If you’re looking for a quality piece of tailoring, or you’re used to premium suits, you’ll know that there are huge differences between the fabrics used in mass-produced supermarket suits and those which are made by a specialist tailor like Carter Savoy.
Perhaps the most commonly found fabric in cheaper suits is polyester. Not only does it look like a low-quality fabric, it contains ingredients which sound just as nasty as they are. The synthetic polymer strands in polyester are constructed from esters of dihydric acid and terephthalic acid. Terephthalic acid is a key component of plastic fizzy drink bottles, tape in cassettes and videos, and the cartridges you use in hot glue guns. You’ll also find it in industrial paints, and as an ingredient in potent pharmaceuticals like Oxycodone.
Modern engineering has brought us polyacrylonitriles, or to use its commercial name, which sounds more like something from a science fiction novel, Creslan 61. Manufacturers love this thermoplastic because even though it’s similar to polyester, it can withstand higher heats before melting. This makes it ideal for use in some unusual places. It’s used in a particular sort of carbon fibre. About quarter of the aeroplanes made by Airbus and Boeing have their airframes made out of this specific type.
Moving away from entirely man-made fabrics, you could look at an artificial silk such as Rayon. Made from recycled wood pulp, you would think that it had some natural properties. However, in order to create Rayon, the wood pulp must be treated with several chemicals. Dissolved in caustic soda, mixed with carbon disulphide, dunked in a bath of sulphuric acid and exposed to ammonia and acetone to extend its life, there’s very little natural wood pulp left. It may be classed as semisynthetic, but it’s still full of undesirable chemicals you wouldn’t want near your skin.
Very similar to Rayon, Triacetate is made from cellulose, a wood fibre, and requires similar chemical processing to create threads. Remember the shiny tracksuits of the 1980s? That’s a prime example of Triacetate. People loved it because it was shrink and wrinkle resistant, easy to wash and held pleats and creases well. This highly processed material rarely looks as high end as natural fibres.
Go back to the 1930s and you’ll find nylon, the world’s first synthetic fibre. It was used for a lot of fabric items in WW2, including tents, parachutes and ropes. A derivative of petroleum, it’s made by mixing amine, hexamethylene diamine, and adipic acid. It took the world by storm, but it was soon found to be susceptible to UV light. They get around this by finishing the material with chemicals, like a varnish.
Even if you think you are buying a pure and natural suit, look out for the added extras, usually in the form of promises about the fabric. Does it claim to be static resistant, stain resistant, permanent press, wrinkle-free, moth repellent or stain proof? Think about how that claim was achieved. It’s more chemicals being pumped into the fabric. The usual suspects are perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs), like Teflon.
If you care about your skin, and your health, Carter Savoy have access to fabrics which will meet your requirements in terms of durability, standards and ethics. Do get in touch and discuss your wardrobe requirements with our professionals.