1. Making Clothing
The making phase comprises materials, manufacturing, and distribution. What goes into making the materials that make up a piece of clothing, the impacts on people and planet of manufacturing those materials into clothing, and the method of getting that clothing to customers.
Why is it important?
There are two major concerns at this stage. One is environmental, one is ethical. The impact making a piece of clothing has on the planet, and the impact it has on the people making it.
Clothing factories - and the production processes therein - are thirsty for fossil fuel-based electricity. Something which has obvious implications when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions. As it stands, the industry accounts for an estimated 10% of global CO2 emissions.
And then there’s the working conditions. The majority of the 60 million garment workers around the world live below the poverty line, without the ability to negotiate their pay. The industry is littered with examples of brands shelling their responsibility to account for the conditions experienced by the people making their clothing. A deliberate disconnect that’s been nurtured over decades.
The Global Slavery Index tells us the clothing industry is the second biggest sector associated with modern slavery. A bleak reality.
Comprehensive accountability is paramount. It starts with an understanding of how materials are made, continues into a guarantee of workers’ conditions, and finishes with an appreciation for what it takes to get clothes to their destination.
Using 100% European linen
We are totally dedicated to using linen as the primary fabric across every piece of clothing we make. We exclusively use 100% European linen - sourced from highly accredited linen mills in Northern Ireland and Belgium – and make clothes in London.
Linen -alongside the rest of the materials used in our clothes - is inherently sustainable and our supply chain is geographically compact, reducing our carbon footprint and making the most of local climates
Locality & accountability of supply chain
As a starting point, every aspect of the clothing we produce happens within Europe. The furthest afield is the milling stage of our heavy linen, which happens in Poland. The rest happens in Belgium, Northern Ireland, Portugal or London.
It also matters what happens along that journey. The linen mills we use have all focused on overhauling their processes to minimise their impact. Our Belgian mill is a carbon neutral factory and our Northern Irish mill specialise in techniques that minimise water usage, which they take from their own source.
Workers’ rights and regulations are guaranteed by laws in all the countries associated with our supply chain. But we make regular visits to our factories, talking to our pattern cutters, machinists, quality assurance team, and all the people responsible for making our clothes. Nothing is hidden from us. No deliberate disconnect.
When it comes to the environment, the best kind of packaging is no packaging at all.
To date, we’ve always rooted our approach to packaging in that mantra. That’s why we use as little as possible. No plastic sheets, no unnecessary paperwork. Just what’s needed to keep the contents safe until they reach our customers’ hands.
The process is totally plastic-free, from the factory right to our customers’ doors.
2. Caring for Clothing
We're talking about the processes required to keep clothes clean and in working order. As a rule, the less washing you do, the longer a piece of clothing lasts and the lower the energy consumption of that clothing.
Why is it important?
The era of fast fashion has encouraged us to throw things away when they show the first signs of damage. But keeping a garment for an extra 9 months is said to reduce waste and water usage by 20-30%. Imagine what an extra 5 years would do.
The energy required to wash clothing is a very significant factor in its total energy usage from fibre to end of life. It is often the least appreciated aspect of that energy matrix, but even washing clothing on a cold setting can make a material difference across its lifetime.
The solution is to create something that doesn’t need washing after every wear and washing it in a careful way when it does need a wash. If you complement that with a 'repair, don't replace' mindset, we can breathe many more years into the lifecycle of our clothing.
Linen’s anti-bacterial properties
Linen is a naturally durable material that doesn’t need regular washing because of its inherent anti-bacterial properties. We recommend wearing a shirt at least 4 or 5 times between washes.
The Flax London Care Range
To help our customers reduce the impact of their washing on both the environment and their actual clothes, we have introduced a Flax London Care Range. It’s designed to help prolong the lifespan of people’s clothes and includes a portable steamer to tidy clothes up between wears and phosphate and preservative-free washing detergent to be kinder to clothes and the environment when they are washed.
Free Repairs Service & Workshops
To counter the idea that something needs to be thrown away when it’s ripped or worn through, we offer a Free Repairs Service on any Flax London item. Anyone who buys a Flax London item can get that item repaired for free, as and when necessary.
3. Disposing of Clothing
Here we're talking about what happens to a piece of clothing at the end of its life. Landfill and/or incineration are the predominant routes.
Why is it important?
For context, over 150 billion items are made every year, creating 92 million tonnes of textile waste at the last count. Which equates to a rubbish truck’s worth of waste produced every second. A staggering stat.
It’s a process that was encouraged by the world of fast fashion, an era in which clothing has become cheap and disposable. The materials associated with the world of fast fashion only exacerbate the problem, with millions of tonnes of synthetic fibres already consigned to a fate of permanent existence in landfills.
We’re breaking the linear, cradle-to-grave narrative for clothing by extending the lifecycle of an item through repairs and repurposing/upcycling fabrics when the original item is beyond repair.
Moving Towards CircularityInvesting in fabric recycling
Flax London is the UK’s only specialist linen brand. Linen is one of the world’s most sustainable clothing fabrics and far more versatile than most people think. We use different weights and weaves across a more diverse range of garments to create a full linen wardrobe that works well in all seasons. Our clothes are made in London and plastic free from the factory to your door.
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We use exclusively natural, biodegradable materials in the clothing we make. From the fabric itself, to buttons and labels. So, even if it does end up being thrown away, it’s going to make minimal impact versus the synthetic fabrics which make up so much of the clothing made today.
Moving towards circularity
For the occasional piece that’s beyond repair, we have an Exchange Programme which means we collect the item, repurpose the fabric and offer 20% discount on a replacement for the customer. Linen can get a new lease of life as a tote bag, an apron, or even as pocket lining for new items.
There are big strides being made in the efficient and effective recycling of existing clothing fibres to create new fabrics. We will continue to monitor the recycling of linen fibres and, where applicable, invest in relevant schemes.