Image: Whimsy and Row
When it comes to clothing, what is good for a party isn’t always good for the planet. Velvet can be a virtue or a villian, and it all comes down to what exactly it is made from. Eco-Age’s sustainable fashion and textiles assistant Philippa Grogan explains how to take on the trend sustainably.
With the environmental impacts of plastic-based sequins becoming common knowledge and the issues with feathers following closely behind, you may be asking the question, well what can I wear? How can I have a fabulous festive outfit whilst trying to keep the planet fabulous too?
Introducing velvet, a soft and shimmering fabric that – if bought responsibly – stands to take centre stage this party season. This is our one-stop guide for everything you need to know about one of our favourite festive fabrics.
Image: Whimsy and Row
Choose natural fibres
Much like ‘denim’, the term ‘velvet’ describes the physical structure of a fabric and therefore velvet can be made from a number of fibres. The material a fabric is made from is the starting point for most designs, but it also dictates the outcome at the end of the useful life. Choose high quality, natural and biodegradable fibres such as silk and cotton to ensure that your velvet doesn’t linger in landfill for hundreds of Christmases to come. Choose pure (unblended) fibres to boost your velvet’s chances of being recycled after you’ve finished wearing it. We know Christmas is the season of giving to others, but give yourself and the planet a treat by spending a little more money on high quality and durable velvet that will last: we love the pure silk velvet creations from Lora Gene. Durable velvet made from high-quality natural fibres may have a longer useful life, avoiding premature disposal and optimising resource use, all key challenges faced by the fashion industry.
Give mass manufactured a miss
Cheaper, mass manufactured velvet (a.k.a velour) tends to be made from synthetic fibres such as polyester. As most of us know, these are made from non-renewable oil sources, they can contribute to plastic pollution in the form of microfibres, and their synthetic content compromises biodegradability at the end of life phases. Not only that, but mass manufactured fabrics may be lower quality and may not be as durable as high end velvet– this can lead to premature garment disposal and material and resource waste.
Image: Lora Gene
Get ready for recycled
If you are going to opt for a synthetic velvet, the best way forward is to go with one made from a recycled fibre. Not only is this a great way to prevent plastic compounds from ending up in landfil and give them a second lease of life, but by repurposing existing fibres you can skip out the highly polluting phase or creating virgin polyester or rayon. We particularly love LA-based brand Whimsy and Row’s party pieces, made from deadstock velvet from 100% recycled rayon.
When in doubt go second-hand
As we always say, existing garments have the lowest impact of all. When you buy pre-worn and loved garments, the environmental footprint is much smaller than brand new clothing. This is because they have already been created and therefore do not require any extra land, resources, materials or labour. Unlike mince pies, good garments do not have an expiry date and are still new to you even if they aren’t new new. Maximise the useful life of existing clothes, minimise the environmental impact of your festive partywear and even save yourself some money. Obviously, we always recommend trying to find high quality pre-worn velvet made from natural fibres, but if you do find yourself buying a cheeky bit of second-hand synthetic velour, don’t forget to wash it responsibly to prevent the release of microfibres (hello, Guppyfriend bag).
So, there you have it, our fail-safe festive fashion guide for velvet – the fabric that proves that you don’t need sequins to sparkle this Christmas.