A moment of self reflection: we use words like “ethical” and “sustainable” a lot. And while we use them sincerely, we want to be clear on exactly what we mean when we say our products are ethical and sustainable. With our recent launch of Winsome Zero (our post on that is below this one), we’ve had the opportunity to reflect on every kind of fabric we’ve used in the last year and a half; we’ve seen periwinkle silks, neon orange linens, and earthy wools come back as scraps that get transformed into entirely new creations. And as they’ve returned to us in new forms, we remember their humble arrivals into the Winsome studio as big rolls of fabric. So, why do we choose the fabrics we do? How do these raw materials fit into our mission of sustainability? Without further ado, we’d like to share a tale of the life of a Winsome fabric.
It all begins at the dawn of each new Winsome collection; to bring sketches to life, we need fabric. And when we search for fabric, we search with three criteria in mind: hand feel + comfort, quality, and fabric composition. Here’s what that all means:
The hand feel of a fabric refers to how the fabric actually feels against skin. Is it soft? Does it give? Is it comfortable? Is it light? Is it heavy? The adjectives go on and on. But the heart of it is that we want to find a fabric we would want to wear on our bodies all the time, and for long periods of time. Itchy wools and too-tight denims aren’t making the cut.
When we talk about quality, yes, we are referring to how luxurious or special a fabric feels, but we really focus on the quality of the fabric as it has to do with holding up over time and its ease of care. High quality fabric should make us feel great and it should stay great for years to come.
Finally, the big one - fabric composition: when buying new fabric (we’ll address dead stock fabric in a moment), we focus on procuring exclusively natural fabrics. Natural fabrics are made from textiles that occur naturally in the world - like cotton, wool, leather and even silk. We avoid synthetic fabrics - human-made fibers typically made from chemicals - for a number of reasons. The first is that natural fabrics are much easier to take care of than synthetic fabrics. That may come as a surprise - doesn’t silk need to be dry cleaned? And wool? Doesn’t that need to be dry cleaned, too? The answer is yes, many natural fabrics more often than not need to be dry cleaned. However, we pre-wash every Winsome garment to ensure ease of care for our customers. Many companies do not pre-wash their products to maintain that super crisp fabric quality on the rack and to avoid accounting for the shrinkage rate of pre-washed materials. We pre-wash at Winsome so that you don’t have to worry about dry cleaning or shrinkage. Plus, our pure, natural fabrics don’t need to be dry cleaned or treated with more chemicals. We find that when clothes need to be dry cleaned, they either never get worn or they stay dirty for very long periods of time, and we want things to be easy. Moreover, natural fabrics don’t need to be washed as much as many synthetics do because natural fibers don’t hold onto stench the way synthetic fibers do. To put it frankly: have you ever noticed that the armpits of your favorite poly-blend shirt always seem to smell? It’s not you, it’s the synthetics. Natural fabrics tend to have a lower environmental impact than synthetic fabrics because, among so many other things, you don’t have to wash them as frequently and when you do wash them, they release fewer harmful microfibers into our water streams. All fabrics release some microfibers when washed, that’s unavoidable (tip: you can use a laundry bag to help catch some!), but synthetic fabrics release microfibers into our water systems that never break down. Natural fibers break down faster and help to keep pollutants out of our water.
These three criteria help us to find the best new fabrics for Winsome Goods. However, we do use quite a bit of dead stock fabric as well. Dead stock fabric is kind of like second hand fabric. It’s not purchased new from textile companies and it’s not made specifically for a new order. Rather, dead stock fabric is available because it was made for something at some point in time, and went unused for one reason or another. Unused dead stock fabric could theoretically end up in landfills, so we love to make use of these fabrics that are already in the world before we go on to order and make new fabric.
We also really love the challenge of working with dead stock fabric. Because there’s only a limited quantity of it, and there’s no option to get more or have it made again, we have to work within the limits of that specific fabric. We can only design and produce goods from it once in its exact form—in a sense, it's like an ephemeral work of art. The perk of working with dead stock fabrics is that they are unique, peculiar, or otherwise hard to find. Plus, we can work with fabrics that would be far more expensive if they were purchased new - that’s how we get a lot of our super cozy wool knits.
With all that fabric, we get to produce our garments. To do so, we cut into the fabric to create the shape of the garment and on goes the production process (read more about that in our last post about the Winsome Zero collection). Pieces of the fabric that remain after cutting are considered scrap fabric, and in most cases, that scrap fabric gets tossed. But, thanks to Winsome Zero, we keep our scraps and repurpose them into brand new products. Our Winsome Zero rugs are made up of a beautiful conglomerate of varied dead stock fabrics, made-to-order linens and silks, and so much more. To us, a sustainable and ethical fabric cycle is exactly this: one that takes into account everything that it takes to make a fabric, and one that utilizes the fabric to its highest purpose through and past the end of its life cycle. If you’re interested in learning more about our process, our fabrics, or sustainable shopping in general, don’t hesitate to reach out over email or direct message. We’d love to hear from you!