It’s time to start a series of posts on fabrics. As vegans, we need to know a bit more about fabrics in order to be able to rely on our own judgement when needed.
My experience yesterday in the fabric shops of Berwick Street was absolutely devastating. I stepped out to purchase a piece of bouclé, you know that wonderful mixed fabric which is the signature fabric of Coco Chanel. The idea came up when I checked out the Maje collection. I found a jacket made in a mix of cotton, rayon, polyester, and metallic. A pure marvel! And more recently, when I was looking at the London Fashion Week website, I stumbled on a beautiful tweed knit dress by the designer Adolfo Dominguez. Superb, as well!
Bouclé is the French word for “curly”. Bouclé is a fabric made with looped, curly yarns, creating a rich, multi-dimensional texture. Generally bouclé contains wool and silk in addition to synthetic and metallic fibres. However, more and more frequently, I see bouclé clothing labels mentioning only synthetic fibres.
I had in mind the perfect little bouclé dress I would like to sew for myself. So it was with great excitement and confidence that I went to Berwick Street which is home to a large number of fabric shops amongst the most renowned for choice and quality in London. But my joy turned quickly into frustration.
I was deeply surprised that most of the time, the fabric composition was not labelled. I thought it was mandatory by law but apparently it is not. So it was just impossible to check the fabrics for myself. When I raised the point with the sales assistants, I was told that composition was given by the producers on the fabric rolls when first delivered but after that who knows what happens with labels….
I then asked for a bouclé without wool. The first seller looked at me in a very demeaning way: “No sorry, we don’t sell any synthetic textiles. We are the supplier of Chanel and all our pieces are made of wool and silk”. No comment. Some people take pride in animal cruelty. This is their choice.
After visiting several shops, I finally found a small and overstuffed boutique where a lovely woman made her best efforts to satisfy my request. She was not aware that the wool industry could be harmful for animals, and to be honest she didn’t show great interest in my explanation. However, she undertook a painstaking task to find appropriate fabrics.
Then, she performed an extraordinary test to find out whether or not fabric contains wool. She cut a piece of fabric and ignited it. I learnt two rules of thumb. Firstly, burnt wool has a very specific smell easily recognisable. Secondly, synthetic textiles melt and solidify. That’s it. I was so surprised that I didn’t even ask if there was such trick for silk.
I think about one of my previous posts on clothing labels that I wrote after having read the EU regulation on textile names and labels: “Textile products should carry a label indicating the fibre composition, either on the item or the packaging”. Fortunately, it is always the case for clothing labels and so you can check if bouclé contains any products from animal origin. However, this is not the same story in the fabric shops and in this case the burnt smell test is a must-do!