Netl – turning weeds into fashion

stinging netls

By Kate | Women
Posted Jan 2, 2013

Did you know: approximately 50% of all clothing is made of cotton. Cotton is problematic because its environmental impact includes: soil erosion and degradation, agrochemical use (a.k.a. pesticides) not to mention the large quantities of water required to grow and process it (and the subsequent contamination of that water). Organic cotton address the agrochemical issues but does not address water and some other sustainability issues.

Stinging nettles, on the other hand, grow like, well, weeds. They grow in temperate climates with adequate rainfall and hardly any pesticides are needed for cultivation. After planting the crop is harvested in August, after which the plant grows back and the same field can be harvested 7 years in a row.

Stinging nettle fabric was used in Europe until the 19th century. Because the fibre was difficult to separate from the bast and an easy and cheap alternative (cotton) had appeared on the market, stinging nettles fell out of favour. Until around 2000, when Stoffkontor Kranz restarted the production and processing of stinging nettles in Germany.  Then, in 2010, Netl’s Jeroen Bos devised a natural, hypermodern bio-fermentation process (dutch page)  for soaking and separating the soft fibres from the coarse bast of the nettle plant, allowing the stinging nettle to be processed in Europe in a human-friendly and environmentally-friendly way.

Research shows that stinging nettle fibres are as strong and 30 to 50% lighter than cotton. And when mixed with mixed with cotton, wool, linen or other textile materials and designed by Dutch designer Rianne de Witte – Netl becomes the ideal eco-fashion fabric and line!

Rianne de Witte is passionate about sustainable design and development in fashion and all types of knitwear and woven fabrics. “I love to follow all textile innovations!!” she tells us. “I’m inspired by people, nature and art, personally and in professional way.”

Educated at Sint Joost Academie in Breda, upon graduation in 1994 de Witte established herself as an independent designer working for several companies while also starting her eponymous label ‘rianne de witte.’

In 2005 she joined MADE-BY (the European not-for-profit with a mission to improve environmental and social conditions in the fashion industry and make sustainability common practice) and in October 2007 the Netl team contacted her.  ”From that time we worked together. From the start it was a great team of people to work with!” says de Witte.

The de Witte aesthetic is clean, simple and wearable with sophisticated details, and it shows in the Netl AW12 collection. “In the collection we launch the first wool/nettle items, so that’s something totally new,” de Witte shares.  ”Eco-fashion is a natural mindset. It is not a trend, but a deep interest for the environment / gifts of nature and the desire to make good quality fashion that people love to wear!”

The collection includes basics like leggings and tops from €49,95 to cardigans and  dresses from €199,95. Shop online.

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