A short glossary describing the origin and characteristics of the fabrics most commonly used in your clothes.
ALPACA: a fibre obtained from the camelid bearing the same name, very similar to the Lama, it is reared in flocks on the Andean highlands. Its fleece is very similar to that of the Angora goats, rough and long on the outside, soft and woolly in the underhair. It provides wool in seven natural colours. Main features: lightness and a silky hand, excellent insulation.
CASHMERE: a fibre produced with the wool of goats reared in Tibet, on the Mongolian highlands and in Iran. Main features: usually white (but can be chestnut verging on grey, brown or maroon), particularly fine and light; it is the most refined and highly prized fibre.
COTTON: the most common vegetable fibre and the most ancient after flax and wool. It is obtained from the Gossypium species. The quality of the fibre depends on its length: a long fibre generates lustrous, strong and high-quality cotton. Its characteristics make it an ideal material for fine, light summer fabrics, but at the same time it is a good fibre for heavier fabrics suitable for every season. Main features: high hygroscopicity, non-irritating for the skin, non-allergenic. Cotton fabrics are easily washable and can be ironed at high temperatures.
FLAX: a vegetable fibre obtained from the flax plant, used for the production of linen. Linen gives a cool sensation and this characteristic makes it particularly suited to summer clothes. This fibre is lustrous and cool. Main features: strong and lustrous fibre; non-allergenic, highly absorbant and comfortable on the skin. It can be washed in warm water, dries quickly and is simple to iron, although it creases easily.
LYOCEL OR TENCEL: an artificial fibre obtained from crushed and dissolved cellulose. It is often used together with cotton to obtain cotton fabrics that are as flowing and soft as viscose. Main features: a breathable and humidity-absorbing fabric; soft and lustrous.
MODAL: an artificial fibre obtained by reconstituting the wood pulp of trees. Modal fabrics tend to shrink and fade less than cotton. Main features: softness and smoothness. The Modal fibre is more hygroscopic than cotton and can be ironed after washing, like pure cotton.
MOHAIR: wool obtained from the hair of Angora goats, once mainly reared in central Anatolia, now particularly in South Africa and Texas. The most precious fibre is kid mohair, obtained from one year-old goats. Main features: soft and lustrous, white, highly prized for its softness, brightness and silkiness, very resistant to wear and tear.
NYLON OR POLYAMIDE: a fibre obtained from synthetic polymers, though chemical processing. This fibre has poor absorbing power and is usually used for sport and leisure garments. Nylon fabrics are easy to care for, can be washed in the washing machine, dry quickly and don’t need ironing.
ORGANIC COTTON: the use of organic cotton is quite recent. Its characteristics are the same as cotton, but its distinctiveness lies in the farming methods and low impact transformation of its components: the fibre is cultivated according to organic farming principles, whereby the use of synthetic fertilizers or pesticides is prohibited in all farming, harvesting and transformation phases.
POLYESTER: a fibre entirely obtained through chemical process. It has a high resistance to wear and tear and low inflammability. Polyester fabrics are easy to care for, can be washed in the washing machine, dry quickly and are crease-resistant.
RAMIE: a fine and lustrous vegetable fibre similar to flax. It is usually used for light fabrics; it can also be mixed with other natural or synthetic fibres (especially cotton, hemp, wool, silk, viscose) which increase its strength and lustrousness. Main features: strength, natural freshness, non-allergenic. It can be washed in water or dry-cleaned.
SHETLAND: this kind of wool is characterized by a long high-quality fibre; its name originates from a breed of sheep that was originally reared in Britain’s Shetland Islands. Main features: the product obtained is springy, slightly rough and hairy, particularly lustrous, very strong and does not mat.
SILK: a natural protein fibre, produced by the silkworm. It is the softest and finest natural fibre, very cool in summer and warm in winter. Main features: silk fabrics offer good thermal isolation, can be carefully washed in water and ironed at a temperature of 130° C. Dry-cleaning is however recommended.
VISCOSE: an artificial fibre obtained from the wood pulp of trees. Its lustrousness makes this fibre look like silk more than any other, in fact it was initially called “artificial silk”. Main features: the typical comfort given by vegetable fibres, good resistance to wear and tear, high hygroscopicity. Viscose garments must be washed with neutral products, dried slowly and ironed at lower temperatures than cotton.
WOOL: an animal fibre obtained from the fleece of sheep. Main features: thermal protection; softness; elasticity; hygroscopicity. The wool obtained from the first shearing of lambs is particularly prized because its fibres are high quality and very soft. This wool is called lambswool.