Last Updated 27 Jan 2021

The Search for Sustainable Fibre/Fabric Alternatives

Category Fashion, Hemp
Essay type Research
Words 7641 (30 pages)
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Table of contents


This paper delves in to the performance characteristics of fibres within chosen apparel and the sustainable replacements for these fibres.

In particular, the document explores various questions relating to the subject including: (1) what are the performance characteristics for each fibre in general and chosen apparel? , (2) how is it suitable as an alternative to the fibre? , (3) In what ways are the performance characteristics of fibre’s different from each other? Today, we can look at the textile industry through the lens of sustainability. At present, the textiles industry is one of the highest in contributing towards landfill. The two most commonly used textiles fibre’s; cotton and nylon both causes serious environmental problems in their life cycle.

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Therefore, the report focuses on the aspect of sustainability within the fibre as replacements for cotton and nylon within the chosen apparel. The work is divided into two parts, Part A addresses cotton and Part B addresses nylon. In specific a women’s underwear is the chosen apparel for cotton and the two possible replacements for that product are banana fibre and hemp. The replacement fibres are more comfortable, have better breathability, moisture absorbency, much lower in cost and 100% biodegradable in comparison to cotton which is essential performance characteristics needed for women’s underwear being a sensitive piece of apparel.

However, for nylon, the apparel used is an outdoor men’s jacket. The sustainable alternatives for nylon are tencel and aerogel. The replacement fibres are chosen because they are biodegradable, have a good level of strength, abrasion resistant and high in insulation properties; all requirements for an outdoor jacket. The textile industry should adopt a responsible attitude towards the environment and natural resources. Therefore, further development in sustainable production especially with fibres is highly recommended. These suggested replacements should be taken into consideration when producing apparel in the future.

Support from all parts of the textile industry is needed to build an eco-friendly and sustainable world.


With increasing concerns regarding the effect the textile industry is having on the environment, more and more textile researchers, producers and manufacturers are looking to biodegradable and sustainable fibres as an effective way of reducing the harm disposed textiles have on the environment. (Blackburn,2009) Therefore, the purpose of this work is to explore sustainability issues in fashion and textiles. It identifies the performance characteristics and discusses this from the perspective of the sustainable fibre or fabric alternatives for two major textiles in apparel; cotton and nylon.

The study will be carried out in two parts. Part A will discuss the sustainable alternatives for cotton and Part B will discuss the sustainable alternatives for nylon. An apparel is chosen for each fibre respectively. For the cotton fibre, the apparel chosen is women’s underwear and for the nylon fibre the apparel chosen is outdoor men’s jacket. The replacement fibre’s that will be discussed are banana fibre and hemp for cotton while tencel and aerogel as an alternative to nylon. In addition, a detailed analysis of the performance characteristics will be done for each replacement fibres.

Following to this, a comparison of the two replacement fibres against cotton and polyester will be done bearing in mind the environmental considerations. While this report is about specific types of apparel, it is relevant to anyone who is interested in taking action and cultivating change towards sustainability. The aim is to show that there are options of different ways in which we can go about building long lasting environmental and social quality through the use of more sustainable fibres.

Cotton History/Background

Cotton is the most prevalent fiber in the world that has helped shape the history of the world by clothing and protecting countless civilizations and adventurers from the effects of nature. According to a recent article in textile world, cotton claims a 36-percent share of the textile fibers market (Textileworld, 2011). Cotton is grown in more than 100 countries in the world and valued at some $30 billion US dollars (Anandjiwala, 2007).

Cotton requires a sunny environment with moderate rainfall and little frost making the potential of growth in developing countries India, China, Pakistan as well as developed countries such as United States (Anandjiwala, 2007). Cotton is a natural cellulosic fiber, comes from a renewable resource, and is intrinsically biodegradable. Therefore, many consumers believe it is an environmentally responsible product (Chen & Burns, 2006). Renowned for its breathability, comfort, absorbent qualities, strength and versatility, which make it the fiber of choice for numerous apparel articles plus bed sheets, towels and a range of other textile products.

This quality also enables cotton fabric to be dyed easily, making it a natural choice for designers. Cotton fabric is available in a plentitude of varieties, such as supremely soft and luxurious Sea Island and Pima cotton, rugged and durable corduroy, industrial strength canvas, light voile and organdy, as well as lustrous sateen and velvet.  Cotton fabric is also a hugely popular choice for undergarments: it naturally wicks away moisture while retaining breathability. Cotton does not require the maintenance like silk or other fabrics: it does not need to be dry-cleaned and will not be ruined in a rainstorm.

However, because the cotton fibers are so porous, shrinkage of the material is a possibility. Cotton structure and characteristics Cotton is a natural cellulosic fibre, meaning that it is vegetable based. Of the vegetable based fibres, cotton can be sub-categorized as a seed-based fibre. This is because cotton fibres grow as hairs on the seed of the cotton plant, Gossypium (Gohl & Vilensky, 2003). The fibre is a single plant cell and the structure of the cell is complex (Hatch, 1993). The pod in which the fibres grow is known as a boll.

When it reaches maturity (about the size of a walnut), it is harvested and processed. Cotton has a hard and stiff handle. Properties Cotton is considered a medium-strength fibre and becomes up to 30% stronger when wet (Kadolph, 2007). Cotton has low elasticity with an elongation capacity of 3% (Kadolph, 2007) Cotton has good moisture absorbency, with natural moisture content of 7% and 21% absorption before dampness can be felt (Gohl & Vilensky, 2003). This means that static build-up is low (Kadolph, 2007). A high level of heat conductivity in cotton allows heat to be drawn away from the fibres (Gohl & Vilensky, 2003).

Cotton has good resistance to sunlight. Any garment fading is usually due to the quality of the dyestuff and not the cotton fibre (Gohl & Vilensky, 2003). Cotton is highly resistant to alkalis, though conversely, considerably weakened by acids, particularly strong, inorganic acids (Gohl & Vilensky, 2003). Organic solvents have no harmful effect (Collier, Bide & Tortora, 2009). Advantages Due to its increased strength when wet, it withstands tearing or ripping during laundering (Humphries, 2009) and other rough handling.

Because of its inelastic nature, cotton articles should retain their shape (Gore & Vilensky, 2003). High moisture absorbency makes it suitable for use in hot and humid climates. The moisture passes freely through the fabric, aiding evaporation and cooling, making it highly comfortable (Kadolph, 2007). High heat conductivity allows wearers to feel cool in warm weather. It also allows for easy ironing with a hot iron. It is easily sterilised with steam, which has little effect on the fibre (Gohl & Vilensky, 2003). Due to high sunlight resistance, cotton items can be easily dried in the sun.

Because of its high resistance to alkalis, cotton can be easily washed due to the alkaline nature of soaps and detergents (Gohl & Vilensky, 2003). Disadvantages Low elongation capacity and elastic recovery means that if over-stretched, fibres may not fully recover (Collier, Bide & Tortora, 2009), causing them to go ‘baggy’ (Gohl & Vilensky, 2003). It can only recover 75% from a 2-5% stretch (Kadolph, 2007). Low resiliency also adds to the wrinkling and creasing nature of cotton garments. A weak internal force within the fibres means creates an inability to pull molecular chains back into original positions (Kadolph, 2007) after pressure.

High moisture absorbency causes cotton to be slow-drying. Cotton oxidises in sunlight, causing whites and pastel colours to turn yellow (Kadolph, 2007). Extended exposure in the sun can weaken and deteriorate fabrics (Collier, Bide & Tortora, 2009). Some cotton articles can be susceptible to shrinkage during washing. The agitation of the laundering process causes the fibres to pack in more closely together. Because this is an irreversible process, pre-shrunk fabrics can be bought and used for cotton products (Gohl & Vilensky, 2003). 4|Page

In damp, warm and dark conditions, cotton can be prone to biological attack by mould and bacteria. This causes the fibres to weaken and can be destroyed by rotting. If caught early, it can be removed easily by laundering, though stains may persist (Gohl & Vilensky, 2003). They may also be attacked by silverfish, particularly if they are heavily starched (Collier, Bide & Tortora, 2009). Unique to Cotton Cotton can undergo a chemical finish called mercerization, where sodium hydroxide (NaOH) or liquid ammonia (NH3) is used to treat the fibre.

This causes a permanent physical change in which the fibres swell, changing its cross-section from kidney-shaped to a rounder, more circular one. This increases the absorbency and improves the dyeability of cotton yarns and fabrics (Kadolph, 2007). The new shape of the fibres give mercerised cotton a distinct soft lustre.

Chosen Apparel Characteristics

Women’s Underwear Panties, regardless of the cut and style and the fabric they are made of, are basic items to be found in a woman's lingerie drawer.

There are different kinds of panties out there and women do have their preferences as to what type of panties to wear. Some women own different types to wear for different outfits and different occasions, while some opt for just one or two types and stick to them. Determining your proper panty fit requires knowledge of two components: waist measurement and hip measurement. The hardest part about purchasing lingerie that fits well and looks good, is knowing what to look for. There are so many choices in fabric, style and size to choose from today.

Therefore, the apparel chosen for this part of the study is women’s underwear. In specific, one of the most comfortable women’s underwear; cotton French cut panty with 83% cotton/ 17% pdex, fabric content. There are no side seams making the panties extra comfortable. The French cut waistband resists the urge to bunch or fall down. It is also flattering hi cut legs for moderate front coverage. The french cut underwear rises to natural waistline providing full back coverage. 6|Page Cotton’s role in the chosen apparel – Women’s Underwear The best fabric choice for panties for health reasons is cotton.

The reason is that panties with a cotton crotch breathe more naturally. Cotton, not only allows for air circulation but also has good moisture absorbency with natural moisture content of 7% and 21% absorption before dampness can be felt (Gohl & Vilensky, 2003 and the cure book). This means, perspiration is absorbed well making cotton is the best fabric choice for athletic activities. Cotton also has a soft and natural appearance as well has the wicking element keeping your skin dry (Anandjiwala, 2007). Cotton panties are often reasonably priced, last for a while and are comfortable.

In addition to that, cotton has no tendency to provoke an allergic reaction as it is a “non-allergenic” fibre making it suitable for anyone to wear (Anandjiwala, 2007). Garments made out of cotton can be tossed in the washer with little worry because it withstands tearing or ripping during laundering (Humphries, 2009) and other rough handling. Cotton underwear with lycra or pdex keeps its shape the best. Many manufacturers now offer cotton panties in colors, prints and even dress them up with ribbons and lace.

Replacement Fibre For Cotton in Women’s Underwear

As a product developer, answers to the questions below could help to demonstrate an understanding of the characteristics required in the fibre replacements for a women’s underwear. Will it be as comfortable in general and at the most important area of the panty which is the crotch? Can it conform to the body lines yet not restrain body movements? Will the replacement fibre compromise the fit of the underwear? Is there a change the requirements in wash care? Does the replacement fibre have resistants to shrinkage? 7|Page Can a fashion element be added to garment if the fibre has changed?

What are the possible benefits of replacing cotton with another fibre? We ignore many wonderful natural products which have potentiality to become useful textile but were never tried seriously. Considering textile from natural resources the consumption is increasing in such a galloping rate that even renewable resources are becoming nonrenewable. The method of manufacturing textile in the modern era causes pollution to considerable extent. The composites containing plant fibres are important because of their renewable nature, low cost and amenability to chemical and mechanical modifications (Kiruthika, Priyadarzini & Veluraja, 2012).

Manufacture of synthetic fibres also causes pollution. For this reason, there is a need to search for non-conventional renewable resource for textile to give an effective solution. Plant fibers have been used for making paper and clothing for a long time and the need for use of natural fibres has increased greatly. Among natural fibres, 90 per cent are of vegetable origin and among them 80 per cent is constituted by cotton and the remaining by other long vegetable fibres like flax, jute, hemp, sisal, ramie, coir, abaca, banana and pineapple fibres.

They are classified as minor fibres (Kiruthika, Priyadarzini & Veluraja, 2012). However, this study will demonstrate two of the major fibre’s; banana fibre and hemp as an alternative to cotton in women’s underwear. 8|Page Banana Fibre The bananas or the plantains are essentially hot climate plants. Their original home is said to be the tropical forests of Asia. The plant gives fibre for manufacturing textiles, its leaves are used as plates to serve food besides of course many medicinal virtues in India. The plant grows easily of its own as it sets young shoots.

All varieties of banana trees abound in fibres. In fact almost each and every part of this plant gives fibres of various strength, colour, beauty and staple length thus, can be used for various purposes. In the leaf sheaths, coarse and strong fibres are found on the outer ones, fine and silky in the inner most ones and those of the middling quality in the intermediate ones The core, from the roots to the point of its emergence from the covering of the false stem contains an extremely white fine fibre, soft, lustrous and can be processed on jute machinery (Chand, Tiwary & Rohatgi, 1988).

The fruit stems contain fibres of a rough variety, while the midribs of the leaves yield a fibre of exceptional strength and durability when properly processed. Individual cells in banana fibres are relatively longer and therefore these sources can produce long fibres (Reddy & Yang, 2005). 9|Page The outer sheaths produce the coarsest fibre. Very often they are very brittle and break at the slightest jerk. The practice is to reject two or three of the outer sheaths. The innermost two or three of the sheaths are also rejected because of the percentage of pulpy matter they contain.

Only the intermediate sheaths are exploited for the purpose of fibres (Kulkarni, 1983). About 37 kg (average weight) of stem yields about 1 kg of good quality fibre. The yield is about 1-1. 5% of dry fibre. The fibre obtained from the central core is of lower quality. The fresh banana plant yields about 0. 61. 0% of fibre, depending on the variety and method of extraction used. The low cost mechanical device can extract 15 to 20 kg of fibre from the banana waste as compared to 500 g a day by the laborious manual process (Kiruthika, Priyadarzini & Veluraja, 2012).

The inherent drawback of banana fibre is its poor quality and higher irregularity, owing to the multi-cellular nature of the fibres. The individual cells are cemented with lignin and hemicellulose and thus form a composite fibre. Banana fibre is classified as medium quality fibre and performs very well in combination with other fibres for making fine articles like handicrafts, currency, etc (The Hindu, 2011). The stronger fibres are ideal for cordages while the weaker white inner fibres are best suited for value added fancy items.

They are being produced and exported in India from Kerala and is suitable for manufacturing strings, ropes, cords, cables and ship building thread (Kulkarni, AG, Satyanarayana, Rohatgi & Vijayan,1983). It can also be used to make sacks and packing fabrics as well as mats and rugs. Due to high cellulose and low lignin content, its use in the paper industry to make tissue, filters, specialty nonwoven, document, printing, surgical and hygienic applications, coffee bags, meat casings and more(Kulkarni, AG, Satyanarayana, Rohatgi & Vijayan,1983). Banana Fibre can be used as fibre to manufacture fabrics.

It is being used for making bags, table mats, ropes and twines (The Hindu, 2011). The fibre can be powdered and different colours of fibre obtained using natural dyes, which can be made into beautiful pictures. It can be blended 10 | P a g e with other natural fibres or synthetic fibres without any problem to produce large varieties of garments from this fibre. It has good strength and has silk like luster (AsiaPulse News, 25 Aug 2008). It can partly replace cotton fibre and hence we can estimate potential for it on the line of estimating demand for cotton fibre.

It may be noted that good quality Banana fibre is having strength and luster like silk and in the Philippines various garments are already manufactured from Banana fibres (AsiaPulse News, 25 Aug 2008). Apart from it, Philippines is exporting huge quantity of readymade garments like shirts, kimonos, gowns, nightwear and more. The banana fibres were reported to be elegant and highly versatile. As they do not crumple easily, these fibres have been used in the manufacture of dress materials. The fineness of texture depends on the quality of the fibre used.

The material has a beautiful sheen and is used for making wedding gowns and barongs. Hand-extracted fibres have been used to produce handbags, wall hangings, table mats and other fancy articles. The composite material prepared by using banana fibres is purely biodegradable, renewable, non-toxic and potential user-friendly material (Kiruthika, Priyadarzini & Veluraja, 2012). Banana fibre - alternative for cotton in women’s underwear The benefits of wearing banana fibre underwear go beyond the comfort of the fibre.

Banana fibre has other unique and amazing properties not found in other fabrics. Banana fibre characteristically enjoys good luster, is lightweight and offers strong moisture absorption which are all necessary performance characteristics needed in underwear. Besides that, the banana fibre is a completely natural fabric, being made from the bark of the banana plant. Also, banana, being a relatively easy fiber to spin, provides the soft, smooth and extremely comfortable result people have come to expect from top quality underwear brands. 1 | P a g e In fact banana fibre has come to be recognized as one of the most comfortable eco friendly fibres ever made, setting the standard high for sustainable fabrics. Since banana fibre is fully origin natural product, it has very good compatibility with other natural fibres like cotton, coir, pineapple fibres and jute in blending (Fibre to fashion, 2009). Banana fibres are naturally hypoallergenic and is pesticide free; making it the perfect solution for anyone with sensitive, or allergy prone skin.

It can be blended with cotton or viscose fibre to produce blended fabric. Banana fibre can also be dyed easily like other natural fibres and cloth made from it can also be dyed and printed like cotton cloth. They do not shrink and the colour doesn't fade after a wash (Times of India, 23 May 2009). It also has exceptional strength and durability when properly processed. The banana fibre also plays a major role in environmental and economic sustainability as it is biodegradable; the textiles are produce from the waste of the plant and do not require much effort to grow. Dr.

Rajan P Nachane, Principle Scientist and Head, Quality Evaluation & Improvement Division of Central Institute for Research on Cotton Technology, says, "Being completely biodegradable and naturally occurring, the banana fibre products are expected to be in great demand in the international markets as they pose no toxic effects to man and the environment” (Fibre to Fashion, 2009). Recently in 2010, an Australian brand by the name of “AussieBum” has been the first brand to have used banana fibre in men's underwear; therefore it can be used for women’s underwear as well (PR Newswire, 2010).

There are many countries now venturing in to banana fibre to manufacture textiles including India, Japan, Africa and China. Aussiebum Advertisement for banana fibre underwear for men Hemp Hemp fiber has been used by mankind to make textiles dating back to the stone age, “defined by Shultes in 1970 as a green, very abundant and ubiquitous plant, economically valuable and possibly dangerous” (Mussig, Jorg; Stevens, Christian, 2010).

While the fiber is one of the most valuable parts of the hemp plant ,commonly referred to as Bast used in the creation of textiles, industrial hemp has a wide range of uses including to paper, cordage, bio-fuel, health food and biodegradable plastics.  Unlike cotton, hemp requires virtually no chemicals like pesticides, herbicides (Miraftab et al, 2007). It is can be grown practically anywhere from northern latitudes to tropical climates and is naturally resistant to most pests and grows very densely (Mussig, Jorg; Stevens, Christian, 2010).

From a cost perspective, hemp is less expensive to farm because of its minimal growth requirements. The valuable bast fibers, which give the plant its strength, are contained within the hollow wood-like core of the plants stalk under the outer most bark and runs the length of the plant anywhere from 3 to 15 ft long (Kadolph, 2010). The primary fibers average 8" in length and can be spun or woven into a fine linen-like type fabric. These fibers are now commonly blended with other fibers such as flax, cotton, wool, linen or silk. Hemp can be weaved as intricately as lace, smooth as silk or as coarse as burlap (Global Hemp, 2000).

Modern hemp blends created today for the garment industry are cool to touch and comfortable to wear. While hemp garments are often comparatively more expensive than those made from cotton due to higher processing costs and limited quantities, its superiority is clear. One of the most commonly known attributes about hemp fiber is its exceptional tensile strength (Anandjiwala, 2007). In addition, the fiber is naturally antimicrobial and resistant to ultraviolet light as well as mold, mildew, heat and insects which makes it excellent for outdoor wear.

The fiber is not only many times more durable than cotton but warmer, softer and more water absorbent. This also makes hemp more absorbent to dyes and thus less prone to fading. Hemp garments can be dyed or left in a "natural" state, which means no dye at all. When left un-dyed, garments come in varying shades of beige which is the natural color of the hemp fibers after processing. The primary countries supplying hemp to the US include China, Hungary, Thailand, Romania and Chile with production coming from other nations including Australia, England, Canada and New Zealand as well.  Hemp - alternative for cotton in women’s underwear The advantages of hemp as a replacement for women’s cotton underwear are numerous. Hemp’s fibers are longer and stronger than cotton, each hemp fiber is a foot long or greater, compared to two to four inches for the best cotton fibers. What’s more, hemp fibers are hollow like linen, which means that it breathes and cools as well as linen and better than cotton, yet is more durable and stronger than cotton which fits the bill as performance characteristic required in underwear.

Moreover, fabrics made from hemp do not compromise human health or the environment in their production as it requires far less water, fertilizer and pesticides than cotton to grow. Besides that, hemp has excellent insulating properties that keep you warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Hemp fibers actually soften with each washing without fiber degradation, hence a longer wash care life cycle. Hemp production uses significantly less chemicals than cotton which makes it more sustainable and naturally more suitable for people with chemical sensitivities.

The fiber is completely biodegradable, holds its shape as good as polyester but also has breathability. Eco-friendly methods of both dyeing and finishing have been developed for this fibre as well. Famous Levi Strauss used a light weight hemp canvas for its original pair of jeans. Since that time, hemp has been used to make many types of garments and accessories. Big names such as Patagonia, Adidas, Calvin Klein, Giorgio Armani and Ralph Lauren have recently marketed products made from hemp. Hemp is a miraculous fibre, it is a sustainable, easily renewable resource and is used for food, clothing, energy and more (Miraftab et al, 2007).

Comparison Between Banana Fibre and Hemp with Cotton

Properties Fibre: Length Fineness Handle Strength Wrinkle recovery Drape Luster Moisture absorbency Thermal properties Wash care stability General durability General comfort Breathability Non-allergenic Relative cost Biodegradability Cultivation properties: Water consumption Harvest frequency Cotton Short staple fibre Banana Fibre Hemp Medium to very long staple fibre Very fine to coarse Very soft to medium, cool Strong to Very Strong Poor to Fair Fair Poor Very Good Very Good Very Good Good Good Excellent Yes Low Excellent degradation

Medium to long staple fibre Fine Fine to coarse Medium to hard, Soft to medium, cool cool Strong to Very Strong Strong Poor Poor to Fair Poor Good Poor Good Good Good Fair Good Good Good Yes Low Slow degradation Very Good Good Good Good Good Excellent Yes Low Excellent degradation High Once a year Low As many throughout year Almost none Requires humidity Low times the Twice a year Almost none Can be grown under any weather conditions Makes the soil fertile and cultivable for other crops Chemicals and High Pesticides Growing conditions Requires humidity

Affects on land No crop rotation of growth No crop rotation

Nylon Structure & Characteristics

Nylon is a man-made fibre, made from synthetic polymers. It is also known as polyamide because it belongs to the family of amide compounds (Gohl & Vilensky, 2003). It is melt-spun. Nylon is available in multifilament, monofilament, staple and tow (untwisted bundle) varieties. Nylon fibres are transparent unless they have been delustred or dyed (Kadolph, 2007). Nylon gives a medium to hard handle (Gohl & Vilensky, 2003).

Properties Nylon has excellent strength, though it may lose up to 20% strength when wet, though this usually has no effect on garments as the fibre is so strong. It could be considered one of the strongest fibres (Gohl & Vilensky, 2003, Kadolph, 2007). Nylon has excellent abrasion resistance. Nylon has high elastic recovery and high elongation. It can fully recover from an 8% stretch, and 91% from a 16% stretch, immediately (Kadolph, 2007). Whilst having the highest moisture absorbency of the synthetic fibres, it is not very hydrophobic. It has natural moisture content between 2. -5%, and can absorb up to 7% before feeling damp (Kadolph, 2007, Gohl & Vilensky, 2003). Nylon is an insulator of heat. 17 | P a g e Nylon is an incredibly light fibre (Kadolph, 2007). Nylon is resistant to alkalis though may yellow with repeated exposure. Nylon is not resistant to acids (Gohl & Vilensky, 2003). Resistance to sunlight is fair to good but prolonged exposure to sunlight is not advisable as it can weaken fibres. Nylon is resistant to biological attack by insects and fungi, though food soil on carpets may attract insects, and fungal growth may appear on soiled articles in humid conditions (Gohl & Vilensky, 2003, Kadolph, 2007).

Advantages Excellent abrasion resistance allows nylon articles to be durable and resilient, and resistant to pilling, shedding, fading, abrasion, soil and stains. High elasticity and elongation of nylon allow it to have very good wrinkle recovery, making it an excellent fibre for hosiery type uses. It also adds to minimise the appearance of bagginess or excessive garment distortion (Gohl & Vilensky, 2003). It also has contributes utility in carpets where fibres need to spring back after compression, meaning traffic paths do not develop quickly (Kadolph, 2007).

Its low moisture absorbency allows nylon garments to be quick drying. Slight wrinkles in garments disappear on wearing from body heat (Gohl & Vilensky, 2003). Nylon can be heat-set due to its thermoplastic nature, meaning permanent pleats, creases and embossed designs can be made (Kadolph, 2007). Heat-setting and the low-absorbency of nylon means that shrinkage is low (Kadolph, 2007). The lightness of nylon combined with its strength, makes nylon an appropriate fibre for action wear and sports gear (Kadolph, 2007).

Alkaline resistance leads to easy-care of the garments (Kadolph, 2007). Nylon is dry-cleanable (Gohl & Vilensky, 2003).  Disadvantages Low moisture absorbency means that nylon can become transparent when wet (with perspiration), and clammy in warm, humid conditions (Kadolph, 2007), making it uncomfortable to wear unless worn over an absorbent-fibred article. It also means that static electricity is readily generated (Gohl & Vilensky, 2003). Prolonged laundering above hot temperatures and repeated ironing can yellow nylon (Gohl & Vilensky, 2003).

One must take care when laundering under hot temperatures as nylon’s heat-setting ability can manifest permanent wrinkles which are impossible to remove without causing some fabric distortion (Gohl & Vilensky, 2003). Nylon’s low resistance to acids can cause yellowing due to deterioration and dulling of colour. This can occur from industrial air pollution or from perspiration. Bleaching accelerates yellowing in nylon (Gohl & Vilensky, 2003). Unique to Nylon During spinning, different shapes can be extruded through the spinneret, giving nylon fibres different, sometimes more natural, qualities.

The regular cross-section shape of nylon is round. Non-round fibres (such as trilobal, pentalobal and voided fibres) are used generally for upholstery and carpets as round fibres reveal soil and look dirty very quickly, therefore giving products a clean look, even if soiled. This is because non-round shapes are able to scatter the light to hide soil, and also duplicates the matte luster of wool and other natural fibres (Kadolph, 2007).

Chosen Apparel Characteristics

Outdoor Jacket Outdoor Jackets, is generally an apparel to be found in a man’s wardrobe especially in cool climate countries or those who are active in sports.

There are different kinds of outdoor jackets out there for different purposes. Some men do have their preferences as to what type of jackets to wear. Some men own different types jackets to wear for different purposes, while some opt for just one or two types of common ones and stick to them. Determining the correct outdoor jacket requires some knowledge regarding fabrics and apparel accessories for different weather conditions and sports. The hardest part about purchasing an outdoor jacket is getting the right kind of jacket for the right purpose without worrying about the elements during the sport or weather condition.

There are so many choices in fabric, style and size to choose from today. Therefore, the apparel chosen for this part of the study is men’s outdoor jacket. In specific, one of the most common multipurpose men’s outdoor jacket; consisting of 100% nylon fabric content. The jacket has a thermal reflective lining that boosts your body’s heat retention keeping you warm. It comes complete with an adjustable storm hood, draw cord hem and venting zips, making it perfect for outdoor adventures in adverse conditions.

Replacement Fibre for Nylon in Men’s Outdoor Jacket

Nylon is used in this apparel as it is an exceptionally strong material, with low-absorbency and elastic characteristics. It can be dyed easily and is simple to wash, a big plus for outdoor wear. This resilient fabric is very typical in the outerwear market; again, despite its many benefits, a supplementary coating is often added to nylon fabrics to increase their protective capabilities. Like polyester, nylon is woven into different material weights, which is indicated by a gauge measurement (ie. 80g polyester).

The waterproof/breathability rating issued by the manufacturer is the easiest way to determine whether a particular jacket will work under your desired conditions (Kadolph, 2010). It has some level of water-resistance. To ensure that there aren't even the slightest holes made by stitching the fabric together, manufacturers usually seal the seams of the garments to prevent any moisture from creeping in to the most exposed areas of the garment: the shoulders, arms and side seams on jackets. Critically taped seams are good enough under most conditions, though fully taped seams will offer the highest amount of protection to the earer under the foulest conditions. Windproof or wind-resistant fabrics are made by weaving the fibers of the material extra tightly to prevent wind from penetrating the garment and reaching the wearer (Lyle,1982).  Tencel Tencel is a natural, manmade fibre made from eucalyptus wood pulp from sustainable tree farms, which is also referred to as lyocell The wood pulp is processed in a non? toxic organic solvent solution that is reclaimed and recycled in a closed? loop spinning process that conserves energy and water. Up to 99 percent of the solvent is recovered and reused (Kadolph, 2010).

Furthermore, the process by which the fibers are made into fabric is environment friendly, 100% biodegradable. Tencel fabric is an astonishing eco friendly fabric making the landmark in the development of environmentally sustainable textiles. Tencel textiles are created though the use of nanotechnology in an award-winning closed-loop process that recovers or decomposes all solvents and emissions (Mak et al, 2006). The advantage of Tencel clothing is the variety and exceptional comfort you can experience. The main benefit of clothing made from this unique fabric is the moisture and temperature control it offers to the wearer.

Wood pulp is naturally designed to absorb moisture for the tree’s survival; the fibers that are made into cloth do the same. Furthermore, these versatile Tencel fibers blend well with other fibers such as wool and cotton to create textiles more durable, soft, and moisture controlling than man-made fibers. Tencel clothing provides maximum comfort whether indoors or outdoors. Tencel is an especially smooth fiber, and has softness comparable to cotton and silk.  The nanofibrils can also be altered to create fabrics that feel like suede, silk, denim, or as though they had been treated for a peach-skin finish (Mak et al, 2006).

Tencel - alternative for nylon in Men’s Outdoor Jacket There are many benefits of Tencel as a replacement for men’s outdoor jacket. According to recent dermatological studies, wearing clothing made of Tencel significantly improves comfort and promotes a feeling of well being (Diepgen, 2004). Also, Tencel is chemical free, an important factor for sensitive skin and people with allergies. The fabric pulls moisture directly from the skin and releases it into the air. Synthetic materials such as nylon do not take in moisture at all, but leave a film on the skin’s surface. Sports and outdoor textiles of 100% synthetic fibers can lead to higher skin and body temperatures and thus to a reduction in the athlete’s performance. ” (Lenzing website). While cotton absorbs moisture, Tencel is 1 ? times as absorbent. Moreover, it fibrillates during wet processing to produce special textures (Kadolph, 2010). Cotton and nylon can both leave moisture on the skin in humid weather; however Tencel does not, ensuring that bacteria will never get a chance to form between the fabric and the skin (Schuster et al, 2006). This makes Tencel a truly safe fabric for all skin types and even for babies.

The fiber is economical in its use of energy and natural resources, and is fully biodegradable. ”The use of Tencel improves the thermal insulation of outdoor clothing” (Lenzing website). The heat loss experienced in a cold environment is much lower in the side with Tencel than in the side containing only polyester or nylon which is a good performance characteristic needed for outdoor jackets. Waddings of Tencel can be warmer than those of polyester even with the same thickness. This gives more options in terms of garment styling, freedom of movement, as well as optimum wear comfort (Schuster et al, 2006).  Aerogel Aerogel has exceptional physical properties such as extremely low thermal conductivity, low sound speeds, low dielectric constant and high optical transparency, which make its materials highly suitable for a wide variety of applications such as thermal insulation for extreme weather gear, space suits, cryogenic pipes, space shuttles and more (Technical Apparel, 2005). “Aerogels belong to a fascinating class of nanoporous materials derived by sol-gel technique which possess sophisticated potentialities for a range of applications” (Fricke, 1986). The term “aerogel” is composed of “air” and “gel”.

A gel consists of two components, a gel scaffold and a filling medium. In case of the aerogel, the filler is simply air. Aerogel is manufactured by delicately removing the liquid from a silica alcogel by super-critical drying, replacing it with nothing but air, which makes up 99. 8% of the final product Some aerogels have a density as low as 0. 001 grams per cubic centimeter (Thermablok website). Aerogels are characterized by exceptional physical properties such as; extremely low thermal conductivity and weight, low sound speeds, low dielectric constant and high optical transparency (Fricke, 1986). High surface area porous materials from aerogels are of great importance especially as catalyst, catalyst supports, thermal insulators, sensors, filters, electrodes and burner materials” (Hermann et al,1995). Aerogels unique properties can be extremely helpful in designing flexible and lightweight insulation materials from textiles. The attractive energy absorbing properties of aerogels may lead to their use in various applications.  Aerogels - alternative for nylon in Men’s Outdoor Jacket There are many advantages of using Aerogels as a replacement for men’s outdoor jacket.

Aerogel has the highest insulating performance, therefore can be used for the development of wide variety novel high performance products such as outdoor jackets (Thermablok website). It is a good property to have for protection from extreme cold weather conditions and keep the body warm. Aerogel is also has minimum weight and thickness allowing flexibility in fashion and design options. One of the extraordinary properties that he discovered was their very low thermal conductivity (Aerogel website). Aerogel also is a very durable fibre and can be washed in normal wash cycle and maintains performance under load. It is strong and flexible for emanding outdoor conditions (Hermann et al, 1995). The production and use of silica aerogels is environmentally benign. No significantly hazardous wastes are produced during their production. The disposal of silica aerogels is perfectly natural. In the environment, they quickly crush into a fine powder that is essentially identical to one of the most common substances on Earth, namely, sand. Additionally, silica aerogels are completely non-toxic and non-flammable. If they eventually find their way into widespread use as protective materials, they could eliminate a very large amount of unwanted plastic materials (Aerogel website).

Comparison Between Tencel Fibre and Aerogel With Nylon

Properties Strength Abrasion Moisture absorbency Insulation properties Thermal properties Wash care stability General durability General comfort Breathability Non-allergenic Biodegradability Nylon Good Resistant Poor Good Low Good Good Poor Fair No Not biodegradable Tencel Good Resistant Poor Good Moderate Fair Good Excellent Good Yes Aerogel Very good Resistant Poor Excellent Low Very good Excellent Excellent Good No Excellent degradation Excellent degradation


Man has always exploited the resources available to improve or develop their clothing. However, this report provides a new view to alternative textiles and the exciting breakthroughs that were made in creating fibres that not only have the performance characteristics but also to be more sustainable and environmentally sound. Throughout the report, compelling ideas of replacement fibres are suggested working towards a new fashion ethic. Fibres are a critical component in textiles.

An increasing interest has develop recently about the raw materials sourcing and production by the consumers, brands and retailers. It covers all aspects from water consumption, land usage and relative environmental impact. Sustainability is a global megatrend; an essential attribute of today’s textile and clothing industry. Knowledge, skills and commitment are required in the process of transforming textile industry into more sustainable one. Use of Sustainable fibres in textiles is a part of this process and a step towards this milestone.

Fibres like cotton and nylon fibres have a high consumption in energy and environment as well as landfill. Therefore, alternative options of fibres should be considered to incorporate issues that related to sustainability. Fibers suggested in the report such as banana fibre, hemp, tencel and aerogel are good for the planet because it is low in environmental impact. Some of the fibres have better performance characteristics than cotton and nylon. The damage which takes place during some of step for production of textiles for the apparel industry has also been discussed in the report.

The use of these fibres in the apparel industry is rather limited. However, these fibres have potential to be used in fashion apparel and also other industries. Fashion is the name of change and change is the part of life. People’s desires and needs have no limits and companies are continuously striving to fulfill the consumer needs. Many fashion companies are working on this platform from hundreds of years, but technology and innovations change the company thinking and also surroundings change the people trends and  arieties of products born in comparison to both changes. Consumers are becoming aware of sustainable concerns and want sustainable products that work for environment. Many fashion companies are still working with conventional cotton products and making a lot of fashion products with multiple designs and colors. But these things are not workable for a long time. Customers are becoming aware day by day and want products that are good for their skin and bring comfort for them. And this learning makes customer aware about harmful and hazardous products they are using in their daily life.

The future of textile industry will depend on the products that have reduced environmental and social burdens during their entire product life cycle. A part of this is the introduction of sustainable materials that will reduce these impacts during their growth and processing. And this report will provide fashion companies good knowledge of sustainable fibers (the raw material for their products) and brief description about their properties to support the use of these fibers in their product that will serve the society as well as environment.


  1. The report is an option for textile companies or retailers to consider options available to them to make informed decisions on alternative fibre choices for the selected apparel.
  2. Some of the alternative fibres have new and unique elements that can be beneficial in the terms of design, fashion and functionability that can be considered
  3. Textile companies or retailers as well as brands are only focusing on creating ecofriendly textiles with organic cotton or wool and not other replacement fibres that could be more environment friendly, it is recommended that companies research further on it
  4. The banana fibre is a fibre that has not been experimented in many countries yet it cost effective and eco friendly, it is recommended that companies could look in to growing banana fibre to increase the natural sustainable plant
  5. The fibre’s suggested will help fashion companies to diversify their businesses


  1. Books & Journals Anandjiwala, R. D. , (2007) Textiles For Sustainable Development, Nova Science Publishers, Incorporated. Blackburn, R. S. (2009) Sustainable textiles: Life cycle and environmental impact, Taylor & Francis.
  2. Chand, N, Tiwary, RK & Rohatgi, PK (1988) 'Bibliography Resource structure properties of natural cellulosic fibres — an annotated bibliography', Journal of Materials Science, vol. 23, no. 2, pp. 381-7.
  3. Chen, H-L & Burns, L. D. , (2006) 'Environmental Analysis of Textile Products', Clothing and Textiles Research Journal, vol. 24, no. 3, pp. 248-61.
  4. Collier, B. J. , Bide, M. J. , Tortora, P. G. , (2009) Understanding Textiles, Seventh Edition, Pearson Education Inc. , New Jersey, USA Dermatological study of the textile compatibility of TENCEL®, 2004, Univ. -Prof. Dr. T. L. Diepgen, Heidelberg, Germany
  5. Engineering Science Paper, (2012) Study on Performance and Application of Banana Fiber and Banana/Cotton Blended Knitted Fabrics Gohl, E. P. G. , Vilensky, L. D. , (2003)
  6. Textiles for Modern Living, Fifth Edition, Pearson Education Inc. , South Melbourne, Australia 29 | P a g e Green,J. & Thompson,D. , (1993)
  7. The Cure: A Visual Documentary Ominibus London & New York G Hermann, R Iden, M Mielke, F Teich, B Ziegler (1995) J Non-Cryst. Solids Hatch, K. L. , (1993)
  8. Textile Science, Delmar Publishers, New York, USA Humphries, M. , (2009) Fabric Reference, Fourth Edition, Pearson Education Inc. , New Jersey, USA
  9. J. Fricke, (1986) Aerogels, Springer Proceedings in Physics, Vol. 6, Springer, Heidelberg Kadolph, S. J. , (2007)
  10. Textiles, Tenth Edition, Pearson Education Inc. , New Jersey, USA Kadolph, S. J. ,(2010)Textiles, Eleventh Edition, Prentice Hall.
  11. Kiruthika, A, Priyadarzini, T & Veluraja, K (2012) 'Preparation, properties and application of tamarind seed gum reinforced banana fibre composite materials', Fibers and Polymers, vol. 13, no. 1, pp. 51-6.
  12. Kulkarni, AG, Satyanarayana, KG, Rohatgi, PK & Vijayan, K (1983) 'Mechanical properties of banana fibres (Musa sepientum)', Journal of Materials Science, vol. 8, no. 8, pp. 2290-6.
  13. Lyle, D. S. (1982) Modern textiles, Macmillan Publishing Co. Mak, CM, Yuen, CWM, Ku, SKA & Kan, CW ( 2006), 'Changes in surface morphology of Tencel fabric during the fibrillation process', Journal of The Textile Institute, vol. 97, no. 3, pp. 241-6.
  14. Miraftab, M, Horrocks, AR, Institute, T & Institute, T (2007), Ecotextiles: The Way Forward for Sustainable Development in Textiles, Woodhead Pub.
  15. Mussig, Jorg; Stevens, Christian (2010). Industrial Applications of Natural Fibres : Structure, Properties and Technical Applications. Wiley.
  16. Retrieved September 03, 2012, from Ebook Library. Reddy, N & Yang, Y (2005) 'Biofibers from agricultural byproducts for industrial applications', Trends in Biotechnology, vol. 23, no. 1, pp. 22-7.
  17. Schuster, K. C. , Suchomel, F. , Manner, J. , Abu-Rous, M. and Firgo, H. (2006), Functional and Comfort Properties of Textiles from TENCEL
  18. Fibres Resulting from the Fibres' Water-Absorbing Nanostructure: A Review. Macromol. Symp. , 244: 149–165. doi: 10. 1002/masy. 200651214 Technical Apparel (2005), Design News, 60, 18, p. 56, Business Source Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 4 September

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