Tyvek - Envelopes, raincoats, dresses, bags, post-industrial folk wear and more.....
Originally published February 28, 2012
Oh Tyvek, you have really proved yourself to be an industrious, versatile sheet/textile paper like product. Developed by DuPont, Tyvek is the trademark name, like Spandex (Lycra) or Tencel (Lyocell), for a double spunbonded olefin.
It is RECYCLABLE, lightweight and extremely durable to light, ageing, tears, abrasion, chemicals, it is UV resistant, colourfast and it's waterproof. It is used to make all sorts of industrial products from textiles, envelopes (think of those FedEx envelopes you can never tear open that serve as your daily workout), ropes, car interiors, insulation, carpets etc, etc.... I think you get the point, it is everywhere. Also, who could forget those Tyvek jackets from the 80s that you could draw all over with your markers. Or maybe you'd rather forget but as a kid, that was the most amazing jacket ever!
So what is olefin you ask, it is a synthetic fibre that is made from polyolefin, such as polyethylene or polypropylene. Polyethylene or polypropylene are petroleum based products. Basically you can keep breaking down what these polymers are made of and you will get to oil eventually as the basic raw material. They are all basically plastics. That's the bad news. The good news, it is RECYCLABLE, whether it actually gets recycled in a true cradle to cradle manner vs. downcycling is still being debated but at least it has a very long life and can be re-purposed. Currently there are companies in Brazil that are developing a bio-polypropylene (bio-plastic) from sugar cane, so one day we may have bio-plastic Tyvek to wear. However, with food security becoming a major issue, do we need to take food crops and make them into bio-plastics for clothing? The best (unrealistic) answer is to just not produce or consume products but we are only human and we need to wear something (pretty things). Tyvek is a great alternative to the many other textiles/disposable fast fashion garments that end up creating a sartorial wasteland.
So here are some designers who have been playing around with Tyvek and created products that can aesthetically and physically stand the test of time.