What an Italian and Some Castor Beans Have to Do With Sustainable Fabrics


Innovation always starts somewhere. In the case of Deane Apparel’s steadily expanding library of sustainable fabrics, it started with castor beans and an Italian with fashion industry chops.

The castor beans are the raw material for a piqué knit polo shirt, our first eco-textile. And the Italian is the unstoppable Laura Heraud, Deane’s Research and Development Manager, who introduced it to our library. Developing and sourcing sustainable fabrics is part of her brief and she doesn’t mind you knowing she’s enthusiastic about it.

Heraud, who joined us in 2010, has more than 30 years of experience in the industry, much of it in London, and retail fashion. Retail has different challenges from the uniforms and workwear sector, she says; the former changes range almost monthly and is fast and disposable, while the latter comes with a pronounced focus on durability, performance, and price.

Those characteristics are very much part of the equation when it comes to sustainable fabrics. Yes, Heraurd says, customer interest is shifting towards fabrics made from plant-based and recycled materials. That just means that sustainability is a standard joining many others, including thermal performance, breathability, stretch, comfort, and naturally, the cost. Price was a hurdle for the castor bean fabric; it’s been replaced in the library by 13 alternatives.

S.Café® Pique Knit made from ground coffee beans offers exceptional odour control, softness, and durability.
S.Café® Pique Knit made from ground coffee beans offers exceptional odour control, softness, and durability.

Heraud likes being a sustainability pathfinder at work; it lines up with her personal values. “It’s an emerging interest in my family,” she explains. “These days we compost, we grow our own vegetables, we’re almost vegetarian. We’ve started looking more closely at product labels before we buy, and we buy less as well.”

She believes Deane’s customers are heading in the same direction. “When I’m discussing a new sustainable fabric with them, the very first questions are about where it comes from and how it is made,” she says. “Then they want to know if it performs the same as less-sustainable options. And then it is the price. The interest is definitely there.”