Please Explain: Polyester and Synthetics

Friday, December 16, 2011

Earlier this year we looked at the natural fibers wool and silk, and this week we’re talking about polyester and other synthetics! Polyester is used in carpeting, building materials, and clothing. Sean Cormier, assistant professor in the Textile Design and Marketing Department at the Fashion Institute of Technology, and Jill Dumain, Director of Environmental Strategy at Patagonia, explain how polyester and other synthetics are made and how they’re used.


Sean Cormier and Jill Dumain

Comments [21]

Nancy from nyc

I am allergic to formaldehyde and have been told it is present in many fabrics. What purpose does is serve in fabric manufacture?

Dec. 17 2011 08:02 AM
Amy from Manhattan

Fred: Not all advocates of hemp are pro-marijuana, & much (maybe most, certainly all that can be sold in the US) of the hemp grown for fabrics & foods (like hempseed) doesn't actually contain THC & can't be used as a drug.

Dec. 16 2011 01:59 PM

... that was some terrific vagueness regarding how the industry treats the toxic byproducts of production.

Dec. 16 2011 01:57 PM
Andrew Falk

I've recently seen ads for "heat generating" clothing... what is that all about? Does it work?

Dec. 16 2011 01:57 PM

What do you do about fabric pilling?

Dec. 16 2011 01:56 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Does Thinsulate stay flattened & not regain any of its loft, or can it recover its insulating properties?

Dec. 16 2011 01:55 PM
Will from NNJ

Does PolarFleece Expire?
-When Should I throw it out?

It feels so fluffy when new & so nubbly & flat after awhile

Dec. 16 2011 01:54 PM
Bill from New Rochelle


Q. What kind of science is that?

Dec. 16 2011 01:53 PM
Alan from Manhattan

What is Heattech, which I believe is sold only by Uniqlo? The underwear and socks made from this material is by far the most comfortable of its respective kind I have ever worn.

Dec. 16 2011 01:50 PM
Ana from NJ

Polyester = plastic
That is why it doesn't burn but it melts. That is why has the potential of creating bacteria since it makes you sweat.
That is why is cheaper.
Take a piece of fabric that is 100% polyester and burn with a match carefully, it will melt just like plastic.
Think then on buying something that is not majority polyester.

Dec. 16 2011 01:43 PM
Fred from UWS

Often times pro-marijuana people tout Hemp as a miracle plant and fabric derived from it being incredible. It can last forever. Is this as strong as rayon?

Dec. 16 2011 01:42 PM
Michaela Harkins from Jersey City, NJ

Wool is remarkable because it can be washed and re-shaped -- the "flattening" of the fabric that Sean referred to is not permanent (especially if you take care of your woolens). In addition, wool keeps the wearer warm even when it is wet. Petroleum based fibers cannot replace a natural fiber.

Dec. 16 2011 01:42 PM
Amelia from NYC

Polyester is the hot dog of the fabric industry? That is a great way to think about it. Thanks for that quote.

Dec. 16 2011 01:41 PM
Jenny from ES

Durability in clothing seems like a very wise solution but isn't the problem fashion itself? Shelf life that is? Trends.

Dec. 16 2011 01:41 PM
Ray Skorupa from westchester

The weaving process is an ancient one. Modern manufacturing has mechanized or automated this process. What about fabrics that are not created from a thread, either natural or synthetic? What about garments that can be created without stitching pieces together but are one integral piece?

Dec. 16 2011 01:41 PM

I look for polyester in my workout clothing - i like how it wicks sweat and dries quickly. The polyester fabric seems nicer than in the past, but really expensive. Are we paying for the technology or the brand name?

Dec. 16 2011 01:39 PM
Bill from New Rochelle

I think my fleece hoodie is great.

Why won't anyone make a men's sport jacket, or suit of poly fleece?

I'd enjoy a sport jacket that would keep me warm on a late December day.

Dec. 16 2011 01:39 PM
Geo from astoria

is polyester good for your skin?
does it have any negative effects?

Dec. 16 2011 01:36 PM

Please ask your guests about flammability.

Dec. 16 2011 01:36 PM
A listener

If I remember correctly, older versions of polyester shirts would hold onto body odor after washing. Have the fabrics changed so that that is no longer the case?

Dec. 16 2011 01:35 PM
Chicago listener

Why does a jacket made from recycled water bottles wind up costing three hundred dollars?

Is the process difficult or expensive, or am I simply paying for the fact that I can't make my own polyester jacket?

Dec. 16 2011 01:32 PM

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