Science of Fashion Research
In an industry overrun by greenwashing, science can tell us which fabrics and practices are truly sustainable and which are not. The word "sustainable fashion" holds many meanings based on which clothing company, person, or industry expert you may ask. Without scientific research as a backing, current sustainable options may not necessarily be what is best for our environment and your body.
As a company claiming to be making sustainable fashion, we knew we had to bring scientific research in to make sure we are, in fact, holding up to our definition of sustainable fashion: clothing that leaves minimal impact on the environment and one's body from production to end of life. We utilized our expertise in science and engineering as well as our connections to Colgate University to perform our science of fashion research.
Motivations Behind Performing Research:
The Clothing Industry's Environmental Impacts
- The clothing industry each year is responsible for 10% of CO2 emissions globally
- Zoning in on the typical tights material, nylon, the production of this fossil fuel based material results in greenhouse gas emissions. The material also is not easily degradable, and it makes up 10% of micro plastic debris in the ocean.
- 1.5 million tons of micro plastics found in the ocean today are believed to come from micro plastics. Fibers from synthetic fabrics make up an estimated 35% of micro plastic that enters the ocean. Specifically, recycled plastics/nylon significantly releases more micro plastics compared to new nylon
The Clothing Industry's Impacts on Your Body
- Nylon does not absorb moisture because the structure of the material is not porous, so it traps sweat, which can lead to infections.
- Formaldehyde, which is found in nylon, is correlated with skin irritations and eye problems. There has too be high enough concentrations and coverage for it to enter the skin however.
- Nylon contains chemical additives such as bleaching agents and synthetic dyes that can lead to immune problems, skin issues, and even cancer. The manufacturing process of nylon uses benzene, a chemical identified by the American Cancer Society as a carcinogen to humans with the capability of causing cancers.
CLOECO's Science of Fashion Research
In November of 2021, Anoushka Soni (intern) and Megan Martis (Founder) arrived in Hamilton, New York to begin their research at Colgate University in a biogeochemistry laboratory. With research procedures prepared with the help of Lindsey Wooster (intern), a Colgate professor, and Sarah Ali (intern) based on reputable, peer-reviewed papers and a set of materials to test, the team began their research guided by a Colgate Professor. The results they found were very interesting, especially regarding recycled nylon versus new nylon.
We set out to test the following common clothing materials:
The material choices listed above were chosen as they represent the most common materials used to create plastic-based or natural-based materials for clothing. The exact compositions of the above materials are as follows: new nylon (91% nylon and 9% elastane), recycled nylon (89% recycled nylon, 7% elastane, and 4% polyamide), Tencel blend (71% Tencel, 19.4% polyamide, and 9.4% spandex), dry-fit polyester (100% polyester, dry fit, moisture wicking), cotton (100% cotton), and cotton blend (95% cotton and 5% elastane).
It should also be noted that the Tencel blend and the pure cotton materials were exposed to the air for at least 6 months while the other materials were packaged away from air exposure. Because of the amount of micro-plastics that exist in the air, they became contaminated.
After following the defined procedures to extract the chemicals form each material shown above, each was tested three times in a separate test tube. The chemicals we tested included:
The parts per million (ppm) findings for each set of material samples was found using a Gas Chromotography Mass Spectrometer (GCMS). The results of are study are as follows:
The chemicals tested are not exclusive of all the chemicals that exist within clothing, but a first pass at some of the common ones. As shown in the figure above, the recycled nylon contains the most chemicals by far, especially BPA. There are low detectable amounts of DEHP in the pure cotton and the Tencel blend likely because of the exposure to the air for such a long period of time--DEHP is a known contaminant to spread through the air. New nylon also has significant amounts of MBT. The chemicals known to make a garment dry-fit and moisture wicking likely were out of the scope of this research as their chemicals levels were expected to be much higher. Further research is necessary to determine additional common chemicals found in these different types of fabric.
CLOECO General Transparency
Science can tell you a lot about our brand, but to bring further transparency to our supply chain, emissions, and more, here is additional information:
In our beginning days of creating plant-powered tights, we called numerous U.S. based manufacturers to no avail. Either they did not want to work with a start-up or they did not want to risk using a new or natural material on their knitting machines. With our passion to still bring the dream to fruition, we settled for an offshore manufacturer that we felt confident in was in fact ethical. We are proud today to say that we have found a U.S. manufacturing partner and will be manufacturing in North Carolina moving forward. From our story and experience, we have found just how hard it can be to find a U.S. based manufacturing partner, so we feel lucky that our story has ended up with this success. We unfortunately cannot publish our supplier information at this time as our Tencel fiber blend is our trade secret.
Not a single one of our products have been tested on animals as we value being cruelty free.
We take our material considerations seriously and based on our own research explored above. Because recycled nylon is proven to be worrisome for the environment and your body as noted above, we've chosen to use plant-based materials. To learn more about our materials, check out our material breakdown page here. In terms of our packaging materials, we only used recycled paper and compostable or recyclable shipping bags to best protect our environment. We purchase the majority of our packaging from EcoEnclose.
We track our emissions from production to their arrival to our fulfillment center. These emissions calculations are completed by Carbon Tag and include: raw material collection, materials processing, yarn production, knitting, dying, fabrication, and shipping. We offset these emissions through our partnership with Cool Effect. Once our products leave our fulfillment center for a customer, the emissions are offset through our partnership with Shopify.