Much Ado About: Linen

October 27, 2010 in Bits & Pieces, Fiber Profiles

This will be the first post in our series on Fiber Profiles. Get to know your fabrics, one great thread at a time!

Made from the fibers of the flax plant, and otherwise known as Linum usitatissimum, linen is an ancient fabric, prized for its durability, absorbency and hygienic properties.

While linen is often touted as an excellent fabric for keeping cool during the summer, it also makes an ideal fabric for autumn. Because the fibers of flax plant are hollow, linen makes a great insulator against the chill.

Smooth, and a great heat conductor, it’s one of the strongest fibers, and feels cool to the touch. Linen typically has a crisp and textured feel to it, and the more linen is washed, the softer it becomes. However, as linen fibers have a very low elasticity, be careful with creasing the garment or ironing frequently, as the fabric will eventually break if stressed enough. A resilient fabric, it resists moths, carpet beetles, dirt, and stains; and, it can be machine washed, dry cleaned, or steamed.

It is very easy to care for if you develop a love of the wrinkled look. Wrinkling is considered part of linen’s charm. One of the characteristics of any natural fiber, it’s a classy-casual look that grows on you. If others point out the wrinkles to you, you can say, “Yes, but it’s linen.” It’s like a permission slip to not iron. You’re welcome.

If you don’t want to look charming that day, here is a brief tutorial on how to de-wrinkle your linen (though we do not guarantee your success).

Here are some of our favorite linen garments, now in stock! Hurry before they’re gone:

zipped hoodie Much Ado About: Linen

Zipped Hoodie in Black (pictured above).

Shop here: (US)

Linen inverted pleat shirt Much Ado About: Linen

Linen Inverted Pleat Shirt in Moroccan Blue (pictured above).

Shop here: (US, UK, Canada)

Saigon Dress Much Ado About: Linen

Quilted Bolero Dress in Eggplant (pictured above).

Shop here: (US, UK, Canada)

Linen iman jilbab Much Ado About: Linen

Linen Iman Jilbab in Folkstone Gray (pictured above).

Shop here: (US, UK)

actual saigon dress Much Ado About: Linen

Embroidered Saigon Dress in Black (pictured above).

Shop here: (US, UK, Canada)

Shop women’s linen here (US, UK, Canada).

Shop men’s linen here (US, UK, Canada).

Ten Quick Tips to Make Your Clothing Last

October 20, 2010 in Bits & Pieces, Customer Experience

Making your clothing last longer not only makes good financial sense, it’s better for the environment as well. You save yourself the time and effort of buying replacements, and you’ll look great with less effort than you think. All it takes is making some basic changes to your everyday habits.

It Starts at the Store

1. Take into account your ability to do upkeep on your wardrobe. If you don’t like to iron, then don’t go for linen or cotton items. Instead, try our corduroy, Tencel denim, wool, jersey, regular denim, and our lightweight printed garments, as those fabrics need less overall care. If you are uncomfortable with dry cleaning, either because of the expense or because of the toxic chemicals used in the process, simply avoid clothing that requires “dry clean only.”

2. Buy high quality items that you know will last. Buy the best you can afford, because it’s actually less expensive than having to re-purchase cheaper quality garments when they quickly wear out. A properly cared-for high quality garment should last you through several seasons. Make sure that the items fit well, and that they are made from durable fabrics.

3. Third, buy items in the same general color palette so that almost anything will match anything else. This actually expands your fashion and style options with fewer pieces taking up space in your closet. You can mix and match freely instead of having entire outfits of clothes that only match one other piece. Go for classic designs rather than jumping on the latest trends and you will always look timeless.

If you have trouble coming up with a palette of colors to suit your taste, it helps to start with one key piece, and build from there. There are lots of ‘color palette generators’ to be found online where you can upload an image and it will generate color suggestions for you. I uploaded a picture of our Tencel Denim Jacket (US, UK, Canada), and a website called “Color Hunter” gave me the following palette to work from. This is one site from many, so have fun!

Color Hunter Palette Ten Quick Tips to Make Your Clothing Last

Take Care from the Get-Go

4. Don’t do as much laundry. Washing your items with unnecessary frequency tends to wear them out faster. Instead, change your clothes as soon as you get home into something that you don’t mind accidentally spilling coffee on, or receiving peanut butter fingerprints from tiny hands. Take them off, and hang them up. Keep them on nice fat hangers—-not the thin wire kind. Broader, nicer hangers protect the shoulders of your garments from wearing out prematurely.

5. If you wear undershirts, this can also help to  prolong time between washes, as the undershirt will protect clothing from sweat stains and even improve the way some fabrics drape over the body.

6. When you do have to wash your garments, follow the care instructions on the label. Are the care instructions in symbol form? No problem! Here is a handy chart you can reference. When you wash your clothes, zip the zippers, button the buttons, and wash things inside out. This reduces the wear and tear on other garments. Also, don’t wash very delicate items with coarser fabrics, as this can lead to damage. And, sort according to color: lights with lights and darks with darks. That way if one fabric bleeds a little bit, it won’t ruin that lovely beige skirt that you just invested a large amount of time, effort, and money to acquire.

7. Washing in cold water not only saves you money, but can also help many fabrics hold up better over time. There are even special detergents for cold water, if you are convinced that your clothing just isn’t getting quite as clean as before. With detergent, make sure you are using the proper amount, as extra detergent can stay in the fabric, causing damage to the garment and irritating your skin.

8. Use These Clothing Helpers!

A. a lint roller. Taking a quick sweep with one of these will give your black trousers a new look in no time.

B. extra buttons. It’s inevitable—buttons will come off, so as soon as you get that new garment home, stash those extra buttons in one special place so that your new sweater doesn’t quickly become useless. It’s actually very simple to sew on a button, and here’s a link to a quick tutorial to get you started.

C. patches! As soon as your little one’s jeans start to develop small holes, you can pick up some fabric patches that are attached by ironing, sew a patch on from a different fabric, or just stitch up that hole yourself using a needle and thread.

D. A clothesline or  drying rack. Avoiding the dryer is not only environmentally friendly, it saves a lot of wear and tear on your clothing. Easy to construct, you can even dry your clothing indoors if you are an allergy sufferer, or simply do not want your clothing bleached by the sun or rained on. If you love the feel of clothing from the dryer, try to avoid over-drying and remove the clothing while still damp.

For Stains and Storage

9. Treat the stain as quickly as possible after it occurs. This will make it more likely that it won’t set into the fabric. For food and grease, try dish soap. For ink, using a napkin, try dabbing a bit of hairspray on the spot to lift the ink. For blood, hydrogen peroxide often works.

10. Un-crowd your closets! If your clothing is all mashed together, it causes wrinkles and creates more work for you. Pare down to key wardrobe pieces that you can layer, interchange easily, and are seasonally appropriate.

Don’t hang your sweaters. This causes them to sag and may stretch them out of shape. Instead, lay them flat to dry and fold them when you put them away.

For clothing that is out of season, it doesn’t hurt to store it in plastic tote containers to keep it safe from moths or other insects who would find your wool to be a feast. Instead of mothballs, try cedar blocks. They smell better and don’t emit toxic chemicals.

When you pare down your closet, don’t just throw out your old, stained, or unwanted clothes. If they truly are unwearable, use them for dust rags, craft projects, or patches. If they are still in good shape, then donate them! There are sure to be a number of charities in your local area that would welcome your donation.

For further reading and tips, check out the SHUKR guide to fabric care:

Many thanks to these websites for inspiration and guidance. Please visit them for more tips and in-depth discussions regarding clothing care:

16 Ways to Make Your Clothing Last Longer (Without Spending Big) on WiseBread by Andrea Dickson

How to Make Your Clothes Last Longer on eHow, by Christine Sostarich

Tips to Make Your Clothing Last, by Fabric Link

7 Frugal Tips to Clean and Care for Your Clothes, by JT on The Smarter Wallet

Is Your Clothing Ethical?

October 10, 2010 in Our Company

Often at SHUKR, we receive messages about how our clothing is too expensive. However, people often do not consider the other side of the coin—how cheap should clothing be, and at what cost to others?

Manufacturing apparel is still a labor intensive process, so wages are a large part of the cost of making clothing. Big name manufacturers of mainstream clothing provide cheap alternatives, but often do not pay their workers the basic wage for survival, causing massive protests and widespread unrest. It’s often not simply even a matter of low wages, but also of child labor, exploitation, and terrible working conditions. Unfortunately, this is not the exception, but rather the norm in the industry.

At SHUKR, not only is our clothing Islamic, but it is also ethically produced.

In terms of fair trade, the majority of our raw materials – especially cotton – are produced in Syria. Cotton growing is largely a government controlled industry with fair, fixed prices set by the government and a national support scheme for cotton producers. Raw cotton is ginned in public-sector plants, but then private companies can purchase the ginned cotton for spinning and then weaving. We purchase the bulk of our finished cotton fabrics from Syria’s largest private textile company, which also exports to Europe and other countries worldwide.

Our clothing is then manufactured in our factory in Syria. Syria’s labor laws guarantee more rights for workers than perhaps even some advanced industrial nations. The standard workers rights that we are familiar with in the West – pay (sick pay, over-time, minimum wage), working hours (rest breaks, maximum working day), disciplinary action, equal opportunities, unionization, health and safety, minimum working age, etc. – are all enshrined in Syrian labor law, and observed at SHUKR’s factory.

The principles of fair trade and Islamic business ethics in general, go hand-in-hand. The term “fair-trade” conventionally refers to the wide-ranging socio-economic movement which works to address inequalities in the conventional trade system. This is a broad movement, with many goals and guiding principles, and Islam’s perspective on it has many nuances which require experts to elaborate upon. From our limited perspective, there seems to be a good deal of overlap between most of the core principles of fair trade and the teachings of Islam, in particular three of their main goals:

1) To achieve greater equity in international trade and alleviate world poverty

2) To seek the fulfillment of workers rights in the developing world

3) To promote environmental sustainability

In terms of the first goal of equity, it is well-known that social justice is one of the hallmarks of Islamic teachings.

In the Holy Qur’an, it is mentioned that “God loves those who are fair and just” (49.9) and the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, forbade iniquitous economic practices that led to monopolization or unfair market advantage. Islam’s emphasis on fairness and justice also spills over into a concern for fulfilling workers rights, the second main goal of the fair trade movement. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, famously said that the worker should be paid his wages before his sweat dries and once, in a touching incident, compassionately kissed the hands of a laborer who showed him his rough hands due to his hard work. Finally, as for environmental sustainability, Islamic teachings are rich in guidance, because we believe that God has given humans the trust of stewardship (khilafa) over this earth, a sacred trust that we are accountable to God for. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said that “The world is beautiful and verdant, and verily God, be He exalted, has made you His stewards in it, and He sees how you acquit yourselves” (Muslim).

We find that Islam’s intrinsic moderation – balancing the physical with the spiritual – and its emphasis on the honor of all of God’s creation, teach Muslims that sweatshop labor and production are despicable practices, rooted in an excessive concern for worldly gain at the expense of noble human beings.

When you wear SHUKR, you can be sure that your clothing is ethically produced. We are completely against sweatshop production and pay our workers above market wages that allow them to support their families in dignity and comfort. Though many stores may offer less-expensive alternatives, is the cost worth it?