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Eco-Apparel Terminology 


Once you’ve sold eco-friendly apparel a few times, you’ll begin to see the recurrence of terminology and brands. Here’s a basic breakdown of a few key terms for going green.

With new “crops” of eco-friendly apparel and decorating processes entering the wearables marketplace, it’s a good idea to brush up on some “green” definitions.

First, know that there are standards and governing authorities beginning to clarify organic claims. For example, the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) ensures “the organic status of textiles, from harvesting the raw materials, through environmentally and socially responsible manufacturing up to labelling in order to provide a credible assurance to the end consumer.” Furthermore, the U.S.-based Organic Trade Association (OTA) adheres to the GOTS standard, and adds that “all fiber sold as organic in the U.S. must meet the USDA National Organic Program rule for crop production, and if necessary, livestock production.”

When you’re looking for eco-friendly apparel to show clients, also keep these definitions in mind:

  • Organic fabrics use no pesticides, herbicides or insecticides during the growing cycle.

  • Soy silk uses liquefied proteins (a by-product of making tofu) forced into fibers which are then spun.

  • Ingeo corn fiber is created by extracting starch and then sugars from corn, and processing them into a form that can be spun into a yarn or woven into fabric.

  • Fortrel EcoSpun polyester is made out of recycled plastic bottles. It is frequently used for fleece.

  • Biodegradable fabric has the ability to naturally break down and return to raw material or to be absorbed by the earth. Federal Trade Commission guidelines say only products that contain materials that “break down and decompose into elements found in nature within a reasonably short amount of time when they are exposed to air, moisture and bacteria or other organisms” should be labeled biodegradable.

  • Post-consumer materials have been discarded and used again in other products. Essentially, this is a fancy term for recycled materials.

  • Sustainable products are made to last indefinitely and have the least negative effects on environmental health. Sustainable materials in clothing are easily recycled and/or last a long time.

  • Natural bleaching means that hydrogen peroxide was used to whiten fibers, rather than a chemical such as chlorine.

  • REHANCE, a process developed by TS Designs, is an environmentally friendly, water-based printing technology that alters a fabric’s chemistry so it won’t absorb garment dye. Traditionally, water-based inks could be successfully used only on white or light colors because of their transparency.

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