When we talk about our products, I often mention that our fabric is dyed in the UK, but it occurred to me I haven’t explained the significance of this and why it’s such a big deal.
It’s all about chemicals. I think we all know by now that the fashion and textile industry is renowned for being one of the most polluting and a large part of that is because of the treatment of the fabric, including dying.
As well as washing fabrics to clean them at the start of the process, they are dyed to give them bright colours, and fabric is often also treated to give it specific properties – waterproofing or stain resistance, for example, are all added to the fabric using chemicals.
Ethical companies will consider how this is done, and ensure any factory that is processing textiles is compliant with local legislation, or higher internationally recognised standards, to ensure these chemicals are properly stored, treated and disposed of.
However, as we know, not all brands and companies in the textile industry operate in the way we might expect or hope. Where hazardous dyes are used and released straight into the local environment, often rivers, they can cause serious problems. The chemicals can kill the wildlife in the river, reducing bio-diversity. But it call also affect communities living alongside the rivers and further downstream – people use water for drinking, washing and farming, all of which could be affected. China, in particular, has come under the spotlight for the pollution caused by their textile factories.
So back to dying in the UK. The worst offenders for dying are Azo dyes – these ones contain dangerous, sometimes carcinogenic, chemicals and they were restricted in the UK (and the EU) in 2003. This means they basically can’t be used in anything that will come into direct and prolonged contact with skin by the end consumer – i.e. clothes.
Obviously this is better for the people wearing the clothes, but it’s also better for the workers (not breathing in the fumes) and the environment. Industry is better monitored in the UK than in some other parts of the world, and must operate to a higher environmental standard.
So when we talk about our fabric being dyed in the UK, this is what it means. It means fewer harmful chemicals are being used to make the clothes, and fewer harmful chemical are being released into our environment – and both of those are good things.