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Back to basics: Why natural materials appeal to customers

Back to basics: Why natural materials appeal to customers

The eco-friendly movement that has risen in popularity over the past decade extends beyond replacing light bulbs with a more sustainable model or starting a compost pile in your backyard. 

For some people, it's important to go green in every facet of life, from food products to fashion choices. There are plenty of alternatives to common processed fabrics that you can arrange on display fixtures to appeal to that portion of your customer base. With the addition of natural materials to your merchandise offerings, you may be able to bring in new shoppers.

What is the difference?
The main issues associated with processed fabrics are the number of chemicals and amount of energy used to complete the transformation to cloth. Popular and common natural fabrics are linen, cotton, wool, silk and hemp. Some often-used manmade fabrics are polyester, rayon, modal, spandex and nylon. 

The distinction between the two types of clothing lies in how sustainable the process is. According to Empowered Sustenance, a healthy lifestyle blog by author and Nutritional Therapy Practitioner Lauren Geertsen, synthetic fibers are heavily processed with chemicals and dyes to give them their expected appearance. They also require more energy and resources for production because factories must stay up and running to tend to the materials. Additionally, synthetic fabrics aren't as biodegradable as those made with natural fibers. Although organic clothing can be more expensive to buy than processed fabric, they are expected to outlast the fast-fashion clothes that only cost a few dollars. 

Cotton
Although plenty of clothes are technically made with 100-percent cotton, they aren't necessarily sustainable. According to the Pesticide Action Network, non-organic cotton uses more insecticides than any other crop. In order to be considered eco-friendly, organic cotton is subject to classification by the Organic Standards Board and Organic Foods Production Act. To be approved, the plants can't be treated with herbicides, pesticides or other chemicals. While an item of clothing is made completely from cotton, chemicals were likely used to turn the fibers into fabric and dye the cloth. 

Wool
According to EcoLife, wool is an ideal renewable resource because it comes from living animals. While fur is shaved off of the sheep, they animals aren't killed for the material, so they continue growing it throughout their lives. The source also said wool uses less dye than cotton to achieve the same results. The fabric is warm, strong, water repellent and flame resistant. Wool is often combined with other animal pelts and fibers including alpaca, mohair, angora and cashmere.

Hemp
Hemp is a strong fiber that's used to create natural, durable fabric. EcoLife reported that three times as much hemp can grow per acre compared to cotton and doesn't use industrial processes to produce the clothing. The source also stated that the fibers naturally resist odors, mold, bacteria and bugs. 

Details customers may be looking for
Shoppers in your store may be trying to find a certain sustainable item. EcoLife suggested a few shopping tips for people interested in buying new organic clothes. Consider ordering merchandise that fits the requirements for organic fabric to fill up store racks. If you notice customers looking at the tags on clothes, they might be wondering if the percentages of specific fabrics are listed, if the tag mentions the word organic or if it requires dry cleaning. Because several chemicals are used to clean clothes without water, the process of dry cleaning will add chemicals to the fabric easily. Additionally, customers might want to shop locally to cut down on shipping costs for imported goods.