Linen and Ramie and Hemp Oh My!
We have a love-hate relationship with our good friend cotton. We love that she’s a natural *fiber but she’s thirsty and needy. And there are actually SO many other natural fibers that happen to be as versatile as cotton. Collectively they’re called Bast fibers and they’re projected to be some of the most popular fibers for upcoming seasons.
So, What Exactly Are Bast Fibers?
Bast fibers are collected from the skin of the plant as opposed to cotton which comes from the plant seed. The most popular is flax, which creates linen. Hemp is an extremely close second, soaring with popularity in recent years. There is also less commonly used ramie (related to nettle). And jute, more popular in-home textiles, and some accessories. There are more fibers but these are the ones that are currently used to make clothes.
What Makes Bast Fibers Fabulous?
FLAX (aka linen) is a renewable, biodegradable natural ﬁber, uses fifth of the fertilizer needed for cotton, relies little on water to grow, and draws carbon into the soil, making it extremely eco-friendly in conventional farming, even with 0.5 % of ﬂax certiﬁed as organic.
Its popularity has grown due to its natural performance and eco-friendly associations. The strongest bast ﬁber, it is cooling, moisture-wicking, absorbent, breathable and durable, has antibacterial, moth- and stain-resistant properties, dyes easily and is pretty colorfast.
HEMP is a strong, biodegradable, renewable ﬁber, generating high yields quickly without fertilizers or pesticides, ideal for crop rotation. As a cover crop it blocks out weeds and leaves, soil-enriching biomass post-harvest. Hemp draws vast amounts of CO2 into the soil and absorbs and ﬁlters toxic soil contaminants. It has hypo-allergic, bacteria, UV, mold and mildew resistance.
RAMIE similarly to ﬂax and hemp, ramie doesn’t need pesticides or herbicides and can be harvested three to six times a year. It has a long processing route using chemicals, similarly to ﬂax (unless it’s closed-loop processed or de-gummed using enzymes instead of chemicals). It’s absorbent and breathable, and also stain- bacteria-, mold- and mildew-resistant, UV-, rot- and moth-resistant, and dyes quite well. Like linen, it wrinkles easily and has low-abrasion resistance.
We’ve curated this list of some of our favorite brands that incorporate bast fibers. Many have more than just the category they’re listed under. (i.e. linen and hemp)
Love and Confuse
A small business that lives on Etsy, Love and Confuse is your newest obsession. Their primary focus is linen and do they do it justice! They have a wide range of products, including trousers, dresses, shirts, and even jumpsuits! They have products that are ready to ship right away if you’re in a pinch for time. Otherwise, the products are made to order just for you! There’s free shipping, AND Etsy offsets carbon emissions when you order from them!
Inspired by “the everyday needs of the nowadays women,” LinenFox is a sustainable brand that is made to order. They use 100% locally sourced linen from Lithuania. With the broadest range of products from this list, they have everything from aprons to coats and jackets.
It’s hard enough finding a brand with a focus on petites. And then one with a mission to create clothing kind to people and the planet as well? Amazing! Inspiring conscious women to live the life of their dreams, LOVANIE is a linen-based clothing brand.
Created by Nics, a Thailand native, it wasn’t until she was older that she realized the impact the fashion industry has on the planet, something we at No Kill are well-versed on. LOVANIE is USA-made and sources Linen from Canada and deadstock supplies from California. With specialties in petite sizes, LOVANIE is the perfect choice for timeless, feminine silhouettes.
We’ve mentioned Reformation before and their commitments to better the planet through their sustainable practices. Reformation features some of the trendiest linen pieces we’ve seen in a long time, between tops, bottoms, dresses – they have everything. Check out this piece we did, interviewing Carrie Freiman, the Director of Sustainability at Reformation.
Tonlé is a brand that is built from the idea that ‘garment manufacturing can mean more than the exploitation of people and resources.’ – a quote to live by. Tonlé is a firm believer in changing the industry and setting new standards. They value transparency and they do deliver by going in-depth about their zero-waste practices and about the team of people who make the garments. They offer a range of linen products, including pillowcase covers!
Sometimes sustainable clothing is misunderstood as being plain or basic for the sake of it being timeless and doesn’t follow trends. Valani is much different, and we are living for it. They figured clothing could avoid negatively impacting our planet and be cute and trendy simultaneously! They offer a hemp and Tencel blend for some of their tops, dresses, and bottoms. They describe the bend as soft and flowy and are sure you’ll fall in love. They model transparency on their website, giving customers plenty of ease when shopping.
Bewusst Pure Hemp Wear
German company uses hemp in its most natural form. Started by a fashion designer and entrepreneur, they view clothing as a second skin. Their hemp products are untreated and free from harmful substances. Bewusst offers underwear garments such as men’s and women’s underwear, tank tops, leggings, and even sweaters!
Remember when we mentioned hemp was great for underwear because it was anti-microbial and anti-bacterial? That means it’s also great for shoes. 8000Kicks has designed and produced the first-ever Hemp sneaker, and we are obsessed. Its sleek and minimalistic design sucked us in from the beginning. The sole is made of hemp and the body, and the bottom is algae-based! Science is so cool. These shoes are durable, waterproof, and dustproof, perfect for all of your outdoor activities.
We said we have a love-hate relationship with cotton, and in this instance, it’s a love. Like a lot. Aliya Wanek is a brand that focuses on you and your identity and makes sure you never lose yourself. Aliya is a superhero and is said to be looking over the manufacturing and production processes when she’s not sewing the garments herself. Their different sweatshirts and sweatpants are cotton hemp blends and locally dyed. What more could you ask for?
We absolutely ADORE high-end, eye-catching designer garments, and yes, we know it’s not affordable to everyone, but what if we told you about a designer that meets the price point of everyone? The designer behind New York City-based brand, Melke, Emma Gage is the sustainable designer of your dreams. She recently debuted a collection at NYFW last week and driven by her dedication to sustainability, she has reeled in fashion fanatics from all over. She is an avid hemp user for fabric and has everything from hemp t-shirts for $75 all the way to a $970 organic hemp skirt covered in ‘naturally discarded’ shells.
Savannah Marrow has turned ramie into the skirt of our dreams. The Jasmine and Vita skirt have our mouths drooling. The skirts are doubled layered and feature the most elegant hand-woven tassels at the bottom. Savannah, born and raised in Australia, has a great appreciation for the ocean and beachwear, understanding that the beach can host events of all kinds, with different dress codes. Savannah Marrow designs with this in mind, creating garments that you can wear just lounging around by the water or for that special moment shared with a loved one. These versatile products are rooted in sustainability, from the beginning stages all the way through the manufacturing processes.
2 best friends create a clothing brand…thus ramie tops for everyone! Sea, the perfect combination of modern and vintage (quite a paradox,) designed this romantic flutter sleeve top, featuring a ramie shell and a cotton lining. Sea heard the demands of ramie fans and turned this iconic tank top into a dress, the perfect addition to your closet.
Designers all over the globe are using ramie and the possibilities are endless. Custom design Dessarte Paris is a family-owned clothing line that uses ramie in skirts, shirts, pants, and jackets. Made-to-measure design is truly one of the best kinds of design. There’s minimal waste\ and Dessarte uses upcycled and recycled fabrics.
We love nothing more than a designer who can set the standards for the rest to follow, Chloé became B Corp Certified back in October of 2021 has become one of our favorite designer brands. In case you need a reminder, Chloé is held up by the four pillars: People, Sourcing, Communities, and Planet. Customers can read into Chloé’s sustainability journey on their website and while they’re there, they can check out the ramie garments. Chloé uses Ramie for dresses, shirts, and skirts with elegant and fun prints, just like this maxi dress.
Creative director Giorgia Gabriele created Wandering with femininity at its core. With the unisex trends dominating the market, Gabriele wanted something different. Wandering featuring Ramie within different dresses and tops, collaborating with cotton and different laces, puffy sleeves, and some ruching all in order to keep femininity at a peak.
Once again, we LOVE cotton, we think she’s great, but sometimes she is overworked. She loves to pop up in everyone’s collections all over the fashion spectrum. But she’s not the definition of sustainable fabrics or fibers. Bast fibers are here to stay, and you should get to know them.
*fiber or fibre? Same thing. Like theater and theatre. Since we’re based in Brooklyn (USA) we’re going with the American spelling!
Fiber facts courtesy WGSN
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