The luxury brands are pushing the boundaries and striving for ever greater comfort and pleasure for the wearer.
As well as the natural fibres such as cotton, linen and wool man made fibres that are more comfortable and better for the skin are being used. These include modal, and its finer sister micromodal and lyocell from plant fibres, and milk fabric, from milk protein.
In an endless quest for the 'perfect' fabric these fibres are used in ever different combinations.

  • Milk fibre- the latest fabulous new fibre to hit the nightwear market.
    Milk protein is produced by dewatering and skimming milk which is then spun into fibre.
    It's healthy for the skin, which it lubricates to produce a milk bath effect-suggested even to reduce wrinkles, and is very comfortable to wear. Blends with cotton, silk and cashmere in fabrics that are perfect for nightwear.

    Rayon (viscose rayon, artificial silk) was the first fibre to be developed and this was then succeeded by modal (micromodal). The third generation of these cellulose fibres is lyocell which combines the wonderful softness & drape of the first two with the environmental friendliness of its production. The properties of these are more similar to natural fibres such as cotton and linen than the petroleum bases synthetics such as nylon & polyester.

  • Viscose/rayon
    Artificial silk was the first ever viable manufactured fibre; made from regenerated wood pulp. First produced commercially in 1884 its history goes back to the 1700's.
    Hanging like silk and allowing the skin to breathe it can be dyed into rich colours and is very comfortable to wear. It's less environmentally friendly than more modern fibres with a higher water and energy use in its manufacture.

  • Modal/micromodal
    Modal & its finer sister micromodal are made of reconstituted beech wood from sustainably managed forests.
    Micromodal is an extremely fine-spun cellulose fibre approximately 40 times finer than a human hair. A 10,000 metre continuous fibre can weigh just one gram or less.
    It's gentle on the skin and blends easily with other fibres such as silk and cashmere to produce extremely fine and ultra-light fabrics.

  • Lyocell
    Lyocell is the generic name for a biodegradable fabric that's made out of treated wood pulp.
    Lyocell is often seen as an environmentally friendly fabric since it comes from renewable sources, is biodegradable, and is made in a closed-loop system that recycles almost all of the chemicals used. The raw materials needed to make it also take up much less land and water than those needed for comparable materials like cotton.

    Wool/cashmere/mohair-dates back 9000 years

  • Cashmere- also know as 'soft gold'
    To keep out the cold in the winter cashmere goats produce a thick under fur. The colder it is the longer, thicker and finer is becomes with the highest quality coming from the grasslands of Inner Mongolia.
    It has a soft silky finish and is very light in weight. Not suitable for hard wear alone it's often used in blends with other fibres such as silk, modal and milk.

  • Mohair
    Wool from mohair goats is one of the warmest natural fibres known. Like wool it's a protein fibre but has a different fibre scale and is not itchy.

  • Silk
    For 2,000 years the Chinese jealously guarded their secret of silk production.
    It started to spread across the world from 300AD and around 1200 AD it reached Italy.
    The blind, flightless moth, Bombyx mori, lays 500 or more eggs in four to six days and then dies. From an ounce of eggs come about 30,000 worms which eat one ton of mulberry leaves and produce twelve pounds of raw silk.
    Over the last 30 years silk production has doubled but it is still very much a luxury fabric. Its good absorbency makes it comfortable to wear in warm weather but its low conductivity keeps warm air close to the skin when it's cold. The flat surfaces of the fibres reflect light at many different angles giving it a natural shine.

  • Cotton
    Cotton is obtained from the seeds of the cotton plant and the earliest evidence of its use as a material dates back to 3000BC. The invention of the saw toothed cotton gin by Eli Whitney in 1793 in the U.S.A. saw the start of major increase in cotton production all over the world.
    Its most important attribute is the length of the fibre with the longest fibres being found in Sea Island cotton from the USA and in some Egyptian cottons.
    Organic cotton is much more environmentally friendly. Although only 3% of all farmland worldwide is planted with cotton; 20% of chemical pesticides and 22% of all insecticides are sprayed on cotton crops. Many of the 20,000 deaths a year of farmers from pesticide poisoning could be avoided by switching to organic methods.

  • Linen
    Linen is produced from the stalks of the flax plant & is one of the oldest fibres known to man; it has been found wrapping mummies in Egyptian tombs.
    It can absorb up to 20 times its weight in water without feeling damp so feels cool & dry to the touch. It is often used in blends with other fibres to produce pieces which need less ironing!

  • Bamboo
    Bamboo is the fastest growing woody plant. It is grown widely across Asian countries and is particularly vital for regreening. It generates more oxygen than trees helping the atmospheric balance of oxygen/carbon dioxide.
    It is easy to process and uses less dyestuffs than fibres such as cotton, modal and viscose. It is breathable and has a distinctive softness and a cool light texture.

  • Elastan/lycra
    Invented in Germany in 1937 this has amazing permanent elasticity and if stretched regains its original shape. It's used in garments intended to cling to the body but remain comfortable. Generally combined with other fibres; only 2% elastan is needed for trousers to retain their shape.

  • Author: Gina Krupski
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