Ethical and sustainable fashion is on the rise and for good reasons. It's much more than a trend. More conscious consumers are asking for eco-friendly fashion products, looking at the labels, and wondering if the materials used are environmentally responsible, including organza.
Organza is made from silk, synthetic materials such as polyester, nylon, acrylic, or cellulosic fibers such as rayon. It's usually not eco-friendly. As sustainability is gaining importance within the apparel industry, we can expect organic or recycled organza is the future.
The fashion industry is the second-largest polluter worldwide. It's responsible for enormous carbon emissions, pollution, and waste. The overproduction and overconsumption of cheaply made clothing have a disastrous impact on the environment.
Textile and apparel production accounts for more than 8% of all greenhouse gas emissions globally. It has negative consequences on global warming and accelerates the current climate crisis.
You can learn more about this issue by reading my article on the fashion industry's catastrophic contribution to climate change.
Consumers can help by making more conscious purchasing decisions. A great way to be more sustainable with clothes is to look for environmentally friendly fabrics and materials.
This raises the following questions. How is organza made exactly and is it eco-friendly?
The truth about organza
Organza is a very popular fabric. It's used for many different clothing items in the fashion industry such as dresses, jumpsuits, skirts, shirts, blouses, trench coats, dancewear, undergarments, lingerie, and evening wear.
Organza is well-known for being sheer, woven with very thin threads making the fabric low-density, flimsy, and semi-transparent.
It's extremely lightweight, soft, breathable, comfortable, and delicate. It's often used to cover the face of the bride on her wedding day.
The use of sheer fabrics for women fashion has been growing recently, especially for layers and draping, since it lets the sunlight go through, offers little protection or warmth.
Organza is often made from silk fibers. Silk is considered a luxury in the fashion world. It's a very fine fabric produced with animal-derived materials, natural cocoon protein fibers spun by silkworms in their pupal stage.
Read up my article on why is silk expensive to learn more facts about silk production.
Organza used to be made primarily from silk. But silk is expensive because of its very limited availability and high manufacturing costs.
The largest producer of silk globally is China, with 126,000 tons produced in 2014, followed by India (23,700 tons), and Vietnam (6,800 tons).
Silk manufacturing involves many slow and laborious fabrication processes, such as farming thousands of cocoons, spinning fibers, weaving cloth, bleaching, dyeing, and treatment.
Organza is very stiff compared to other silk fabrics. It isn't very flexible, can wrinkle and tear easily. Its manufacturing process is complicated and often involves weaving by hand to ensure high quality.
The development of synthetic fibers created cheaper man-made alternatives for organza, such as polyester, nylon, acrylic, and viscose rayon.
Polyester fabric is made from petroleum-based synthetic fibers. It's the most widely used fiber for clothing worldwide. The global production of polyester fibers rose to 55 million tons in 2018. It accounts for 52% of all fiber production.
China is also the largest polyester producer worldwide. Half of its polyester production occurs in the Zhejiang region and a third in Jiangsu.
Today, China remains the most prominent producer and exporter of organza. Other notable organza producers include India, France, and Italy.
The environmental impact of organza
Organza production is oftentimes unethical and unsustainable. It creates waste, pollution, and carbon emissions. It involves the use of toxic chemicals that put ecosystems and human health at risk.
When organza is made from silk, it's an animal-derived product. 5,000 silkworms are required to only produce one kilogram of silk. The farming, killing, and harvesting of thousands of silkworms is not only cruel and unnecessary but also highly damaging to the environment.
Silk production is as exploitative today as it was in history. Animals such as ants, wasps, bees, beetles, leafhoppers, flies, and spiders produce cocoons used to make silk and are called silkworms.
Hundreds of thousand silkworms die each year to make silk textiles. Most of them don't live past the pupal stage as their cocoon is placed in boiling water.
Silkworms are fed with mulberry leaves which require tons of pesticides and fertilizers to grow. The washing, bleaching, dyeing, and treatment of silk textiles include a high amount of hazardous chemicals that are released untreated into the nearby environment.
Most silk production facilities in China and India don't have relevant certifications and manufacture silk with weak social and environmental standards.
More sustainable and eco-friendly silk would introduce transparency, organic farming, low impact dyes, wastewater treatments, and recycling.
Learn more about certifications by reading my article on the best eco-certification standards for textiles.
When organza is made from synthetic fibers, it has a significant negative impact on the planet. Petrochemical and petroleum-derived materials such as polyester, nylon, and acrylic make environmentally damaging fabrics.
Most of these materials aren't eco-friendly and should be avoided. These exploit non-renewable natural resources, crude oil, water, and energy. They aren't biodegradable and take thousands of years to decompose as waste in the oceans.
They contribute to the global plastic pollution. They contaminate the air, water, and entire food chain, threatening human health, wildlife, and the planet.
Viscose rayon is a fabric made from natural fibers manufactured with renewable resources, also involved in organza manufacturing. It's constituted of cellulosic fibers made from cellulose often derived from wood pulp.
Viscose rayon is oftentimes marketed as eco-friendly but it's a very hazardous fabric. It pollutes an enormous amount of water during its production processes. Its manufacturing emits poisonous gas and toxic chemicals.
Luckily, there are environmentally responsible synthetic materials which can be a solution for eco-friendly organza. Read up my list of sustainable synthetic fabrics to learn about them.
About the Author: Alex Assoune
Alex Assoune (MS) is a global health and environmental advocate. He founded Panaprium to inspire others with conscious living, ethical, and sustainable fashion. Alex has worked in many countries to address social and environmental issues. He speaks four languages and holds two Master of Science degrees in Engineering from SIGMA and IFPEN schools.