FABRICS FAQ : eco-fabrics with bamboo

Because of its quick growth and high yield, bamboo is an ideal, sustainable source of raw material. It takes a mere 4-5 years for bamboo to fully mature and be ready to harvest. The harvest of bamboo has minimal impact on its surrounding environment. Its inherent insect-resistant properties render pesticides needless. Bamboo does not require replanting after harvesting because its vast root networks continually sprout new shoots, which pull in carbon dioxide and covert it to new growth. This elaborate root system makes agricultural tending using diesel-emitting equipment to plant seeds and till soil unnecessary. Bamboo is also grown without the need of any artificial irrigation, often on hills or tough terrain where nothing else can be grown. Finally, bamboo gives back to the planet by being a water conserving plant and improving soil quality and rebuilding eroded soil.

Bamboo is naturally antibacterial due to the unique bacteriostatic agent in bamboo plants called "bamboo kun." The bamboo kun in the bamboo fiber stops odor-producing bacteria from growing and spreading, allowing for a more hygienic, fresher- smelling fabric, that does not diminish over time. In fact, bamboo was often used in ancient Chinese medicine because of these properties. It is 100% biodegradable and can be completely decomposed by micro-organisms and sunlight. It will not break down into any pollutants such as methane gas, a common by-product of decomposition in landfills.

The first generation of bamboo fabric that was well received initially by the apparel industry and later by the interior design industry around 2007 was in fact made out of bamboo viscose. The general public was misled that a man-made viscose yarn was a natural bamboo fiber yarn. The difference between these two yarns is quite significant; the viscose yarn made of bamboo fiber hardly retains any of the beneficial traits of natural bamboo. The reason that the first generation of bamboo related fabrics was made of rayon fiber could be because the abundance of the bamboo plant caused the Chinese textile industry to develop its industrial value. The extreme difficulty in extracting the fiber from the bamboo plant resulted in fiber manufacturers taking an easier route using the more familiar man-made viscose technology to utilize the ample supply of resources. Imagine the degree of difficulty involved in retting a plant (comparing the thin stalks of flax to bamboo stocks) which could grow was large as 6 inches in diameter or more.

On February 5th, 2010, the Federal Trade Commission took a stand and warned 78 companies across the U.S. that they were in fact breaking the law by selling clothing and other textile products that were labeled and advertised as "bamboo", but were actually manufactured of rayon fiber. Over time, new technologies developed, such as a new enzyme process that made extracting natural bamboo fiber easier and more environmentally friendly as it eliminated the use of harsh chemicals. As technology and legislation moved forward, so did Brentano. In the spring of 2011 Brentano unveiled its first enzyme processed natural bamboo fabric, Silhouette.

The simple explanation is that natural bamboo is a natural fiber derived directly from the bamboo stalk while bamboo viscose has been reconstituted from the original bamboo plant and therefore small amounts of original bamboo remain. Natural bamboo is similar to linen in both molecular structure and performance qualities while bamboo viscose has a similar appearance to silk but performs differently.

Since natural bamboo is extremely similar to linen it maintains many of the same characteristics. For example, it wrinkles easily and is able to be laundered. However, it also maintains most of bamboo’s inherent traits such as UV resistant properties, antibacterial and deodorant properties, and the ability to absorb moisture while still maintaining breathability.

Bamboo viscose is similar to silk ascetically as it has a gorgeous sheen and drapeability but unfortunately it does not perform as well as silk. Bamboo viscose has poor wet tensile strength and cannot be laundered. However, it does absorb moisture and dye extremely well which in turn makes the fabric extremely comfortable with beautiful color.

Natural bamboo has the look and feel of linen while bamboo viscose has the look and feel of silk. All bamboo fabrics have a beautiful luster and sheen.

The dyes used for our Bamboo Cloth are Oeko-Tex 100 compliant. One of the most well known and successful environmental tests, Oeko-Tex Standard 100 evaluates and screens for any harmful substances present in processed textiles. Founded in 1992, it is an international testing and certification system for textiles with branches in more than 40 countries worldwide. Oeko-Tex uses the latest scientific findings to continually update criteria. For more information, please visit www.oeko-tex.com.

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