F-ABRIC: when fashion meets nature

Written by Eleonora Rizzo

Now that you follow a vegetarian diet, that you gave up with animal derivatives or animal products and that you got rid of your aunt’s ermine fur, what is the next step? If you consider yourself as a tree-hugger, you should keep up-to-date with the latest news on sustainable fashion.
Since food is the primary issue, it is quite natural to wonder “What am I really eating?”, but when it comes to clothes how many people do actually question themselves about the origin and the environmental impact of their clothes?
Smaller companies are coming up with innovative materials and revolutionary ways to incorporate the sustainability issue into the design of clothes. However, big companies, the ones who own the greatest share of the market, are slower to innovate. Traditionally, managers address sustainability to the corporate social responsibility issue, rather than placing it at the heart of the production process and design. There are still many areas of the fashion and textiles supply chain that can be taken as a springboard for innovation and social impact.
The fourth Future Fabrics Expo took place within Fashion SVP at London Olympia, in September 2014. The project, carried on by the non for profit organization ”The Sustainable Angle” , focuses on how fashion’s environmental impact can be lowered through textile innovation, and novel ideas to transform the fashion system and design practice. You can find a wide range of sustainable textiles online on Future Fabrics Virtual Expo : from sustainable woven and denim, to low impact leather, to end up with innovative materials.
The last frontier of green fashion is represented by compostable material. The Swiss company Freitag has recently developed F-ABRIC , a synthetic material which “will biodegrade completely after a couple of months if you throw it in the compost”. The idea behind F-ABRIC was to provide sustainable workwear for the company’s workforce. In fact, since the fabrics on offer were disappointing, Freitag’s owners developed their own. F-ABRIC is a combination of linen, hemp and Modal. It shares many properties of cotton, and at the same time it is much more sustainable than this one. As explained on Freitag’s website, there are five good reasons to give up with cotton: 
1. Cotton comes from India, Pakistan, China and the United States. It requires a hot weather which is difficult to find in Europe
2. The huge amounts of water used on cotton fields has increased soil salination and lowered the groundwater level in many places.
3. Cotton needs much more space to develop than other fibers.
4. Cotton is a delicate plant which in many places is rigorously treated with pesticides and mineral fertilizers. These substances are major contributors to the worsening of the world’s carbon footprint and are harmful to the health of cotton farmers and their families
5. An estimated 100 million cotton farmers around the world live below the poverty level and often work in inhumane and unhealthy conditions
 Most people would be worried that by washing a pair of F-ABRIC’s trousers, they will dissolve into the washing machine. Actually, biodegradability requires specific conditions, so it will not disappear while wearing it! All production takes place in Europe, specifically in the area near Freitag’s headquarters in Zurich. What also sets F-abric apart is the low level of chemicals used in its cultivation and processing, which allows the Freitag F-abric to get certification to the Oeko-Tex® standard. 
The more consumers will be concerned about the origin and the environmental impact of their clothes, the more the fashion industry will provide us with a wide range of high quality and sustainable choices.

Photograph: Oliver Nanzig/Freitag