Summer is coming and we are in the need of light and flow fabrics. Linen is a perfect material for those hot summer days, as it’s light to wear, breathable and dries quickly after sweating. But how sustainable is linen actually?
What is linen?
Linen is a natural fabric that comes from the flax plant. Flax plants grow in cool, damp environments and cannot survive in extreme heats, so flax can be grown and harvested in Europe. As flax is an annual plant, which means it only grows once a season and it can be harvested after 100 days. For the growth of linen, not much water is needed, as longs as heat waves don’t ruin the season.
What makes linen so good?
At first, linen comes from the flax plant, a plant that grows very fast, without needing much water, fertiliser or other chemical materials.
As linen comes from a plant it is a natural material, that means, it has the ability to biodegrade. Besides that, you don’t need to worry about microplastics during washing, as it won’t loose any, because of its organic nature.
Linen is very strong and can be worn for years. I have second hand linen blazers that look like new, just be sure to take good care after it. It is much stronger than cotton for example.
Because its luxurious characteristics, it will always be used in fashion. So when you invest in a new linen item, you will know, it’ll last you for years.
Is there a problem with linen?
Well, sadly there’s always a downside. Also to things that might sound perfect.
The problem with linen is the bleaching. Yes, bleaching. Because natural linen is a little beige, brownish and most people want to have the classic color of white, linen has to undergo some heavy bleaching. The chemicals that are used in this process are very harmful for the environment, which makes linen less sustainable.
We said linen doesn’t need much water or energy during production, however a lot of damage is also caused after the consumption of a product. For example by washing, ironing and steaming your clothes. Linen doesn’t loose microplastics during, so that’s not the problem. The problem lies in ironing the product. As linen crinkles very very fast, most people tend to wash and iron linen more often than items made from cotton.
Other than that, fast fashion is able to downgrade all good materials. The difference between cheap linen and well made linen is huge. The ones you can find at a regular fast fashion store are from much less quality, most often very thin and not constructed very well. So even if the fabric will last you long, you will probably loose interest in the product, because of its odd design, something a lot of the fast fashion brands do.
What’s the solution?
I still think, you can make conscious decisions concerning linen. First of all, you should only buy the thing you truly love and see yourself wearing forever. Linen is a material you can enjoy for a long time. So make sure the fit of the item is also something you will like a lot.
Secondly, try to find some high quality items. If you cannot afford fair fashion prices, try to buy second hand instead. Don’t settle for less quality products, because you don’t have the money for it now. I think you can better wait and save your money, so you can buy your ultimate favourite piece.
So where can you find some sustainable and fair trade linen items? I totally love the items from Näz. Näz is an eco-fashion label run by women only in Portugal. I’ve written a full blog post about them, which you can read here, but said short: everything they produce is closely monitored for the most sustainable option. This means you can be sure the production of your clothes meets high ecological and social standards.
The last thing, I’d say to linen: try to hang your pieces to dry in a way they don’t crinkle, you can do this by hanging the item directly on a hanger. Also, hang them in the shower or outside after wearing it. Most of the time you don’t need to iron your clothes, as long as you store them properly. Take good care after your pieces, it’s the best way to ensure the longevity of your clothes.