What is the difference between milkweed and cotton fibre. A question many of you are asking. Both come from plants and yet the differences are significant.

Pollination
Although both these plants’ flowers attract pollinators, cotton, unlike milkweed, does not need to be pollinated by insects to produce the fibre-filled fruit. This is fortunate indeed because cotton, a large-scale monoculture, requires its share of pesticides, although organic cotton has grown in popularity in the past decade. Milkweed cultivation protocol forbids using pesticides precisely to avoid harming pollinators.

 Harvest
The industrialization of cotton farming began at the same time as the industrial age. Knowledge of its production and harvest techniques have been improving for the past 300 years, giving cotton a head start compared to milkweed. Cotton harvesting machines are sophisticated and efficient; those of milkweed, still at an experimental stage. Hand-picking  remains the most popular approach today for milkweed pods supply.

The fibre
Cotton fibre is tough enough to be spun, woven or knitted without any other reinforcing fibre. On the other hand, milkweed fibre, although similar in diameter to cotton, stands out due to its hollow nature. This gives it an insulating capacity greater than that of any other fibre. However, it also results in a fragility which requires it to be mixed with other fibres to make a yarn and a fabric. This is the reason why we cannot produce a fabric or knit only with soie d’Amérique. For example, Yvonna, the model in the photo above, wears a dress made of a knit containing 25% milkweed fibre, 70% eucalyptus viscose and 5% Spandex.

The stem
Another advantage of milkweed is that the stem contains about 20 to 25% of a fibre with properties equivalent to linen. Its stem has the added attribute of being perfectly straight, therefore easily exploitable unlike Canadian flax (linen), produced for oil and therefore highly etiolated.

With all its potential for clothing applications, milkweed textile, while still in its infancy in the industry, has not ceased to amaze us.

A material said of a thousand virtues has become a threat to the environment because of one of its advantages: durability. Although products made from petro-sourced plastics are not necessarily long lasting, their components persist decades in the environment. Even degraded into fine particles these plastics remain harmful to the fauna especially those of the oceans.

People’s conversion to recycling has been dazzling over the last forty years. Today, nearly 100% of Canadian cities offer a recycling program which significantly reduces the pressure on the environment. Yet, despite the efforts, in December 2017 the UN decreed the oceans’ contamination by  plastics a global crisis. One of the big culprits: packaging, mainly plastic bags and bottles. Even the infamous bottles of water that are turned into fleece textiles end up in the oceans as the garment wears with each wash of the product.

Petroleum, the source of 99% of plastics produced today (according to European Bioplastic, Nova Institutes 2016), is the result of organic material subjected to centuries of transformation under geological plates. Oil, although originally from a plant, oddly enough, is not biological. Its conversion into plastic products also results in strong emissions of harmful gases.

We are now increasingly successful in short-circuiting the millennia required for oil production by manufacturing plastics directly derived from plants, cellulose and / or starch. Fortunately, these so-called bio-based plastics are mostly biodegradable, therefore harmless to the oceans.

Less packaging less cleaning

Bioplastics are particularly relevant for packaging or single-use products. This is what motivated Vegetal Alternative to deliver its products with fully biodegradable packaging and reduced to a minimum.

If the 20th century was that of oil, the 21st is well on its way to becoming that of bio-sourced. It’s up to us the make choices accordingly;  let's opt for biodegradable.

Over the last 40 years, the makers of cold-weather garments have relied on so-called "breathable" waterproof fabrics. Yet, even today, people are straining to blow air through such fabric to find out if it really is breathable. The trouble is, air does not pass through a breathable membrane (or coating)

Rather, the principle is based on permeability to water vapour ,  what makes up sweat, rendered possible by micropores or the polymer’s highly hydrophilic nature. The membrane's ability to release water vapor, driven by a vapor pressure differential, favors comfort by reducing sweat condensation inside the garment while preventing the wind from passing through it. Being drier, the body is less likely to cool down during periods of rest or low activity. In other words, it's when you catch your breath that your breathable fabric plays its role best.

A technology that is certainly relevant, but which, like all the others, has its limits. You can see this with any "breathable" piece of clothing as soon as you exercise moderately. This is the reason why some garment makers chose to introduce vents in their design. In the end, when you get too warm, nothing beats unzipping your coat.

Although the Dryad Collection is still young, its creator has over 30 years of experience in textile materials design.

It was in 1988, when I was still wearing a white lab coat, that I started developing textile materials to protect people. Protection against fire, viruses, nuclear weapon radiation, radar detection, infrared or ultraviolet detection, and also against the cold.

With my colleagues from the industry, textile materials had to be adapted for both scorching heat and freezing cold environments. In the beginning, the cold war still in effect, brought the infantry of the Canadian Forces to northern climate. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, operations moved to warmer settings like the Middle East.

Even if you are not deployed in Afghanistan or in the Arctic Circle, certain innovations generated in clothing manufacturing for these extreme conditions are accessible to you through the Dryad Collection.

The next articles will cover tall those innovations involve for the Dryad collection.

Getting started in business is often difficult. It often takes several years between seeding and a productive harvest . I sowed my first milkweed seeds in 2013. Despite a road strewn with pitfalls, Soie d’Amérique has taken root again and this time in many different ways. Several companies have made it their raw material with the aim of making it accessible to all, thus consolidating the supply chain further.

Among these companies there is mine: Vegetal Alternative, which introduces the first clothing item from the Dryad Collection, a sleeveless jacket. In addition, a parka model for women and one for men will soon follow.

Even if winter is far away, you are welcome to reserve yours in advance to ensure on-time delivery for winter. The confection is made in Canada, but it is made to order.

At the same time, Vegetal Alternative also offers cold condition workwear with its SyBer Collection. The Canadian Coast Guard has opted for these garments since their first trial of Soie D’Amérique in 2017.

I encourage you to follow the developments of the Soie D’Amérique’s industry via CollectionDryad.com.

© 2021. Propriété de Alternative Végétale

Conception de Créations Univers

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