Sustainability is important to us at Orlebar Brown. And we know it is to our customers, too. We have only one world and so taking care how we use its resources is imperative for our collective future. That’s why we launched our sustainability campaign in 2021 to Measure, Reduce and Rebalance. We now actively measure our impact on the environment, so that we can reduce it in every way possible, and then, in turn, rebalance by becoming a carbon negative company by 2021.
As part of our reduction strategy, we have committed to using more sustainable fabric bases. That is why we are proud to support the I Love Linen campaign. Linen has long been part of our permanent collection. The material – made from flax – is one of the most sustainable available and the campaign, which runs until 15th July across Europe, aims to increase awareness of its many benefits.
We spoke to Marie-Emmanuelle Belzung, chief executive of the European Confederation of Flax and Hemp, about the campaign, why the fabric is the most ethical around, and why even the pharaohs loved it.
How did the I Love Linen campaign begin?
We launched the I Love Linen campaign in the UK four years ago with the aim of raising the awareness of this remarkable fabric’s benefits to the wearer and to the planet. We are all asking more questions about what our clothes are made from, where and how and what their impact is on the environment. European flax is fully traceable and has a long list of verified, positive characteristics – follow us @wearelinen and look up linendreamlab.com for more information. CELC is the European Confederation of Flax and Hemp, we’re a not-for-profit based in Paris that brings together 10,000 European companies across 14 countries, overseeing the fibre’s development from plant to finished product. Flax accounts for just 0.4% of all textile fibres used – we’d like to see this grow to a full percent.
What makes linen such a sustainable fabric?
Linen fabric is made from flax, a plant fibre that is grown in Western Europe on a strip of land that stretches from Caen to Amsterdam, with France being its top global producer. Flax is a model of sustainability; it’s a renewable agricultural resource that can be grown without irrigation and requires very few inputs. Local rainfall is all it needs. As a source of support for ecosystems and biodiversity, flax is extremely useful in preparing the loamy, coastal soil for future crops. Growing and producing flax requires regional expertise and it creates long-term employment. Plus, as it’s made from a plant fibre, linen is biodegradable. Linen is natural, ethical and traceable.
Tell us more about the partnership with Orlebar Brown
We’re delighted that Orlebar Brown is taking part in the I Love Linen campaign this year. OB exemplifies design excellence and eco-responsibility, recognising and responding to the needs of its customers by creating clothes that will look good this summer, and in 10 summers’ time. OB has a handsome range of 100% linen pieces; classics such as crisp and cool shirts, shorts and trousers cut from woven linen, plus 100% linen jersey T-shirts and polo shirts. Linen keeps you cool and fresh because it has excellent moisture management properties – linen can hold 20% of its weight in water without feeling damp. It’s also highly breathable and wicking – it’s the ideal fabric for active people or if you simply want to remain cool, calm and collected in the heat.
Did you know?
The Pharaohs used flax to produce their linen loin cloths back in 5,000 BCE, but as the oldest known fibre used by mankind, our ancestors first started twisting flax into yarn over 38,000 years ago.
Today 85% of the world’s flax is grown in France, Belgium and the Netherlands and the yield is split 60% for clothing, 30% for interiors fabrics and 10% for technical end uses such as composites which can be formed into surfboards, yacht hulls, crash helmets and more.
European flax farming captures a huge amount of carbon dioxide, the principal heat-trapping gas responsible for global warming; 515,000 tonnes are retained by flax plants through photosynthesis each year – that’s equivalent to the greenhouse gas emissions produced by 112,012 cars in a year.
Flax harvesting and the fibre transformation process are waste-free. All fibres, long and short, and the plants’ by-products, such as seeds and the woody core, can be and are used.
And it’s a water saver! Flax only requires rainwater to grow. No water (or chemicals for that matter) is needed in the fibre extraction process. In fact, each linen shirt bought saves 13 x 1.5l bottles of water.