Creativity within Limits
“Creativity doesn’t just love constraints; it thrives under them.” - David Burkus
A key element of the design process that can make or break a particular style or an entire collection is the sourcing of fabric. There are countless materials to consider, and nearly as many suppliers to purchase from. This aspect of the business was very overwhelming in the early days of Gallagher. However, over the last few years, we’ve solidified our relationships with a small number of suppliers and have carved out a limited selection of fabrics to utilize in our designs. Our suppliers share our ethics and offer the highest quality sustainable fabrics. By keeping our fabric options limited, we’ve found that this actually propels our creativity and keeps our collection development on time because we can anticipate exactly when new fabrics will be available.
Fabric sustainability at Gallagher
In building our brand, we knew we wanted sustainability to be at the forefront of our decision- making process when it came to selecting fabric. Yet, there are many different definitions of sustainability and what’s considered “sustainable fabric.” For us, we decided to keep things simple by sourcing only 100% natural fabrics: fabrics composed of plant-based fibers rather than man- made synthetic ones. I’ve never been drawn to polyester fabrics, but I was horrified when I learned in my textile science course at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) that polyester is essentially plastic created from polyurethane, the same crude oil that has caused loads of harm to our planet. Armed with this knowledge and a newfound appreciation for the centuries-old tradition of weaving natural fibers into fabric, there really seemed to be no better option than using fabrics like wool, silk, and cotton in our designs. Of course, many admirable designers have used or produced their own recycled polyester fabrics from water bottles and the like, but our designs seemed to lend themselves to natural, woven fabrics.
Our fiber repertoire
Within the realm of natural fabrics, we’ve further narrowed our particular repertoire of fibers, the material woven into a fabric, based on look, feel, and of course, cost. As you can imagine, the cost of a simple cotton fabric varies quite drastically from the cost of a silk or a cashmere wool.
Cotton: As one of the most common fabrics cotton is usually the easiest fabric to source, at least in theory. However, it does come in several different weights and weaves that serve different purposes for different styles. We are grateful to have a supplier that offers us the best qualities of organic cotton, since non-organic cotton is considered by some as “unsustainable” for its production’s water waste.
Tencel: Without a doubt, Tencel is our most used and absolute favorite fabric here at Gallagher. Tencel is a natural fiber synthetically created by Lenzing Fibers from eucalyptus trees. It also comes in several different weights and weaves, but it usually has a beautiful, dress-like drape (see: our best-selling Emily Dress!) Tencel fabrics are typically machine washable, great for those with sensitive skin, and very durable in terms of wearability.
Viscose: Sourced for Gallagher in France and Denmark, viscose is one of the finest, drapiest dress fabrics out there. Like cotton, viscose can vary in sustainability based on how it is produced. At Gallagher, we source an eco-friendly viscose from Lenzing, the European manufacturer of Tencel. This viscose, called EcoVero, is produced through environmentally cautious deforestation and limited chemical processing.
Cupro: Formed from the cotton plant using a part of the plant that is commonly discarded, cupro is sustainable not only because it utilizes the whole cotton plant, but also because it is 100% biodegradable and a great alternative to silk. We use a high-quality cupro called Bemberg in the lining of our special occasion dresses and jumpsuits like the Madeline and Kara.
Linen: Woven from the flax plant, linen is one of the oldest textiles in the Western world. It requires very little chemical processing and is extremely durable, which contributes to its overall value and purity as a near luxury fabric. Less than 1% of the textile industry is made up of this forerunning sustainable fabric.
We are grateful to have gained so much knowledge from our suppliers and fellow designers regarding the standards and variety of fabric qualities available to us. It is one of our greatest joys to select new fabrics for each collection we launch; adding texture and color to our shapes and silhouettes brings them to life in a way nothing else can!