Does Polyester Deserve its Bad Name?

Cotton fabric is natural and breathable. Polyester is cheap, nasty and artificial.

We have been told this countless times by our mums, shop assistants and magazines. we’ve grown up with it. It is at the core of our belief system when it comes to evaluating clothes. It must be right, right?

Well…maybe we are long overdue for an update.

How Polyester got its bad name

Polyester was invented in the 1940s when World War II deprivations made it difficult to find enough natural fabrics to clothe the people. Polyester is a synthetic fibre derived from coal, air, water and petroleum. Yes, petroleum. It sounds unsexy and you feel like you are killing the planet just by wearing. It probably didn’t help that in the early days, polyester fabric didn’t feel that good either. It gained a reputation for being shiny, looking cheap and smelling bad.

Scientific advances 

However, polyester has come a long way since the 1940s. The very nature of polyester is that it is easy-to-care for, wrinkle and shrink-resistant and durable. Japanese scientists started working on improving polyester since the 1960s and improvements in technology has allowed much thinner fibres to be produced and processed into yarns with a silky feel and the right amount of lustre. Technological advances have also changed how polyester fibres are finished and dyed to improve the feel, drape and comfort of the fabrics. You might be surprised by how indistinguishable polyester can feel from silk, suede and cotton.

Linen creases

Cotton is still highly sought after, especially in tropical climates such as ours. How many times have we read articles that encourage us to wear cotton or linen for its breathable properties so that we can stay cool in this heat.

Well, we may stay cool, but we may not look that cool. I for one, make every cotton/linen garment look like a crumpled mess within minutes of wearing them. Not so great when it comes to looking sharp at work. Furthermore, cotton garments are prone to sweat stains and mildew, and they are just not as hardy as their manmade counterparts. They fade, wear out (for me, this means fuzzy little cotton balls forming where there is friction) and some may lose their shape over time.

The true price of cotton 

Many people think of cotton as natural and “virtuous” compared to manmade fibres. However, we often ignore the external costs of growing cotton. Cotton is in fact, one of the dirtiest and thirstiest crops on the planet, consuming high levels of pesticides and water. It takes around 2,720 litres of water to produce just one t-shirt – the same amount as the average person would drink in three years. Many of the chemical pesticides used for cotton farming is also highly polluting and damaging to the environment.

Give Polyester a fair chance

So, there really isn’t a “good fibre” vs a “bad fibre”. We should be aware that there is an environmental cost to every piece of clothing. The main takeaway is not to turn your nose up at polyester. True, there may still be nasty polyester in the market, but there is also high quality polyester that is used by the luxury fashion houses. You know that famous Japanese designer that made everyone gaga over pleats? Guess what fabric is that? Polyester.

Here at The Amber Loft, we have a mix of cotton pieces for casual wear, and polyester pieces that look polished for work. For occasion wear, our customers have not been disappointed with this silky-feeling piece. We have painstakingly combed through fabric markets to choose high quality fabrics that look good, feel good and drape well to bring the best out of the garment (and you!). We invite you to drop by our roadshows or come down to our showroom and have a feel of our clothes anytime!