We draw a clear line in the sand when it comes to the types of fabrics we stock at St Charlie. With each piece we bring to the store we consider 3 things: people, the environment, and animals, with sustainability and ethics at our absolute core. Because of this commitment you will see "sustainable" fabrics such as wool and silk on our no-go list, due to concerns for animal welfare and the effects of animal agriculture on our environment. Similarly, you will notice vegan fabrics such as pleather that we also do not stock, considering the damaging effect of plastics and synthetics on the environment. We've learnt many things throughout the journey of St Charlie and one of those is that sustainability is a complex issue, but it's our strong stance means that you can rest assured that each garment is as kind to the people that made it, our environment and animals as possible.
Natural or animal fibres
As a textile, wool is natural, renewable, and biodegradable, however, it has a dark side. In addition to wool (a largely unregulated industry), sheep farming produces meat, skins and sometimes dairy and there are concerns over the raising and breeding of sheep, grazing and desertification, greenhouse gas emissions and the use of chemicals in the yarn and production process.
Leather can be made from cows, pigs, goats, sheep, kangaroos, crocodiles and even dogs and cats. Leather is also often unlabelled, which means you never know what animal it came from and where, let alone the conditions he/she endured. Apart from animal welfare concerns and the effects of the animal agriculture industry, the process of turning animal skin into leather uses heavy chemicals which can cause health problems for the workers and release potentially toxic materials into the environment.
Silk is a renewable fibre produced by silkworms. To harvest and keep the thread intact, the silkworms life is cut short when it they are immersed in boiling water. Although silk has less of an impact on the environment than many other fabrics, there are serious animal cruelty concerns over killing of silkworms.
Growing conventional cotton is water and chemical intensive, requiring a lot of toxic pesticides and fertilisers throughout the production process. We don't consider conventional cotton sustainable and for this reason we only support organic cotton.
Natural? Yes. Ethical? Absolutely not. Most of the fur industry's skins come from animals (such as minks, foxes and chinchillas) living in fur factory farms designed to maximise profits. The animals live in deplorable conditions and are often slaughtered in unimaginable ways. Fur production has terrible effects on the environment too, harsh chemical treatments are used to stop the fur from rotting and fur is also not biodegradable.
For the most part, the growing of bamboo is sustainable. However, the production process to turn bamboo into a workable fibre is not. The use of caustic soda, solvents, bleaching agents and chemicals are harmful to the environment and the workers involved in the process.
Perhaps because it is made from wood pulp (usually eucalyptus), rayon is often mistaken as a sustainable fibre. To make this artificial fibre, the wood pulp is treated with many hazardous chemicals, such as caustic soda, ammonia, acetone and sulfuric acid.
Polyester is made from petrochemicals, a non-biodegradable and unsustainable synthetic that requires petroleum to produce (a non-renewable crude oil). Polyester is not biodegradable and requires a lot of heat and energy to product, severely impacting the environment.
The manufacturing process of acrylic fabrics requires highly toxic substances, dangerous to the health of factory workers, the environment and consumer. The key ingredient of acrylic fabric, acrylonitrile, is a carcinogen and a mutagen, targeting the central nervous system. Yikes!
Nylon is made from petroleum and is often given a permanent chemical finish that can be harmful. The Nylon production process is water and energy intensive, and creates nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas 310 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
Where do we begin with this one? Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is a known human carcinogen and the one of the most toxic plastics for our health and environment. It's made of petroleum, is non-biodegradable and produces hazardous by-products throughout its lifecycle.
Good for animals, not so good for the environment. Also known as faux leather, synthetic leather or "pleather", vegan leather is generally made of PU, containing polyurethane, a known carcinogen. Furthermore, the solvents that are used in producing polyurethane-based synthetic leather which are highly toxic and non-biodegradable.
Any garments made to be "wrinkle-free" get their wrinkle busting powers from a hazardous chemical formaldehyde. Formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, is released after the clothes are treated with a resin. Although rare, some people may experience a skin condition called dermatitis (itchy skin, rashes, blisters) from their skin being exposed to the chemical, but it can have even more serious implications for people who work with the chemical in factories.