Let's Go Deep: Our Textiles Used to Be Living, Breathing Beings

Let's Go Deep: Our Textiles Used to Be Living, Breathing Beings

Why do we wear clothes? Have we always worn clothes? Why does dress look so different over time and space? 

Have you ever wondered about this? Or the entire origin of said textiles, for that matter? 

Over 120,000 years ago, adorning ourselves was more than just fashion. It was a necessary tool for protection from abrasive natural elements, for keeping us warm during the winter and cool during the summer, and comfortable during a day of hard labor. Later on, along with the birth of tattoos, jewelry, and many other body modifications, some textiles, much like silk, became a symbol of luxury for those lucky enough to wear them. 

However, despite their differences, all textiles shared one important fact: their natural origin.

What’s the true origin of textiles?

Across civilizations, various materials have been harnessed to cover our bodies in one way or another. What do all these materials have in common? What is the thread that links them to one another? They used to be living, breathing beings that were cultivated and nurtured to become the fibers that clothed us and protected us. Natural fabrics such as cotton, flax, sheep, hemp, and even silkworms have all played pivotal roles in weaving the fabric of human civilization. 

  • Cotton, with its softness and versatility, has been spun into threads for centuries, offering comfort and breathability to all those who wear it. 
  • Flax, known for its strength, is a textile prized for its durability, coolness, and breathability. 
  • Sheep, providers of wool, offer warmth and insulation, making it an indispensable part of colder climates. 
  • Hemp, with its rugged resilience, has been utilized for its strength and eco-friendliness. 
  • Silkworms, whose delicate silk threads have adorned royalty and commoners alike, embodying luxury and refinement.

The ascent of synthetic textiles 

As we've progressed into the modern age, the landscape of textiles has undergone a significant shift. The rise of cheaper and faster-produced synthetic fibers, derived from petroleum and other non-renewable sources, has surged in popularity. Yet, their production comes at a grave cost. The toxic chemicals and dyes used during the creation process of these fabrics have a direct impact on our planet by polluting our ecosystems, threatening biodiversity, causing allergies in those who wear them, and posing risks to both human health and the environment. The allure of plastic materials belies their darker side: allergies, pollution, and a hazardous impact on our planet.

In the book "To Dye For," Alden Wicker takes a deep dive into the stark reality of synthetic textiles, especially synthetic dyes, prompting us to reconsider the true cost of our textile choices. Through the real testimonials of a group of flight attendants looking to sue their airline due to extremely painful allergies provoked by their unsafe uniforms, Wicker reveals the true danger of these toxic elements, and what they can do to our bodies (and our planet).

A step back is a step forward

As we reflect on the journey of textiles, from their beginnings rooted in nature to the synthetic labyrinth of today’s toxic options, we're compelled to pause and contemplate our role in shaping this narrative. Perhaps it's time to rekindle our connection with the earth and embrace textiles that honor both our skin and our planet while taking a step back and reconsidering what we choose to adorn our bodies with. 

Depending on where you are on your journey, here are a few things Alden Wicker encourages you to make a part of your journey:

  • Avoid cheaper, fast-fashion brands;
  • Prioritize transparency when it comes to companies; 
  • Wash your pieces before wearing them.
  • Smell before you buy (this might sound weird, but chances are if it smells like chemicals, it probably has chemicals).

For us at Istani, the solution is easy: Let's embark on a journey of conscious consumption, where every thread tells a story of sustainability and stewardship, and say goodbye to the toxicity of today’s fast-fashion society.

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