Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Is it Bamboo or Rayon?

We have always tried to stay above the fold when it comes to fashion fabrics. I choose fabrics for their feel, style, content, price, and look. When one of our suppliers came out with a new knit solid made from Bamboo, I jumped on it. It turned out to be a great fabric and very well received both in our stores, online, and boutique designers liked it as well. This past April, I ran across a lot of bamboo knits from a designer that was going out of business. I bought the fabric and put it in the retail stores at 50% off the normal retail price. Basically at a distrubutors cost. As we were processing this lot, I told my assistant that the knit felt like rayon not bamboo. The content tags all said 100% bamboo, and I even called the designers supplier to verify. It all checked out and I confidently sold the fabric as bamboo.

Yesterday I received an email from one of our suppliers about their bamboo. Here is an excerpt;

"There are two basic types of fibers produced from the Bamboo tree. The first is a Bast fiber harvested in much the same manner as other Bast fibers such as Ramie and Hemp. The second type of Bamboo fiber is produced in much the same manner as Rayon, Tencel, Modal and others. The process is similar in many ways to the production of paper; the bamboo trees are ground up, a slurry is made and the fiber is produced by forcing the hot slurry through small holes to shape the fiber.

An issue has arose recently about the “rayon type” bamboo, with the Federal Trade Commission now becoming involved. This issue has very little to do with the spinning and knitting community; it’s a product of many garment designers who has promoted the rayon type bamboo as some sort of wonder fiber that is going to save the world as we know it—totally sustainable with absolutely no ill effects to water, air, climate, etc. The Federal Trade Commission has stepped in to put a stop to this nonsense. They are now requiring the disclosure of which type of bamboo is being used; either the Bast or Rayon.

.....The bamboo fiber we use comes from plantation forests; just as Tencel does. It’s a very versatile product with many unique characteristics that help produce a great yarn.

.....We continue to believe it’s a very good fiber, it’s environmentally responsible to sell it, and has a good story to tell. To avoid any confusion, all future communications and price lists will refer to the two types fibers as Bast Bamboo and Rayon Process Bamboo."

I thought this was an interesting email since it confirmed my feeling that the rayon and bamboo knits felt very similar. Accordingly, if they are processed and manufacturered in the same way, using the same techinques, the outcome should produce the same hand, drape, and feel.

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