Synthetics, or man-made fabrics, were first developed in America in the 1930s. The garment industry adopted their large-scale use during World War II when natural fibres were hard to obtain.
They became synonymous with the new era and a must-have for the modern woman in the 1950s.
All synthetic fibres are actually derived from crude oil, through a complex chemical process. They are zero per cent natural.
Today the most common synthetics are polyester, acrylic and nylon.
Let's have a look at how they are made.
Polyester - which makes up 58% of world garment production - is made using a chemical reaction involving coal, petroleum, air and water.
Acrylic is made from the unlikely combination of coal, air, water, oil and limestone.
Nylon is a polyamide made from petroleum - essentially just a type of plastic derived from crude oil. It has the dubious honour of being the first fabric to be made entirely in a laboratory.
Today a lot of the clothes we wear are made of plastics such as polyester, nylon and acrylic.
Every time we wash our clothes in the washing machine, millions of microfibres are shed. This plastic pollution is then dispersed by wind and ocean tides, spreading it everywhere around the globe.
Synthetic fabrics are made from chemicals. These chemicals are quite toxic, and when heated, they emit plastic molecules into the environment.
When we wear synthetic clothes, our body heat releases these chemicals, which are absorbed by our skin.
When we wear wrinkle-free clothing, we're breathing in and absorbing through our skin both plastic and formaldehyde.
Synthetic clothes are emitting these chemicals into our body, home and the environment every time we wear them.
Today we live with them for over 70 years, and synthetics are mass-produced because they are cheap.
Unfortunately, because they do not occur naturally in our ecosystem, and are NOT biodegradable, synthetic materials managed to pollute our environment on a global scale.
It is a big problem for our ecosystem as well as our wellbeing.
Luckily, we can see a strong trend throughout the market of customers and brands limiting the use of synthetics.
For many materials, recycling is a useful way of preventing pollution – but not for plastic. It just delays the inevitable escape of pollutants into the environment. Many plastics can only be recycled a few times before they become too low-grade.
That's why we need to phase out all but the essential plastics. We certainly don't need them in our clothes and textiles.