The Microfiber Dilemma
For lucky recipients of our robes, I think you’ll agree that the microfiber fleece on the interior is pretty awesome. Instantly soft and warm donning one of our robes brings instant “robe hugs” to every recipient. Better yet, these fabrics don’t pill over time like more traditional fibers (ex. cotton sweatshirts) through washes and wear so they can take the trials of parenthood, ranch life and Montana living like a champ.
But there’s a downside that I’ve been wrestling with a lot over the past couple of months. For as amazing as this polyester minky fleece is, it (like a TON of our wardrobes these days) is a big contributor to the growing problem of microfiber pollution.
What is microfiber pollution? So… turns out… polyester fabrics shed tiny microfibers over time through wear and washing that aren’t entirely helpful to the environment. In fact they’re quite the opposite. A good video short illustrating all of this can be found here. These microfibers (like their name) are so small that they’re not filtered out by current washing machine and water processing facility filters - filling our beloved rivers, oceans and lakes with pesky plastic microfibers that take years to break down. Worse yet, these microfibers expand with other pollutants over time and wreck havoc on fish and their predators over time. With an estimated 1.4 million trillion microfibers in our water sources today, this is a huge (and growing) problem.
What does this mean for the Robe Company? Honestly, I don’t quite know yet. There’s lots of other more natural fibers out there - wool, bamboo fleece, organic cotton and hemp… but they’re still relatively early in being a real contender for this functionality. I’ve been experimenting with Bamboo/Organic Cotton fleece in some of our robes, and it is amazing…. but pills up quickly in washing on the underside. The hemp can be pretty amazing too, but doesn’t offer the same velvety luxury as the minky fleece.
I’ll continue to test things in the coming months as we design our Fall and Winter robe lines, but I’m open to suggestions, input and ideas. As a small company we need to survive - make sales that contagiously excite customers from the first touch to the 50th wash. But how can we do this in a way that doesn’t compromise our sustainability goals? Perhaps this is the million dollar question. As of now, we’re testing the Guppyfriend bags recommended by Patagonia for their microfiber garments, and will continue forming our decision.
My gut instinct? I would LOVE to kick polyester minky fleece forever with a viable sustainable contender. I wouldn’t miss the fluff, shedding and microfiber dust that floats around our shop. I wouldn’t miss the guilt of microfiber pollution that comes through washes - even though we’ve partnered with Moral Fiber (now Amber Cycle) to recycle our cut scraps and old robe linings. BUT. This transition away from minky can’t be done until there’s a really baller alternative. I think people are increasingly conscientious of their environmental impact… but not so much that they would buy a $300 mediocre robe to support it. So. The deliberation continues. More to come!