Shoulda, Coulda, Wood-er: The Art of Turning Trees Into T-Shirts

A German startup called Wijld is one of the newest companies helping to revolutionise the fashion and textile industry, with an innovative new range of t-shirts made from an unexpected material.

Author Simon Dupree:

Translation Marisa Pettit, 01.11.17

A German startup called Wijld is one of the newest companies helping to revolutionise the fashion and textile industry, with an innovative new range of t-shirts made from an unexpected material.

The t-shirts we wear are usually made from cotton or polyester. While polyester is made from petroleum, a finite resource, and its production involves the release of damaging emissions, the production and value chain of cotton clothing isn’t exactly ideal either. Conventional cotton farming means huge ecological impacts: massive water consumption (estimated to be up to 20,000 litres per kilo, enough for only a single t-shirt and a pair of jeans), as well as the use of fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides. And there are socioeconomic risks too, with many cotton growers plagued by health issues, debt and reduced food security, while the multinational companies who sell the pesticides and the finished textiles make huge profits.    

But that’s enough complaining. German startup Wijld (pronounced “wild”), from Wuppertal in Germany, have come up with an alternative. They make their t-shirts from a well-known renewable resource: wood. And their so-called WoodShirts have a whole host of advantages over cotton or man-made fibres: as well as being antibacterial and breathable, they also have thermal properties in winter and according to the manufacturers, they even feel softer too.  

But the biggest advantage of WoodShirts is most definitely the significantly more sustainable manufacturing processes compared to the other fabrics mentioned above:

“We use environmentally-friendly dyes and twenty-times less water than cotton. The wood is processed into ‘wood wool’ in Austria, and then to thread in Portugal. In both countries the workers receive fair wages.”

said Tim Beelow, one of the co-founders of WoodShirt (source: wiwo). The wood they use comes predominantly from FSC or PEFC certified European forests. These certifications guarantee that woodlands are managed according to certain ecological and social standards.

From Wood to Wardrobe

The idea of making fabric from wood isn’t actually a new one. The process was actually discovered back in the 19th century. And this is how it works: first the wood is shredded into small pieces and then soaked in water to release the pulp. The pulp is then mixed with water and natural solvents and heated under a vacuum in order to remove the water. After sieving and pressing only fibres remain, which can be further processed to make fabric.

In the WoodShirts onlineshop you can make and order your own custom-made t-shirt with a just few clicks. Not only can you choose what colour and style you want, you can also decide which one of their (genuinely pretty cool logos) is the best fit for you. By allowing the customers to design their own shirts, they hope they’ll feel a stronger connection to each garment. And maybe that will means they’ll be worn more and worn longer, rather than just a few times and then tossed away.

For more about Wijld and their WoodShirts, check out this video from the founders below:

This article was translated from the original by Simon which appeared on our German-language site.

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