Quick question: Where are you sitting? A chair? The bed? On the floor? Now that you’ve taken note of your perch, think about the fabric that covers it.
There is a big movement against fast fashion—buying new and cheap clothes every season with old clothes never being worn again. Fast fashion comes with many drawbacks: poor employee pay, vast resource requirements, excess clothing, and perfectly good clothing being thrown away.
The issue now is that fast fashion is going beyond our wardrobe—fabrics are not just used for clothes. Everything from your sofa to that treasured soft toy is made from a fabric, which had to be made by something, somewhere. Some are made by hand and others by machine, some from natural fibres and others from plastics.
While low-cost fabric is an issue for people and planet, you do not have to completely boycott mass-produced soft or large furnishings or other fabrics. Companies such as DFS Furniture abide by the Modern Slavery Act (MSA), which can you can read about here. This means that throughout the process—from raw material harvest to the production of, in this case a sofa—worker pay and rights are maintained at high, fair levels. As a government regulation, the MSA must be upheld and checked regularly, so you can rest assured that those involved in production are not being left behind. Being happy in their jobs and having better wages should also mean greater care for the environment will be taken. Higher earnings from what is produced means the land doesn’t have to be pushed and exhausted.
If being able to guarantee sustainability and consideration for the environment is more your style, look closer to home for producers in your country. Smaller local companies are more likely to use raw materials and fabrics produced in the country. This gives both them and buyers more security in how the product has been made from start to finish.
In Britain, wool is an excellent example of a product you can track from start to finish. Southdown Duvets own and shear their own sheep. Though they send the wool to Milan, Italy, it is to a small village on the outskirts. As a natural fibre, it can be shorn annually, it biodegrades, and the village does not use chemicals to clean the wool.
When purchasing something like a sofa, try going to a local company and asking where they buy the fabric from. If you’re not happy with the answer, do a bit of research and see if there are any local fabric producers who would be able to supply sufficient quantities the sofa company is willing to use. If you don’t need a whole new piece of furniture, then try looking for someone/somewhere that can recover it for you. For soft furnishings, you can try making them yourself using fabrics made in your country (most haberdashers will be able to tell you where the fabric is from). You can also turn it into a project for kids by using fabric paints to draw and colour cushions. Have a specific colour scheme or design in mind but still want to involve the kids? Try drawing the image yourself (for them to colour) and limit the colours available to the children. This will ensure you don’t end up with patches of colour that don’t match. If you have young children who haven’t yet learned to colour in the lines, design and colour one side yourself first. Then you can let the children have some freedom on the back and switch between the designs as needed.
Read more on eco fashion in the following article about Eco Fashion in the Amazon.
Can you think of any other ways to reduce the environmental impact of fabric furniture items?