News flash: it's near impossible to claim a piece of clothing is 100% sustainable. Anything grown, harvested or manufactured will always have some sort of environmental impact. However, there is so much that we can do to lessen our harm as well as positively impact the people that make and wear our garments.
Why should I care about how my chef jacket is made?
Not all chef jackets are created equal. Considering sustainability into your purchasing decision goes beyond environmental impact. Things like increased comfort and functionality lengthen the usable lifespan of a jacket and understanding if and how your purchase benefits others are all on the spectrum of sustainability.
You need to care about how yours is made because:
- It effects your food. Say what? Chef jackets made primarily of synthetic materials such as polyester, nylon or acrylic are going to shed a lot of microplastics when washed and by just being worn. Because of how small they are, they get washed through water systems and end up in our oceans with a huge chance of being ingested by marine animals. And given the amount of washes a chef jacket sees in a lifetime, you can bet that's millions of microplastics from just one single garment
- It effects your mood. Different materials work better in different environments. For chefs working 10-12 hours in a kitchen, polyester is a no-no. While it feels strong, there is virtually no breathability in the fabric. And with synthetic fabrics, harsh chemicals are often used which could irritate the skin, especially in hot environments like the kitchen. Instead, aim for natural fabrics like organic cotton or hemp that will be soft on the skin and endure through those long shifts
- It impacts communities. Knowing who makes your chef jacket is important because your purchase directly impacts their livelihood. At Cavalry, we prioritise working with partners that guarantee employees a fair living wage, not just the minimum wage. This means a wage that covers the basic needs of workers and their families, including food, clothing, shelter, healthcare, education, transport to work and emergency situations
What to look for when buying your next chef jacket
There are a lot of other factors that contribute to a more sustainable chef jacket that we won't touch on here. But here are some important things to consider when shopping for your next chef jacket:
- What materials is it made from? Is the main fabric natural or synthetic? In a battle between polyester vs. cotton, cotton (or other natural fabrics) wins in the kitchen, hands down. And if you have the option, go for organic (organic means the cotton was grown without using any toxic chemicals or pesticides and it doesn't damage the soil). When you buy organic cotton you are investing in water conservation, cleaner air, better soil and farmer livelihoods
- Does the price reflect the quality of the jacket? A lot of manufacturers use polyester because it's cheap. A cheaper jacket might be better for your wallet in the short-term, but remember: higher quality materials mean your jacket will last longer and save you paper in the long run
- Is the jacket designed for comfort, functionality AND breathability? If it doesn't hit all three of these things, you're not going to want to wear it day after day and might as well throw your money in the bin
- Where is it made and is it made ethically? Does your purchase positively impact other people? If a brand doesn't communicate who their partners are that could be a red flag. More and more diners want to know where their food comes from and that their dollar is helping small farmers, rather than factory farming. The same goes for apparel - as a buyer, you want to make sure you're getting high quality craftsmanship while also helping communities improve their livelihood. A great thing to look out for are third party certifications, such as World Fair Trade Organization or Bluesign
We're working hard to provide chefs with the most comfortable, functional, breathable and sustainable chef jacket they've ever owned. Our focus will be on prioritising natural and recycled fabrics, using as little synthetics as possible. At the moment, we are speaking with a number of factories across Asia Pacific to make sure your dollar goes toward helping local communities and ethical practices.