Clothes makers are looking back through our material heritage to a time before synthetics. Materials such as linens, organic cottons and wools are seeing a resurgence in fashion circles.
These fabrics are a joy to work with and makers can tap in to the rich history of the materials for inspiration. For example, linen, derived from flax, has been used for thousands of years and was popular up until the Industrial Revolution when machined spun cotton became cheaper. Designers are now looking at how this ancient material can be used in contemporary pieces. It's not uncommon to find most basic items such as t-shirts, trousers and shirts available in the material, particularly in the summer months.
More often than not these materials retain properties that it has taken years for some scientists to emulate on the synthetic side. Linen famously has sweat wicking properties, hence it's popularity in warmer climes. Merino wool is the product of centuries worth of development. From ancient Babylonia to modern Australia, where the product was further perfected through the selective breeding of sheep from a prized royal Spanish herd, it is now widely used in fashion design. Due to naturally occurring oils, wool is water-resistant, making it the choice of material for wetter, temperate climates. It is also highly breathable making a light wool jumper excellent for a summer's evening.
Hemp is widely considered to be one of the first fibres ever used for fabric making. It naturally has a coarseness to it that meant that the upper classes of history tended to avoid it. Nonetheless it endured due to how easy it is to grow and the multiple ways in which other elements of the plant can be used. Due to its association with Marijuana development of the fabric stalled in the mid-nineteenth century. Hemp was then the focus of a resurgence that saw efforts to soften the fabric, though steaming, increase. Now the fabric is making its way back into the mainstream as an environmentally friendly material.
Makers who are working sustainably have an ever growing wealth of materials that they can work with. Coupled with the surprising heritage that comes with them they should prove to be an inspiration for many.