Cloth: The Original Technology
Sound familiar? It should do. It’s the soundtrack of the 21st century, performed by an orchestra of our most beloved technologies — consumer electronics. These devices do more than pierce (and punctuate) sacred silences, they enable us to conduct our lives with greater efficiency. As a result, gadgets have become an integral part of our lives — leaving some of us believing that life cannot be lived without them!
Fitbits may help keep us fit, and iPhones keep us incredibly connected but neither provide warmth or shelter. However, there does exist a technology which is more pervasive than the consumer electronic, used more intensively and is one wereally
Our world is surrounded in cloth. We use it to frame windows, cushion floors and catch winds to foreign shores. Along with our world, cloth surrounds us! We fold ourselves into its creases during sleep and are swaddled in it like a spool at birth. Ahead of leaving our homes with brushed teeth, minty breath and wide eyes we put on at least two layers of the stuff — four if you’re living in the UK! Clothes are one of our most vital possessions and their role more fundamental than maintaining a social facade. Clothes guard us. They shield us from the perils of the natural world and allow us to enter environments our skin cannot provide protection for.
Our skin accounts for approximately 16% of our body weight. It shields our soft tissues from puncture and prevents infection. Along with being a physical barrier, our skin acts as an interface between our external environment and our internal hard-drive, the brain. When our skin senses changes in temperature and pressure our body listens. On cold winter nights, our skin signals for the hairs on its surface to stand up — creating an insulating layer. Most often this blanket of trapped air is not enough to keep our bodies running at a toasty 37℃. In such an event, our bodies react by telling us our best two options for keeping our internal systems firing at all cylinders:
1. We need to pick-up our pace
2. We need to run back inside and throw on a trusted scarf
Most of us would choose option 2. Option 2 satisfies long-term needs. And enables us toenjoywithout
Clothing has opened possibilities for humanity to explore beyond the terrestrial environment. Lab-blended fibres have allowed humans to survive crushing depths in the Pacific, sit atop Everest and make outer-space hospitable. They are the ultimate piece of wearable technology. Despite these feats and our basic need for clothes we have lost respect for them. We bury our clothes ahead of mending them — with serious environmental consequences. It is estimated that each year £140 million worth of clothing enters landfill and our unused clothing is worth approximately £30 billion.These numbers are shocking, but suggest opportunity — an opportunity to design clothes that won’t endanger our future. The average lifetime of an item of clothing in the UK is estimated as ~2.2 years. However, if clothing life was extended by nine months carbon and water footprints can be reduced by 20–30% each. With LittleHumans growing seven sizes in their first two years on Earth, the life of their clothing can be extended if we create clothes that grow with them! By doing so, not only do we stand to reduce our environmental impact we hope to inspire the next generation to value their second-skin, our original technology.
Earth’s Most Essential Resource.
Hello Fellow Humans,
What is the value of water? We drink it, we bathe in it. It’s so essential that it factors into every aspect of our daily existence, including the clothes we wear. Yes, there is no life without water — and there’s no fashion either. Despite this, we tend to put little thought into where our water is coming from or how much of it we’re consuming. And all the while we’re running dry the well of Earth’s most essential resource.
Fashion has an extraordinary impact on freshwater resources around the world. Every stage of a typical garment’s life cycle requires excessive amounts of water and can be extremely polluting. Today, the greatest consumption of water occurs at the earliest stage during the growing or synthesis of textile fibres. In contemporary cotton agriculture, anywhere from 10 to 20 million litres is used to yield just 1 kilo of cotton, equivalent to your favourite pair of jeans. This thirsty crop is often farmed in regions with high water stress or water scarcity, even resulting — in tandem with the effects of a warming climate — in the desertification of the Aral Sea region in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Unfortunately, the latter stages of a garment’s life cycle are similarly wasteful, as both its factory finishings through chemical dyes and processes and regular presence in our washing machines take a heavy toll on freshwater resources.
But perhaps the greater threat posed by our modern clothing production methods on freshwater resources is contamination. Agriculture contributes through the use of harmful pesticides and fertilisers that seep into run-off, which then finds its way to the nearest body of water. There it is joined by the waste of nearby factories responsible for the synthesis of fibres and the dyeing of textiles. Thus, the water supply that local residents use for drinking, cooking, and bathing is poisoned with agricultural chemicals and textile dyes so toxic that they are prohibited in certain countries for their disruptive hormonal and carcinogenic properties.
When access to clean water is as simple as the turn of a faucet, it can be easy to take for granted that which is a precious resource for too many others. The fact is, almost half the world’s population will suffer from high water stress under continued current conditions of water pollution and overconsumption. So what can we do? Most importantly, we can buy sustainably by looking at labels and doing research to find out what materials clothes are made of and where they come from. But even as conscious consumers, washing clothes is presently unavoidable; and that’s why clothes with the capacity to stay fresh longer are pertinent to future fashion innovation! In the meantime though, be mindful of every wash and only run the machine when there’s a full load. There’s also no shame in taking a sniff, checking for stains, and seeing if you can get one more wear out of that top or those jeans!
There is no fashion without H2O — so remember to ask yourself, “What’s the deal with water and what I wear?”
Over & Out,
The Petit Pli Team