THE GULF NEWS (Skin crisis in your closet)

Sustainable fashion better for UAE climate

I hate shopping for clothes. There, I said it.

Being in my early 20s, not being fond of shopping has often made my friends question my priorities in life. Before you judge me too, let me explain.

I hate shopping for clothes… because I have a skin problem. While I love fashion, and I’m up-to-date with the latest trends, I almost never find clothes that suit my skin. Since the clothes available in the market are mostly made from synthetic fabrics, I always lose out.

Atopic dermatitis, which is the medical term for the skin disorder, causes extreme dryness and red patches on the skin, which are itchy and uncomfortable. Also known as eczema, it affects people differently, internal triggers and external triggers like climate, dust, food and more, can aggravate the issue.

In the UAE, the weather is mostly hot and dry, making people prone to skin problems. The intense heat and dryness leaches the natural oils from the skin.

Dr Rupal Merchant, a homeopath based in Dubai, told Gulf News that eczema is very common in the region, along with another similar skin disorder called psoriasis.

“Synthetic fibres cause sweat to coagulate on the skin and are not breathable. This aggravates itchiness. Even though symptoms differ from person to person, such fabrics are uncomfortable to people suffering from skin disorders. Synthetic clothes like nylon, rayon and polyester are not good in hot and humid weather.”

Dana Al Abdulsalam, an Abu Dhabi resident, suffers from psoriasis and finds it difficult to shop for breathable clothes that do not itch.

She said: “I wear a hijab, and it is hard to find soft materials that absorb sweat. I feel itchy in most of my clothes.” Her biggest complaint with fashion companies is the materials they use, which are rough and scar the skin.

Inaas Mughis, a resident of Dubai, has had a similar experience and struggles to find cotton undergarments. If she has, it has always come at a price, way above her budget. She said: “I have to pick discomfort over having to pay more, which is very unfair.”

According to Textile Sizing by Bhuvenesh C. Goswami, many of the new synthetic fibres are “thermoplastic in nature and soften when heated and eventually melt”.

Despite the fact that synthetic fibres are cheap, durable and long lasting, they are flammable and stick to the skin. Man-made fibres undergo numerous chemical processes.

They require coal, petroleum, acids, dyes and alcohol for their production, which have severe implications on the environment, too.

According to Dr Merchant, artificial creation of these fabrics leads to “chemical residue” on the cloth, which can react to a person’s skin.

According to Statista, the online research and analysis company, the global skincare market is a billion dollar industry. People spend a lot of money to ensure healthy and better-looking skin.

While some problems require different treatments, others can be controlled by lifestyle changes. So, the answer is – sustainable clothing, which uses natural fibres, a great alternative to synthetic, artificial materials.

Their manufacturing process uses eco-friendly methods of production and fabric. It looks at every stage of production to make sure it is environmentally sustainable. It also looks at achieving better consumption patterns among customers.

Natural fibres like cotton, wool, silk, modal, tencel and linen, are all sourced from animals and plants. As written by Goswami in Textile Sizing, natural fibres “do not cause severe burn injuries since they do not soften and melt at high temperatures”, making them suitable for hot weather, such as this region.

Natural fibres do not undergo chemical treatments and most of them are grown without the use of pesticides. Organic cotton, a natural fibre that has recently gained popularity among big brands, uses a lot of water for production, which is a drawback for the material.

Charmaine D’Souza, a Dubai resident, who was involved with producing sustainable clothes, and worked with many natural fibres including bamboo and banana, said: “There is still a dearth of sustainable, smart fabrics. Our brand consciously managed the manufacturing, trying to make sure that from the first yarn to the finished process, the garment is sustainable. We used eco-friendly yarn and organic dyes as much as possible.”

She said that ensuring clothes have been produced using fair trade practices are equally important, in order to avoid exploitation of any kind, and promote sustainability. Fair trade practices help producers achieve better trading conditions in developing countries, and normalise customers to #thetruecost of a product.

Like D’Souza, Ayesha Siddequa, a Dubai resident, is part of the international ‘Fashion Revolution’ movement, which aims at making people conscious about how their clothes are made.

She said: “Quality is important, not quantity. Don’t splurge money because something is cheap. It is important to ask how and why things are at the price they are available at.”

Siddequa said people should try and use natural fabrics because it is much softer than artificially created materials. “Sustainable clothes are still very new in the UAE, so it is taking time to pick up. People should be encouraged to recycle clothes and have infrastructure that can support this, in order to avoid landfills,” she said.

So, it is better for your health and the health of the planet to buy and wear natural fibres. In Siddequa’s words: “Fashion should be ethical.”


Published: 16:45 August 14, 2017

By Shreya Bhatia, Readers Interactivity Journalist

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