Ethical and sustainable fashion trends are creating the lingerie industry to evolve

lingerie sustainable Wolford

© Wolford

Lingerie and intimate wear brands are looking for ways to make their products biodegradable and sustainable but it isn’t as easy as it sounds. This is because quite a few technical difficulties stand in the way.

For more than 140 years, the French company Solstiss has been making lace on their Leavers machines. Solstiss has been supplying brands such as Givenchy, Alexander McQueen and Valentino for years, but when they started demanding that they use organic cotton, they faced quite a few technical challenges.

Solstiss has been using the same technical process in their looms for the last 150 years. They created fine lace from extremely thin yarn made from viscose, nylon and wool. But even if the thicker organic cotton was suitable for their looms, it produced a rough, thick fabric and the consumer demanded a more delicate fabric.

Solstiss had invested time and money to research how they could change their process to create a fine delicate fabric out of organic cotton. More than two years later, they finally were able to produce Leaver’s a lace out of organic cotton.

Solstiss is just one example of why creating sustainable and ethically friendly lingerie is a challenge not only for the brands but also for the manufacturers. Consumers are demanding that more and more of their clothing and intimate wear be made from natural, biodegradable or recycled pre-used fabrics.

In 2009, Victoria’s Secret faced a lawsuit for using toxic chemicals in their bras, as it caused dozens of customers to have a rash break out after wearing a bra. Even though Victoria’s Secret’s name was cleared of the allegations, it caused consumers to wonder about the chemicals used in creating lingerie and whether it was safe for their bodies to come into contact with.

But is it considered to be a biodegradable product?

It literally means that the product composts or breaks it down, so it won’t leave behind any harmful chemicals in the environment. But to illustrate how difficult this is, one Austrian brand for hosiery tried to reduce its eco-footstep by changing the black pigment used in their hosiery. They had to completely rebuild their 10 knitting machines in order to adapt to the new pigment and to reduce energy intake.

Then there are other challenges such as replacing synthetic fabrics such as elastane and polyester that give our shapewear, bras and panties that much-needed stretch. Researchers are studying practical ways to use tree-rubber elastic instead of non-biodegradable fabrics such as polyester, spandex and elastane. Tree-rubber based fabrics can decompose in less than 60-days under the ideal circumstances, creating a zero-waist undergarment.

But studies have yet to confirm whether a sustainable pair of shapewear or a bra can provide women with the support they need and come to expect from conventional under garments.

Then there is a whole other issue that comes with biodegradability lingerie is that fact that it isn’t durable. At the moment, used bras and panties for its composition can’t be broken down and recycled into something else, as they are designed to last and hold up under tough conditions. However many lingerie brands are trying to incorporate recycled fabrics into their lingerie such as elastic or polyamide.

The future of biodegradable lingerie is still a long way off to becoming an actual reality but the demand of the consumer will make it happen, sooner than later. Consumers are getting cautious on their personal environmental footprint and are looking for recycled and plant-based fabrics instead of the conventional options.

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