29 Jun 2023
At SABA, product is the hero. Our products are centered around creating a modern wardrobe, via use of luxury materials and our fibre choices reflect this.
Our long-term relationships with expert producers help us bring our collections to life, and we are working towards material innovation, reduced waste and longevity. To do this, we’ve developed a list of what we consider to be the best materials we can use. Our efforts will evolve over time, and so we will update our customers as we go.
Cotton is truly the fabric of our lives. It is the most abundantly used natural fibre in the world, and its production supports the livelihoods of many. From the earliest historical times, this humble cloth has been central to some of the world’s oldest cultures. The first cotton thread was supposedly spun in the Indian subcontinent around 5000 years ago, and cotton fishing nets have been found in Peru dating back to a similar time. From there it spread across the continents; from Pakistan to China, Egypt to the Americas.
You name it, cotton has probably made it – from clothing to currency, religious offerings to medicinal uses. These days it is grown in over 70 countries around the world, thriving in long, hot summers. The plant itself is related to the hibiscus, and is both a food and fibre crop. When mature, the fluffy bolls are picked, separated from seed & plant debris, and then spun into yarn.
We love cotton because it is comfortable, durable, absorbent, easy to clean and can be woven into a huge variety of fabrics – from the toughest of denim twills to the breeziest of summer shirtings.
TRACING THE JOURNEY OF OUR COTTON
Though the fibre is incredibly versatile and adaptable, cotton farmers face several challenges such as land use, water scarcity, the impact of pesticides on humans and biodiversity, and compounding climate crises. This makes it difficult to understand the true impact of cotton production.
To address this, we’re tracing deeper into our supply chain so we can understand the challenges faced directly by people working on the land. For select ranges, we will be partnering with cotton farmers in Australia and around the world who are using more regenerative farming methods such as targeted irrigation, non-toxic pest removal, multi-cropping and planting seeds suited to the local environment.
To ensure we’re making the best possible choices, we’re prioritising the use of GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) cotton, which sets strict standards for ecological and social impact, and is grown without the use of harmful pesticides and herbicides. We are also exploring the use of forensic traceability and blockchain technology in our commitment to sourcing cotton as responsibly as possible.
Linen is one of the oldest cultivated fibres in human history.
It is known as a bast fibre, meaning it’s made from the hairs that grow inside the stalks of the flax plant. There is evidence that people were manipulating flax into yarn up to 30,000 years ago. This phenomenally strong fibre was turned into everything from books to bowstrings, wallpaper to workwear. It even remains the artists’ favourite for oil painting canvases because it just lasts so long.
Most of the world’s linen is grown in a cool, damp and fertile coastal band of Western Europe stretching from Northern France through to Belgium and the Netherlands. From here it travels the world to be spun, woven and knitted into fabric. Linen fibres are thicker and longer than cotton, which gives it its valued strength and longevity. Ramie is almost identical in property and performance to linen, the main difference is that it’s made from Chinese nettle rather than flax.
We love linen because it is absorbent and stays exceptionally cool and fresh in hot weather. Its crispness means it performs beautifully in more tailored fits, and we adore its natural lustre and signature gentle creasing.
We value knowing where our linen comes from and the conditions under which it’s grown. This is why we are increasing our use of linen grown in Western Europe, which is majority rain-fed, free from genetic modification and cultivated without heavy use of fertiliser and pesticides. We will also be increasing the traceability of our linen.
WOOL & ANIMAL HAIR
Wool has a reputation for performing above and beyond many other fibres, and it’s not hard to see why.
This age-old fibre has incredible physical properties, which is why we use it time and time again. Its unique structure gives it a natural ability to breathe, stay wrinkle-free, absorb and release humidity, and create clothing that can adapt to different climates and situations. Other animal hair fibres we use minimally, such as alpaca, yak, mohair and cashmere, have similar properties.
Wool-sheep were likely the first animals to be domesticated, with the Merino variety first bred by the Spanish in 1400. Over the centuries these sheep have been bred to increase the amount of hairy undercoat that can be turned into fibre.
Wool is one of the earth’s most renewable fibres. It is an annually shorn and replenished resource, has great recycling potential and is able to decompose in soil. And as sheep feed on grass without uprooting it, this gives the pastures a batter chance to regenerate.
WOOL & PROVENANCE
SABA are committed to ethical and humane wool sourcing, and as part of this commitment we are tracing deeper into our wool supply chain.
Animal welfare is a concern for anyone who produces or wears wool, and SABA has a strict non-muelsing policy. Our wool growers try to ensure sheep are treated humanely in accordance with local animal welfare laws, but due to the complex nature of material supply chains it is challenging to have complete visibility over the origins of our wool. We support producers who are transitioning away from non-muelsed wool, and will continue tracing our wool back to the source so we can deepen our commitment to practices that improve animal welfare.
Silk is known as the queen of fabrics; a fibre synonymous with luxury and prized since ancient times.
Silk culture began over 4000 years ago when, according to Chinese literature, Empress Xi Ling Shi observed a silkworm cocoon drop into her teacup, its cocoon unravelling to reveal a kilometre of unbroken thread. Silk production remained secret for hundreds of years until it eventually spread from China to the world through The Silk Road – a vast trading network that brought language, knowledge, arts and culture across the continents.
We love silk for its strength, softness and fluidity, not to mention how beautifully it shows off colour with vibrant lustre. It’s also remarkably comfortable in both warm and cool weather.
Silk production, like that of many plant and animal hair fibres, faces challenges such as water scarcity, energy consumption and pests & disease. We are tracing deeper into our supply chain so we can learn more and support our sericulture supply partners.
Man-made cellulosic fibres, commonly known by the names viscose, rayon and modal, are unique in the world of textiles.
They are created through a hybrid process where natural materials – wood pulp (the ‘cellulose’ of trees) or cotton waste – are broken down with a solvent and mechanically turned into a pure cellulosic fibre.
Though they perform similarly, with a lustre and fluidity that rivals silk, not all of these fibres are created equal. Their production can contribute to deforestation if the wood used to create them isn’t sourced responsibly, and mismanagement of solvents can lead to environmental pollution.
This is why we are prioritising the use of Lenzing trademarked fibres such as TENCEL™ Lyocell and Modal – the wood sourced for their production comes from sustainable forestry or naturally grown beech forests, and it is produced in a closed-loop system where the majority of solvents used are recovered and reused. Other fibres we use with similar environmental commitments are Birla Cellulose and ENKA® Viscose.
POLYESTER & OTHER SYNTHETICS
Polyester, and other manufactured synthetic fibres such as nylon and elastane, are derived from petroleum.
Though they are some of the most widely used fibres in the world, recognised for their versatility, ease-of-wear and durability properties, we realise that their production is a contributor to climate change. The use and disposal of polyester and other synthetics also has quite negative environmental impacts, such as the leaching of microplastics through wash and wear.
SO, WHAT’S THE ALTERNATIVE?
Synthetics account for around 20% of our fabrics, included to provide ease-of-wear, stretch and durability. To reduce the impact of producing virgin polyester, we are working towards transitioning into recycled polyester and replacing a percentage of our synthetic fabrics with man-made cellulosics. In the future, we hope to investigate the use of bio-synthetics as another alternative.
Leather derived from animal hides is one of the most ancient materials used by humans, enduring through its ability to provide durability, insulation and protection from the elements.
Though it comes with superior performance features, the leather industry is known to be highly unregulated, contributing to deforestation, over-use of water and highly toxic tanning processes.
We aim to prioritise locally-sourced leather, New Zealand Real Grade Leather and Leather Working Group leather. In this way we can better ensure the skins are direct by-products from the meat and dairy industry, that strict animal welfare standards are adhered to, and that only REACH approved chemicals are used.
Our quality standards ensure your leather products are the kind you buy once and wear for a lifetime.
We’re determined to keep reducing the impact of our materials, and to do so we have some great initiatives in the works.
By 2025 we are aiming to:
Complete the final stages of our fabric tracing, moving into tracing yarn and raw fibre production to achieve visibility at the grower level
Have all linen European Flax Certified and all cotton either GOTS certified, Australian origin or fully traceable
Have all man-made cellulosics come from responsible sources
Have more of our virgin synthetics replaced with recycled alternatives, and reduce their use
Measure and set reduction pathways for carbon emissions
Transition to 100% recyclable or reusable packaging