The Future of Women´s Underwear: Claudia Stingl’s Take on Sustainable Textiles and Women’s Health

In the world of fashion, sustainability has become a buzzword often thrown around but rarely fully understood. Claudia, the founder of Cedenu, has been aware of this problem for several years, and two years ago, she started researching the sustainable textiles industry, aiming to create a low-impact and plant-based underwear brand. With a background in product marketing and innovation management, Claudia has shifted from her corporate role to tackle key industry issues like plastic pollution, textile waste, and body health. Committed to sustainable textiles, Cedenu´s innovative product designs and educational initiatives are helping us shape a more environmentally conscious activewear landscape.

In a recent interview I had with Claudia, she shared her beginning, the vision, and the idea for founding Cedenu, as well as her own take on sustainability in fashion, especially referring to underwear garments and women’s body health.

The beginning of Cedenu

As the founder of Cedenu, Claudia Stingl saw a time and need for a career change. Having a background in product marketing and innovation management, and later doing consulting for Martec and analytics has led her to a new direction – exploring sustainability in the aesthetic plant-based hygiene underwear. On her career shift, she explains:

“I didn’t have the feeling that I could make an impact within my corporate career. So I wanted to change it and make something useful. A few years ago, I changed to period underwear. And I’ve seen how much plastic is used in the industry, both in disposable, but also reusable products, and how harmful this is to the environment. That is why I wanted to make a change, provide some better solutions, that resonate with our bodies, but also with the environment.”

Claudia´s take on sustainable textiles

To find the most suitable fabric solution, Claudia has been doing research for over two years now. Being sustainable, as she says, is starting at the right place, which is going all the way back to the fiber. The best options are obviously plant-based fibers such as hemp, linen, and cotton, because they don´t involve any plastics. However, it´s important to look at the entire supply chain to define the level of sustainability of a fabric. The first step is looking at how the fiber is actually harvested and processed. The difference between certain fiber and its organic variant lies in the chemical fertilizers, the amount of water used, where the fiber is coming from, and how it is transported.

But, which fabrics should we totally avoid?

According to Claudia, “all that are made from fossil fuels. So that is nylon, polyester, elastane, spandex, acrylic. And these are a synonym to plastic basically. And they are not only a problem in the production phase, as many chemicals are used here, because the groundwater is polluted. But especially in the usage space, the microplastics are being shedded every time we wash them, and pollute the water. So a lot of chemicals are involved from the start, which has an effect, not only on the environment, but also on the manufacturers, workers and our groundwater. And the big problem about this is that the micro plastic ends up in our agriculture because the sewage is being taken from the groundwater as a fertilizer for agriculture and that goes back into the food chain. So this plastic is sticking around and comes back to our bodies.”

She also puts the accent on the animal-based ones, not only from ethical concerns but also because of the chemicals, water, and emissions needed to produce new animal-based textiles.

“We should leave animals out of any fabric. The worst part is taking leather. Around 1 billion animals are being taken each year to make leather. That’s a huge number. And this is not only including cows, but also pigs, goats, kangaroos, and even alligators. And the second worst part is silk. Silk is made of silk worms, and for one kilogram of silk fabric, you need 5000 silk worms that are killed during the process. This is also a very cruel practice. The third fabric which is often used today is wool. There is still a practice where they would wound the sheep and leave huge wounds behind. Often sheets are castrated, and some of them die in the process.”

During the interview, we acknowledged that while animal-based products like leather, fur, wool, and silk bring considerable benefits to fashion in terms of features (soft, durable, warm), nowadays the industry also has access to sustainable and vegan alternatives such as Lyocell or cactus leather. Furthermore, there is a huge volume of existing animal-based materials that can be recycled or upcycled, thereby mitigating the need for new production and avoiding practices that harm animals, people, and the environment.

In focus: women’s health

Another primary focus of the foundation of Cedenu was women’s health. Therefore, Claudia has been also researching which textiles were best and worst for our health, especially as women. Today, she shares her take on the best and worst fabric options.

“I would say the organic ones – hemp, cotton, linen, but also my personal opinion, I like Lyocell very much, because it has a very nice structure. All the organic ones don’t irritate the skin, they don’t have this hazard like this effect on the body that it blocks out the air, which plastic fabrics do.”

The toxicity of textiles in everyday life is not something to be neglected, just on the contrary, it is a very concerning health issue. She continues:

Every one of us wears synthetic fabrics because most fabrics are mixed with plastic. This can really affect our body because basically every fabric uses many chemicals, that can be irritating to the skin and cause dermatitis, where you have irritation, and some red bumps on your skin. And this happens because the plastic basically blocks out the air and it cannot circulate. And especially for underwear It’s a problem because if the plastic area blocks out the air, bacteria grows. This is really bad for the intimate area because we want the bacteria to work and let the air circulate so everything can breathe. And this is an overlooked issue and not often talked about. We have to consider it when talking about plastics, and also polyester, nylon, etc. They are treated with hazardous chemicals like BPS.

The market today is full of underwear made of polyester or nylon, despite having their more organic option like cotton. To eliminate the presence of plastic in hygienic underwear (like period underwear), Claudia suggests using a “natural bio-based layer, where the air can flow and rounded bacteria will not grow, protecting your intimate area”.

The principles of textile sustainability

When it comes to the principles of sustainability, the founder of Cedenu explains them as circularly understanding the process. That includes the very beginning on how the product is designed, how it can be made durable, all the way to the end-of-life stages, and ways it can be recycled. Using clean fabrics, not mixed with plastic is the best way to prevent environmental pollution and truly contribute to sustainability. Such fabrics can be found at fashion fairs and deeper explore the manufacturers, suppliers, their sustainability practices, and their workers conditions. So, all the factors need to be considered, she adds. As for the fashion fairs, Claudia suggests googling them, as there are many happening all the time -depending on the industry you are in. For instance for underwear there is the Interfiliere happening in Paris.

For the new and upcoming brands, Claudia suggest that sustainability starts from seeing the entire value chain, and as she adds, “from start to end, think it through “.

If you enjoyed reading about Claudia’s experience with sustainable textile sourcing and body health, I suggest checking out her blog and Instagram page for more insights on sustainable fabrics, women´s health and healthy underwear.

Also, if you’re looking to get your project into the spotlight with Etikal Media and you’ve got something fresh to add to sustainable fashion, feel free to reach out for a virtual coffee chat—I’d love to hear more about it!

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