Every year with the arrival of summer Linen clothing is being added to the assortment of stores, which are believed to be best suited for hot weather. Linen sundresses, tops, jackets and trousers can be found at luxury brands like Theory, Equipment, Michael Kors, Mansur Gavriel and many more. But worthy models are also found in the mass market like Mango, Zara and Oysho. What is the difference between things made of flax of different brands and why this material is so popular in the warm season - we understand our material.
Text: Anna Eliseeva
When did we start producing flax?
Flax is called one of the oldest materials. In 2009, in the Georgian cave of Dzudzuana, scientists found evidence that people used this fiber in clothing as early as 36 thousand years ago. Historians say that headdresses were made of linen 8500 years ago in Israel, and linen was woven in the areas of Swiss lakes about 5000-6000 years ago. And this is not the end of the vivid evidence: in 1881, the mummy of Pharaoh Ramses II was discovered, wrapped in linen - the material is perfectly preserved even after three thousand years. In Ancient Egypt, linen fabrics were held in high esteem: they were used not only for mummification, but also for everyday clothes, sails, and even as currency (the production of linen material was quite painstaking, and therefore linen was at a high price).
On the territory of present-day Russia, flax has also been known for a long time. Slavic tribes, even before the times of Kievan Rus, mastered the cultivation of flax and the production of linen from it. Already by the 11th century, it became widespread in various areas, and in the 16th century it even began to be exported to Western Europe. Linen was used to sew clothes and underwear, as well as household items: napkins, towels, tablecloths, sheets and others. Tsarina Natalya Kirillovna wore linen clothes, which were made in Khamovnaya Sloboda, an area of Moscow where weavers lived and worked. Thus, she set an example for other noble persons: not to subscribe to foreign materials, but to choose what was produced nearby. Later, Peter I even founded factories in Moscow and St. Petersburg, where linen products were created specifically for the imperial house. Already in the 18th – 19th centuries, flax became the main item of Russian export.
However, during the industrial revolution, the popularity of flax in the world began to decline. It's all about the main competitor - cotton. After the invention of the cotton gin at the end of the 18th century, the manufacture of cotton fabrics turned out to be easier, and things made from the material became more affordable.
How the material is made
Flax is an unpretentious crop that does not require a large amount of water and pesticides during cultivation; usually crops almost do not suffer from diseases and pest attacks. Thus, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, flax needs thirteen times less pesticides than potatoes.
Previously, the stems of ripe flax were pulled by hand so that the fibers inside retained their length, today the plants are cut to the root by combines. Fiber is not easy to obtain - you need the plant to rot naturally. For this, the collected flax is irrigated in the open air for several days or soaked in chemical solutions, which speeds up the process; however, this method can degrade the color and quality of the raw materials. When the stems are well soaked, the fibers can be taken out - the longest can reach half a meter. The life of one plant does not end there: seeds, oil and straw are also obtained from it, which are used for the production of other products.
Linen is an inelastic material, therefore, in spinning mills, a certain level of heat and humidity must be maintained so that the fiber can be easily combed and processed into yarn. In dry conditions, the material will be rough and uneven. “Linen fabric produced in Russia is usually for technical purposes.In rare cases, you can find material suitable for sewing clothes. Production in Russia is not equipped with modern technical equipment that would allow finishing fabrics. Often, domestic factories are exporters of raw materials or harshness to European countries that produce high-quality fabrics,”say Irina and Marina Golomazdina, co-founders of the 12Storeez brand.
One of the leaders in the production of flax today is China, which is also the main exporter: it accounts for more than half of the world's raw materials exports. Flax is also produced and exported by Italy, Ireland, Belgium, Poland, Tunisia and other countries. “There is a difference between the producing countries, and the quality is reflected in the cost. The higher the flax grade and the more complex the processing technology, the higher the price. Flax from European manufacturers is more expensive, quality is better,”the Golomazdins say, and note that Chinese companies have the lowest price, but the quality, respectively, is lower.
What are the advantages of flax
It is not for nothing that flax is considered a more sustainable alternative to cotton: lower water and pesticide costs cause less damage to nature, and the use of all parts of the plant guarantees zero-waste production. Linen looks thick, but is great for summer wear. Due to its porosity, it absorbs moisture well, does not retain bacteria, removes heat and provides ventilation, provided that the clothes sit freely. And besides, linen is really very durable - 30% stronger than cotton - and wear-resistant - products made from this fiber are worn for decades.
Flax that has not been treated with chemicals can be considered biodegradable. So, according to Greenpeace, if linen clothes do not require ironing, then most likely the linen contains artificial resins with formaldehyde. “Linen fabrics, like cotton, easily wrinkle without treatment, so manufacturers apply special protective compounds to them. These are mainly finishing treatments that are used on all materials and are hypoallergenic. They serve as a color fixer, help the fabric retain its properties after repeated washings, and make it softer after production,”added the co-founders of 12Storeez.
Clothes can be made from 100% linen or blends. Combination with other yarns gives flax additional qualities: for example, when paired with polyester, it crumples less, since synthetic fibers increase the strength and elasticity of the material, with cotton it becomes softer, with silk it acquires a dull sheen.
Linen in fashion
Linen is becoming more and more popular today, not least thanks to the trend towards conscious consumption. However, it cannot be said that this material is held in high esteem by manufacturers: it makes up only 1% of the world market for raw materials used for sewing clothes. Due to the labor-intensive and time-consuming production, linen fabric is more expensive than cotton.
But everything can change. According to The Independent, since the beginning of this year, the number of searches on flax has increased by 46%. Designers use linen materials in their collections, offering modern outfits: Jacquemus, for example, creates revealing dresses with deep cuts and gathers, Mansur Gavriel's assortment includes minimalistic sets of trousers and tops and sundresses, Tibi, Zimmerman, Theory and others - jackets, T-shirts, overalls and more.
Blluemade founders Alex Robins and Lilly Lampe aimed to create clothes that will comfortably survive hot weather. We took into account, perhaps, everything that is needed: lightweight materials, and a simple loose fit, and pleasant natural shades. The assortment includes basic unisex shorts, shirts, jackets, jackets, trousers, dresses and even caps made of linen. Don't worry about sustainability at Conscious Clothing, with spouses Rose and Doug Phillips focusing on sustainable production, handcrafting from hemp, organic cotton, recycled materials and, of course, linen. Here are basic tops, tunics, sundresses, elasticated skirts and more.
In Russia, brands also master flax. And if earlier Russian brands created clothes rather in a traditional style without regard to trends, today they not only take into account modern fashion, but also form their own aesthetics.For example, the brand of laconic clothing "Usta to mouth" produces minimalistic things from natural materials, including flax: on the site you can find basic dresses, raincoats with raw hem, shirts and more. Laconic linen clothes in natural shades are also created by the Novosibirsk brand “Simply beautiful”: here there are T-shirt dresses with a belt, and work shirts, and everyday overalls. Linen clothes can be found in the assortment of I AM Studio, Gate31, "Cherry" and other stores.
Do not discount domestic brands, which are more traditional in their aesthetics. So, we cannot fail to note the avant-garde design of the Vologda brand "Nerum": the collections include asymmetric dresses with slits, extremely flared trousers, tube skirts in the spirit of the 90s, fancy hats with knitted braids, long tunics with a hood and much more. In addition, basic shirts, caftans and tunics can be found at craft fairs - such things without bright details can be mixed with simple jeans, shorts, jeans and light jackets.
How to care for linen clothes
Linen is unpretentious in maintenance, and in order to extend the life of a thing, you need to follow simple rules. It is important to take into account that linen clothes should not be too tight: after washing, natural material always shrinks a little. It is better to wash linen clothes by hand or at low speeds in a machine: for white natural fabrics, temperatures up to 90 degrees are suitable, material of bright or dark colors should be washed no longer than five to ten minutes at a temperature of no higher than 30 degrees, other plain-dyed fabrics - at a temperature not higher than 40 degrees.
Perhaps the main disadvantage of linen clothes for many is that they wrinkle easily. The good news is that creases can be minimized by almost squeezing the material and ironing it with a hot iron while the garment is still wet. Since the fiber can wear out in areas of permanent creases, special attention should be paid to them. Fortunately, linen is not prone to pilling or stretching, and you can get used to the inevitable bruising.
Photos: mytree - stock.adobe.com, Conscious Clothing, blluemade, Mango, Zara