Bringing Up Bamboo: Embracing an Earth-Friendly Fabric
In the annals of year-round suiting and jacketing, a few choice phrases come to mind: “tropical wool,” “cotton-linen,” “wool-silk,” etc. But how about bamboo?
Yes, that bamboo: the one that belongs to the grass family of plants and can grow up to 910mm in a single day. Well, there’s reason to rejoice in its unsurpassable growth rate, as bamboo happens to make a wonderful fabric for tailoring.
This wasn’t always the case. While bamboo was first utilised as a textile in the 19th century, it didn’t gain traction until the early 2000s, when it was used to make bedding, shirting, and commercial fabrics. However, these early bamboo textiles didn’t quite take to the tailor’s needle. While rich in technical benefits and supremely soft, they proved limp and unstructured and not at all suited to making a suit.
This changed in the mid-aughts when the renowned fabric wholesaler Huddersfield Fine Worsteds began experimenting with its Italian weaving partners to build a better bamboo cloth. After re-working their processing, weaving, and finishing recipes, they managed to create a bamboo cloth that takes to the needle like a fine worsted wool.
“The quality achieved is the one still used today,” says Brad Herzlich, who serves as a Business Development Strategist at HFW. “It boasts a full-bodied tailorability and performance while maintaining an ultra-luxury hand-feel and a richness of colour.”
HFW’s bamboo cloth—which is now available in more colours and patterns than ever, thanks to the release of their Bamboo III book—is made from 100% bamboo plant cellulose, which is harvested and milled into a fabric suitable for weaving. Aside from its sumptuous, silky hand and drape, the fabric carries a wide range of technical benefits. It is wrinkle resistant, hypoallergenic, moisture wicking, temperature regulating, odour resistant, antimicrobial, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, biodegradable, and exceptionally breathable thanks to the small airways that naturally exist within the bamboo fibre.
Now that you’ve caught your breath from reading its utilitarian qualities, we can share that it’s as easy on the environment as it is on the eyes. The bamboo plant is an efficient and highly sustainable natural resource, which requires less rainwater, produces little waste, and has a much smaller land footprint than other textile plants like cotton. Even better, bamboo can be cultivated without the use of environmentally harmful insecticides or pesticides.
However, none of that would be worth a thing if it didn’t make for a fine-looking garment, which it does. Bamboo has the ability to hold vibrant and richly saturated colours, and recent books have featured the fabric in everything from conservative checks to muted pastels to intense jewel tones. This veritable Crayola Box of colour possibilities has made the fabric a favourite for spring and summer jacketing, as has its 9.5oz weight, high degree of breathability and natural moisture-wicking properties. We’ve even seen it used as a year-round option for formal dinner jackets, taking the role that velvet might play in fall/winter and justifying one of bamboo’s more amusing nicknames: “California Cashmere.”
Before signing off, we’d be remiss not to mention that it can serve as a fully vegan alternative to wool. Benedict Cumberbatch, arguably the best-dressed abstainer of animal products on earth, elected to wear a three-piece bamboo suit to the Met Gala in 2019. We can’t predict if a vegan lifestyle or Met Gala appearance lies in your future, but we think there’s room for a fine bamboo garment, nonetheless.
Cad & The Dandy bamboo jackets start at £1200, with 2 piece suits from £1600. For more information, email email@example.com, call +44 (0)20 7434 4344 or book a bespoke consultation online.
Photography by Rose Callahan.