Scorching summer temperatures make it tough to decide what clothes to wear every morning. Short-sleeved shirts and short pants may seem the ideal choices, but very few offices allow them, whereas donning a suit and jacket in this weather can be suffocating.
A popular solution to the dilemma is clothes made from environmentally friendly fabric. These fabrics are created using wood, grass and other natural materials and are light and cool. For some time hemp has been the preferred natural fabric, but now new types are being made using bamboo, coconuts and even banana peel.
Industry sources say fabric made from bamboo is the most popular now. The material gets rid of odor and absorbs moisture, making it ideal for hot and muggy summer days in Korea. "It doesn't feel as rough as hemp yet is cooler than linen, so it doesn't stick to your skin or feel uncomfortable," said Oh Suk-wan at the Korea Textile Research Institute. This makes the fabric ideal for skirts and pants. Some outdoor wear makers are even using it to make sports clothes.
Fiber extracted from nettles is also a popular cool material. The fiber contains natural ingredients that ward off mosquitoes, while its toughness allows loose stitching for breathability. "You have to wash your clothes often in the summer, since they get soaked in perspiration, and clothes made from nettle fabric keep their shape no matter how much you wash them," said a staffer with an apparel company.
Coconuts and bananas have also become sources of fabric for summer clothes. Fiber from banana peel offer excellent absorption and ventilation, while its unique texture makes it a popular choice for summer clothes. Fiber extracted from pineapple peel has similar characteristics.
Another advantage of such materials is that they are environmentally friendly because they are biodegradable.
But it is rare to use only natural fibers when making clothes -- often synthetic materials such as polyester are added. "Apparel makers advertise the use of such materials in order to make their clothes appear 'natural' or 'eco-friendly,'" said Lee In-yeol at the institute. "But clothes made from these materials alone are not as aesthetically pleasing."