inspired pieces were trendy and women wore male slacks, but that quickly died down with the rise of the designer handbag industry. All of the high fashion maisons scrambled to create bags and pockets slipped further and further from their minds. Fast fashion trends have ranged from super tight skinny jeans to slim fit blazers, all the while excluding the one thing women have been desiring for centuries – pockets that are actually large enough to fit the belongings we carry around daily. The pockets we do have on our jeans or in our jackets can barely even fit our keys, not to mention the horrifying fake pockets found at the front of many jeans. Why even put them there?! Just another disappointment. Bags and pockets are shrinking while mobile phones are growing and the fashion industry NEEDS. TO. CATCH. UP. More and more celebrities are taking notice of the lack of pockets in everyday garments and make a statement in wearing pocketed gowns on red carpets. Gender-fluid lines and androgynous unisex fashion is slowly gaining popularity and we have seen a small but significant shift in what is considered “female fashion”. Change is definitely on its way, but very…very…slowly.
Comfortable, soft, easy-to-wear trousers with some nice BIG pockets at the front and the back. Yes, that’s what we want. And not the slightly insulting “boyfriend jeans” that insinuate we must have stolen our boyfriends’ pants to be wearing such loose trousers, but REAL equality in terms of pocket size and inclusivity in our everyday clothing. Men’s pockets are basically Mary Poppins’ bag in comparison with the teeny-tiny pockets in our trousers that I can barely squeeze my pinkie finger into. Enough of this madness!!
What do we want? EQUAL POCKET RIGHTS TO MEN. And we want them NOW.
‘Our house is on fire’. The words of Greta Thunberg that reached tens of millions of people this year, stating that we so desperately need to change. Just by looking to make a positive lifestyle change, you’ve made the first step. Being a conscious consumer is not about being perfect, it’s about making a change, then making another change, and so on and so forth. Here are 10 small ideas for you to try to live more sustainably.
- Educate yourself.
‘‘Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better” - Maya Angelou.
A perfect quote I found whilst reading a blog post by Sophie Tait. The basis to understanding is knowledge. Set aside an hour of your week and do a bit of research. You can start somewhere and these below ideas will definitely help you on your way, but continuing to improve your knowledge will enable you to keep doing better and better.
A key word which kept popping up in most articles during the research for this was the word less. Forget about trying to be perfect, it’s practically impossible. Buy less, throw away less, use less plastic, drive less and so on. Always have this on your mind and just be aware.
- Think before you buy. Value quality over quantity.
We wrote about the environmental costs of fast fashion.
Think hard about every purchasing decision you make- how much value will the item you’re so desperately after bring to your life? A brilliant piece of advice from a quartz article is to ask yourself these 3 questions before making a purchase:
- How much will I wear it?
If you’re shopping for an outfit for a specific occasion, will you wear it again or will it end up folded in your drawer for months (or years, eek!)? Could you wear something you already have? Or ask a friend if they have something you can borrow?
- More of the same?
If you find yourself stood in a shop with a summer playsuit in your hand, count up how many you have at home before buying another. We’re creatures of habit, we tend to gravitate towards things that we like that may be similar to what we already have.
- Will it stand the test of time?
So you’ve found the perfect piece which made it past the first two hurdles. Is it made to last? Is the brand known for quality and longevity? Are the materials used durable?
For self diagnosed online shopping addicts reading this (you know who you are), we challenge you to keep a shopping basket or wish list tab open for two weeks. If you’re still as crazy about your items then the odds of you wearing them more often are much higher. Fight the urge to impulse buy.
- Don’t put your clothes in the bin!
Swap the bin liner for a charity bag and send your once loved items to someone in need or take them to your local textile recycling bank. Most large high street stores offer a service where you can take in bags of clothes for them to recycle. Or if you’re up for a bit of arts and crafts, transform them into something new!
- Have a ‘Clothes Swap’ party with your pals.
How many times do you wear a piece of clothing after buying it? Answer that truthfully. When was the last time you complimented a friend on their outfit? All the time right? Us too. It’s natural for us to lose interest in outfits that we’ve worn multiple times, even if they’re still pretty much good as new. Sharing clothes with friends will not only increase the number of times our clothes get worn, but we’ll also come away with a brand ‘new’ wardrobe. What’s not to love?
- Be conscious of how often you are washing your clothes.
Aside from using an average of 100L of water per wash, putting our used garms in domestic washing machines has a drastic negative effect on the planet. A lot of our clothes are made of polyester, which is essentially plastic. When polyester is washed, it sheds tiny bits of plastic that eventually end up in our oceans and get ingested by small fish like plankton.
There are some innovative companies making products which minimise the shedding of these microplastics, such as GUPPYFRIEND or Cora Ball. More simply, be conscious of how many times a week you’re using your washing machine. Make sure it’s full every time to minimise washes.
- Plastic wrap on your veggies at the shop... SAY NO.
It’s pretty easy to shop plastic free in the fruit and vegetable isle in most city supermarkets, but as Venetia Falconer says we might have to forgo buying condom cucumbers for a little while.
Search for markets or greengrocers near you, you’ll not only be able to purchase most if not all of your veggies plastic free, you’ll also be supporting a local or small business rather than a big supermarket chain.
- Find out where the products you love have come from
We’re not used to checking the origins of the products we buy as historically that information has never been available to us. With consumer interest in fair trade and sustainability growing fast, more and more companies are trying to be as transparent as they can with details of their supply chain and the origin of their products. One way to do this is by putting data on a Blockchain, which is essentially a way of storing data and product information in a completely secure and trustworthy way that is open to the public. Head to Provenance to find the most transparently sustainable products on the market.
- Get a keepcup for your coffee and a reusable bottle for your water or tea.
An investment that will benefit everyone in the long run, and you might even make the money back over time. Most coffee shops offer discounts for people who bring their own mugs- win win!
It’s very easy to feel like the only options are the really fancy and expensive bottles, but this isn’t the case at all. There are all sorts of different products on the market, ranging from high end Swell Bottles to reusable ones you can buy at Sports Direct.
- Keys, card, phone.. cutlery?
Keeping a set of cutlery with you everywhere you go (apart from through airports… of course!) will reduce waste from single use plastic equivalents. Better yet, preparing meals at home in reusable tupperware will save you money and is much better for the environment than a plastic wrapped sandwich.
Over the last few decades we’ve seen an international expansion of fast fashion retailers. As disposable incomes increase, so does our desire and ability to purchase more items of clothing. The more we consume, the cheaper it becomes for fast fashion retailers to produce, making high street fashion even less expensive and in turn encouraging us to consume even more. It’s a vicious cycle, for the people involved in production, those living in towns surrounding the big factories and for the environment.
We’re aware that our colourful clothes weren’t always those colours, textile producers have been dying clothing on an industrial scale since the 1970s. Dyes used to be natural, coming from clay, plants and other organic material but now the majority of dyes used in textile production are chemical based. Many of these chemicals produce waste which is toxic and ends up being disposed of in rivers near factories.
In a study done by Greenpeace of rivers in two industrial zones in China, they found that it’s incredibly difficult to trace which of the factories were the culprits of this water pollution. What’s needed to solve this problem is for brands to either properly investigate the manufacturers they work with or strictly ensure that they are not using any chemical dyes which produce toxic waste.
The two most popular fabrics used in garment production are cotton and polyester. Polyester is a man made material that is essentially a type of plastic. It became popular in the 1970s as a miracle fibre that can be worn for 68 days straight without ironing, and still look presentable,”. Polyester is cheap to produce, and if you’re big on fashion you’ll know that it’s printed on most clothing labels, especially on the high street. What we now know about polyester garments is that when they’re washed in domestic washing machines, they shed microfibres that are passed out into the sewers and eventually end up in our oceans. These microfibres are a large contributor to the growing issue of plastic being found in our oceans. These fibres are small enough to be eaten by small creatures such as plankton, eventually making their way up the food chain to fish, shellfish and to us humans.
If our synthetic clothes don’t get recycled, they end up in landfill where it takes 1000s of years for them to decompose, alongside plastic straws and bottles.
Cotton is a naturally occuring fibre, but requires a huge amount of pesticides and water to grow (typically 10,000 litres to 1kg of cotton). The plants are typically grown in countries where water is a scarce resource, therefore damaging the country’s ecosystem and negatively affecting the people who live there.
To reduce the amount of pesticides needed to prevent crop failure and increase the amount of cotton yielded from each plant, scientists have developed a way to genetically modify the plants. But this can also lead to the emergence of “superweeds” which are resistant to standard pesticides. The plants then need to be treated with more toxic pesticides that are harmful to livestock and humans. The overall use of organic cotton is said to be around 1% of the world’s total cotton crop.
How can we help prevent further damage to farmers, their communities, land and resources?
Our ethos is all about swapping fast fashion for slow fashion; ethical, eco and lasting. We’re surrounded by ever changing shop windows and clothes from high street shops getting cheaper and cheaper, so we inevitably all have items deep in our wardrobes that we’ve forgotten about, or once loved and not worn for a while. Next time you’re stuck for something to wear, try shopping within your wardrobe instead of looking to buy something new. The more we wear the items we already have, the better.
There will come a time where we’ll crave some new-ness. We’ve been subconsciously force fed seasons, trends and styles that change every few months so it’s only normal we should feel the need to keep up. When branching outside of your own wardrobe, try borrowing or switching something with a friend, hitting up a charity shop or, if you’re going to buy something new, make sure you absolutely adore it.
There are brands out there making a huge effort to produce sustainably. Fabrics such as hemp, flax and nettle prove a great deal more sustainable than cotton; requiring less land and water. For example, hemp requires roughly a quarter of the amount of water and half the amount of land to grow.
At culthread, the warmth within our coats is provided by a vegan alternative to down made from 100% recycled plastic bottles. Brands such as adidas parley make shoes out of recycled ocean plastic, and Wolven Threads make activewear out of plastic bottles that end up in landfill.
When disposing of clothing, there are charities that will recycle your once loved pieces for you, such as Traid and the Salvation Army (UK based). There are also fabric recycling bins around London where you can drop off anything from sheets and curtains to socks. Locate your nearest one here.
Recent scandals have left us devastated to find that what was sold to us as fake fur by high street fashion brands is actually real fur. The sad reality is that because real fur is cheaper to produce than some high quality faux furs, it is mis-sold by manufacturers as the latter. High street brands who fail to quality control have been caught out by vigilant shoppers who
- Separate the fur at the base to have a closer look at how it is attached. If it’s faux fur it will be attached to a mesh or threaded fabric, if it’s real it will be attached to skin.
- Look at the tips of the hairs. If the fur is real the ends will taper to a fine point whereas the tips of faux fur will usually appear blunt or cut.
- If you already own the item you can also perform a burn test. Cut a few hairs from the coat or accessory and hold them over a flame with a pair of tweezers. Real fur will smell like human hair when it burns whereas faux fur will smell like melting plastic (and will melt rather than singe).
These three tests will give you a more accurate idea of whether the fur is real or fake than judging by the price or feel of the garment. Having searched far and wide for the highest quality faux furs on the market to make our Culthread coats, we know all too well that man made materials can look and feel just like real animal fur.