Happy Earth Day!
At the Fabric Collective, we are so proud to represent fabric and wallpaper designers who are paving the way to a more sustainable and environmentally conscious industry. Planet Earth is our one and only home and it is all of our responsibility to take care of it and ensure that it is a liveable and beautiful place for the generations that will come after us.
From material choices and production processes to delivery methods and giving back schemes, here are some ways that these leading designers are striving for a more sustainable textile industry . . .
Image above: Nichola Taylorson fabrics hung to dry
For Debby Tenquist, owner and designer of Botanica Trading, there is no denying that the textile industry has a lot to answer for when it comes to polluting the planet. She explains, “The textile industry as a whole is one of the biggest global polluters. It uses vast quantities of potable water to process and the resultant ink effluent is very damaging, let alone the mountains of discarded fast fashion that adds hugely to the carbon footprint of the textile industry".
In fact, the issue was so crucial to Debby that it was only when she felt confident that she could design and produce in a way that was safe, sustainable and with a low carbon footprint that she decided to launch her own line of fabrics.“It was about five years ago that I realised with the exponential advances in the quality of digital printing and their accompanying environmental credentials that it was feasible for me to design my own fabrics in line with my commitment to preserving the environment," she said.
Image above: Zig Zag fabric design by Botanica Trading
Materials: A Thoughtful Decision
When it comes to working sustainably in textiles, one of the key factors to consider is the base materials that you work with. For designers like Jennifer Shorto, Botanica Trading and Brook Perdigon, choosing materials that are produced safely and eco-consciously is key to being sustainable.
“We work with natural fibres as sustainability is a key factor in our production choices. [. . .]. We buy and work with organic linen and use the best eco-conscious dyes available. I think it would be very short-sighted to go forward without including this factor into production.” – Jennifer Shorto
“I am strongly committed to producing a sustainable product. The 100% linen base cloths I use are from Libeco in Belgium where the flax is sustainably grown. The linens are long-lasting, can be repurposed and are of course biodegradable. When harvested every part of the flax is used and nothing is discarded.” - Debby Tenquist, Botanica Trading
“Our Belgian linen manufacturer is a five-generation family-owned mill that maintains the tradition of sustainable production, farm stewardship, and natural cultivation.” – Brook Perdigon
Image above: Brook Perdigon fabrics
Over the past few years, technological advancements in printing processes have allowed designers to work in ways that are more gentle to the environment. One of the main examples of this which is being embraced by many of the designers in the Fabric Collective is digital printing.
"Our printed fabrics are currently digitally printed as this process offers less impact on the environment than screen printing, allowing for smaller print runs and flexibility, and requires over 50% less water and ink than screen printing per printed metre." – Teyssier
Image above from Teyssier: Fabric preparation at the mill
“I settled on the digital printing process chiefly for its environmentally friendly processes. It also allows me to print to order with a quick turn around, avoiding any wastage, and importantly customisation in both scale and colour is easy. I found a boutique printer who is as passionate as I am about preserving the environment. Her factory is partially run on solar energy and employs low water usage and low energy technology. Importantly the dyes are recycled in a circular system and not released into the waterways.” - Botanica Trading
"I use rotary printing, screen printing and digital printing. I do love traditional screen printing and it is awe-inspiring when you see the skill and patience used by Howard Voyce and his team at Ivo who print my fabrics. But I also think digital printing is now so good. You can print incredible detail and it is more sustainable, uses less water and produces less waste. Everything I print is printed here in the UK and I like supporting British manufacturing." – Tasha Textiles
Image above: Tasha Textiles fabric designs, all of which are printed in the UK
"I use both traditionally printed and digitally printed techniques. I always thought that I was never going to digitally print, however the quality and tone you can get now are amazing, especially if you print on natural fabrics. It can be more sustainable in that you can print to order in small quantities meaning you have less waste." – Jessica Osborne
Keeping Things Local
In an effort to reduce their carbon footprint and support their local economies, many of the Fabric Collective designers are proud to design and print their fabrics and wallpapers locally.
Image above: Penny Morrison fabrics
“Our fabrics are hand printed here in Los Angeles by trained print artisans who are paid a fair wage. Fabrics are printed with water-based inks and are custom mixed for each small batch order to avoid waste. Keeping production local is very important to me. It keeps the environmental impact low and helps to boost our economy. Having the ability to go check in on a design or pick up our production in person also gives me the ability to be very connected to my product and the artisans who are creating it.” - Brook Perdigon
“We are incredibly proud to be a British brand and having moved our printing from India to the United Kingdom in order to reduce our carbon footprint and support the local industry, we are privileged to work with some of the best mills and printers around the country." – Penny Morrison
Thinking Big and Giving Back
Beyond the production and printing of the fabrics and wallpapers themselves, many of the designers in the Fabric Collective look for ways to help support and protect their surrounding environment. From using renewable energy in their studios to launching and supporting eco-conscious and socially-driven initiatives, every action makes a difference when it comes to protecting our planet.
“At the studio we have solar panels, any extra electricity required is from a supplier of 100% renewable energy. We have an electric charge point for vehicles and we have planted over 150 trees (including walnut trees, oaks, hornbeam and willow) that I have grown from seeds and saplings myself. We also donate a percentage of our annual profits to three different charities each year and one of those charities is always an environmental based charity. Our plastic packaging is made from recycled plastic and we use paper based packaging where possible.” - Teyssier
In support of the vulnerable bee population here in the United Kingdom, Parker & Jules will soon be launching their 'Save the Bees' fabric design. A percentage of all sales from this will be donated to local charities working to save the bees and in doing so, protect the fragile ecosystems that depend on them.
Image above: 'Save the Bees' fabric design (coming soon) by Parker & Jules
Hopes For The Future
In our Designer Diaries interview series, we ask the Fabric Collective designers what their hopes are for the future of the textile world. It comes as no surprise that so many of them discuss sustainability and the environment in their answers . . .
“My greatest hope for the future is that both the interior design and textile industry become committed to respecting the environment. Tackling and embracing true sustainability will be an issue that will continue to dominate our industry and many others for decades to come.” – Brook Perdigon
“I hope that there will be more focus on sustainability. We are always trying to do better in that regard. I am experimenting with and would love to incorporate natural pigments in our production process, for example.” – Lake August
Image above: Lake August strike offs
"I would say what I have noticed since starting up my business is the growth of interest in sustainability. I feel people are becoming more aware of the world we live in and how important it is to look after it. Therefore making more conscious decisions, investing in small businesses and choosing quality over quantity. Slow fashion and textiles are becoming more and more popular, with the idea of treasuring something that you will keep for a very long time. This is my hope, that we continue moving in this direction." – Nichola Taylorson
“More and more, I think there is a growing appreciation for well-made, sustainable and locally made products using high-quality natural materials that will last. That is something I hope more and more people start to appreciate.” – Jessica Osborne
Image above: Jessica Osborne