Did you know that nettles can be used to make fiber? Mary Wutz, founder of Seam Siren, pens this piece on the potential of nettle fiber in our clothing. There is a Seam Siren bag up for grabs in our #foodandfiberstories summer photo challenge right now too – learn more here.
It is beyond time to treat our clothing with as much scrutiny and attention as we use towards the food we consume. As the environmental impacts of the fast-fashion industry have been increasingly unveiled over the past decade, the next natural progression is to consider how this industry is affecting our personal well-being and what we need to wear in order to protect our health.
With over 150 billion new articles of clothing being produced annually and an estimated 8,000+ chemicals utilized to create this clothing including known toxins like formaldehyde, brominated flame retardants, and perfluorinated chemicals, it is more essential than ever to return to the chemical-free, plant-based fibers and colors of the pre-industrial revolution era.
The chemicals used in clothes manufacturing have been linked to infertility, respiratory diseases, contact dermatitis and cancer among other conditions. Additionally, it is unknown what happens when these toxins interact together inside of the body. When toxins are absorbed through skin — the largest organ — they bypass the liver, the organ responsible for removing toxins. Petrochemical fibers restrict and suffocate the skin — shutting down toxic release. Since the skin is responsible for venting up to a pound or more of toxins, this spells trouble for the body’s innate detoxification capabilities.
So, what are we to do? Enter the nettle plant family.
If fashion had a plant hero, nettle would be its champion. Wild Himalayan Nettle is the purest fiber available on the market due to its remote growing range and absence of chemicals in all layers of creation. Nettle fiber is both antimicrobial and hypoallergenic as well as being highly regarded as medicinal in both Eastern and Western cultures. Additionally, it is a fiber crop that actually sequesters carbon from the environment making it a truly eco-friendly fiber; more important than ever as we’ve officially pushed carbon levels past their dreaded 400 parts per million. According to climate change experts, this means there is no turning back in terms of food chain disruption, rising sea levels, ocean acidification and coral bleaching.
Wildcrafted nettle fabric is absorbent, breathable, and temperature regulating. It is fortifying due to the medicinal properties inherent in the plant, and is known as nature’s multivitamin – rich in a variety of essential vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and phytochemicals.
It has been said that we share up to 99% of our DNA with plants, so it makes sense that our brief foray into the synthetic chemical world has led us astray. There is much we can learn from the co-evolutionary relationship we’ve been in with plants since our inception and all the ways in which they’ve provided us with food, clothing and shelter throughout our entire stay on this planet.