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Style Advice

In defence of man-made fabrics

In defence of man-made fabrics

They might bring to mind electric shocks, static hair, and clingy, sweat-inducing clothing, but man-made materials are undergoing a modern renaissance and are a useful tool for even the most high-end designers.

Regarded as futuristic in the 50s, artificial fabrics had become commonplace by the end of WW2. By the 1970s, however, materials like polyester had developed a reputation as being poor quality and unpleasant against the skin. We’re here to dispel that idea.

“Rather than being put off by man-made fabrics, think about why the brand has used them,” says stylist Luke McDonald. “It’s not always about cost-cutting, and they shouldn’t be associated with bad quality as they’re often the right fabric for the job. For example, WAX London’s ripstop trousers are water resistant, dry quickly, and can endure a lot of wear and tear – ideal for when you’re spending time outdoors and even for everyday wear.”

Indeed, brands still use polyester mixes rather than wool to cut costs and, when it comes to knitwear, it’s always worth investing in good-quality, natural materials. However, artificial fabrics have their benefits. They can weather-proof an item, add stretch to ensure a better fit, and create structure.

“Choosing the right material comes down to quality, so use your best judgement. If you see polyester in a fabric composition, don’t immediately be discouraged. Pricier items like jeans will often have polyester in them for flexibility, as denim can be quite stiff. In coats, polyester adds extra protection and durability,” Luke says.

In fact, a number of high-end brands like Stone Island and Nanamica use high-tech, man-made fibres. Some are even environmentally friendly, like Patagonia’s innovative recycled polyester and Levi’s denim shirt, which contains lyocell. Made from compressed bamboo, lyocell is an artificial silk with benefits that real silk doesn’t offer. It drapes well, is cool against the skin, and can be machine washed and dried with ease.

“The quality of your clothing should work to improve your life, which is why man-made fabrics deserve a place in modern clothing,” says Luke. “For example, Camper’s GORE-TEX-lined boots are totally watertight so, although they’re city-style hiking boots, they’ll serve you well splashing through puddles on country walks, too.”

When choosing your clothes, quality should naturally be at the top of your checklist. Luxury man-made fabrics do exist, and come with a number of added benefits. Not only are they durable and waterproof, they hold shape better than natural fabrics yet still feel as soft as cotton. So rethink what you’ve heard. A man-made touch might be exactly what your wardrobe needs.

Words: Ella White
Photography: Lola & Pani
Styling: Luke McDonald