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Understanding the different fabrics and fibres hanging in your wardrobe will help you better care for your clothes. Here, we decode some of the most popular materials, how to look after them, and show you some incredible new pieces on fenwick.co.uk from brands such as Saturdays New York City, Margaret Howell and Aspesi.
When silk was first discovered, it was so precious that it could only be worn by a Chinese Emperor. Nowadays, you can find silk in almost every wardrobe, from [dresses](https://www.fenwick.co.uk/women/clothing/dresses) and [blouses](https://www.fenwick.co.uk/women/clothing/tops/blouses) to ties and handkerchiefs. And not just silk – our wardrobes are filled with materials from all over the world, for every season and occasion. Here, we decode the fibres and fabrics you’ll find on your hangers and share top tips on how best to care for them. Fibres (and the fabrics comprised of it) can be classified into three main categories: natural, synthetic and semi-synthetic. Find out more about the popular fabrics you wear below and discover some incredible pieces now available to buy on [fenwick.co.uk](https://www.fenwick.co.uk/). #### Natural Natural fabrics are made up of plant and animal-based fibres and include materials such as cotton, silk and wool. Mankind has been wearing these for many a millennium thanks to their inherent qualities like breathability, moisture-wicking and natural resistance to mould and dirt. Natural materials are also sustainable and biodegradable, making them the kinder and more conscientious choice.
Silk

According to Chinese legend, Empress Hsi Ling Shi was the first to discover silk in around 3000BC when the cocoon of a Bombyx Mori silkworm fell into her cup of tea and began to unfurl, revealing the shimmering threads inside. For thousands of years, we have worn silk because of its lustrous finish, stunning colours, smooth finish and temperature-moderating qualities. Silk is often worn for formal events but now we are seeing silk being reimagined for casual contemporary wardrobes, such as this understated Pique Silk Sweatshirt by Margaret Howell.

Caring for silk: Garments made from silk require special care and attention to protect the delicate fibres. Hand wash items in cold water with a very gentle detergent. Squeeze out the excess water by rolling it in a towel and hang to dry. When ironing silk, use the lowest heat setting and focus on steaming, rather than pressing.

Margaret Howell Pique Silk Sweatshirt, £325

Cotton

We’ve been wearing cotton since 5000BC, and while fashions have certainly changed since then, the reasons we wear cotton haven’t. It’s one of the most breathable fabrics as well as being soft, comfortable and strong. Moreover, thanks to the way that air is trapped between its fibres, it protects you from the summer heat and insulates you against the winter cold. That's why this classically cool Tigre Summer Patch Pocket Jacket from Aspesi is the perfect piece to take you from season to season.

Caring for cotton: Cotton can shrink when it’s washed and dried, so when you take it out of the washing machine (30 degrees or below), give it a gentle stretch back into shape before hang-drying. Iron your cotton pieces while they’re still a little damp to smooth all creases without damaging the fibres.

Aspesi Tigre Summer Patch Pocket Jacket, £345

#### Synthetic Synthetic fibres and fabrics are created using chemicals and include materials such as polyester, nylon and spandex. Manmade materials undergo complicated manufacturing processes that imbue them with wearable and practical enhancements like stain and wrinkle resistance, softness, stretch, strength and comfort. Thanks to innovative techniques, many synthetic materials can stand on parr with the quality of their natural counterparts.
Polyester

When people hear the word ‘polyester’, they usually imagine poorly made and poor quality clothes, but today’s polyester can be as comfortable to wear and more practical than many high quality, natural fibres. Chemical advances throughout the 1940s saw a boom in manmade materials – including polyester – thanks to their functional properties such as strength, comfort and stain resistance. This Selene Blouse from Paige is made from polyester but has a matte satin effect, showing just how premium polyester can be.

Caring for polyester: Because of the way it is made, most polyester is safe to wash in the machine on a warm wash and tumble-dry (but do check the label first). It’s often recommended to turn your garments inside out before washing as poly fabrics can easily snag. Polyester is also prone to static cling so use a fabric softener to help reduce this.

Paige Selene Blouse, £270

Nylon

Nylon was introduced to the world in fabric form in 1939 at New York's World Fair, used as an alternative to women's silk stockings. During the Second World War, almost all the nylon made was used for military purposes (such as parachutes). Today, however, we enjoy wearing nylon because it's moisture-resistant, supple, durable and relatively easy to care for. It's also great for outerwear and temperamental weather conditions, making this PS Paul Smith Gilet Liner a practical and stylish investment.

Caring for nylon: Thanks to its durability, many nylons can be put in the machine on a cool or warm wash and can be tumble-dried. To reduce wrinkles, remove from the dryer while the garment is still damp and gently steam.

PS Paul Smith Gilet Liner, £175

#### Semi-synthetic And finally, there's semi-synthetic materials, which combine the best of natural and synthetic fibres and fabrics. They include materials such as viscose, Tencel and polyblends, and many of them have environmentally-positive processes while also delivering on quality, durability and wearabiltiy.
Viscose

Viscose was invented in the late 19th century as a cheaper alternative to silk. Designers love this semi-synthetic fabric because of it's softness, it creates vivid colours, and it drapes beautifully - all perfectly exemplified in this Densita Long Sleeve Shirt Dress by MAX&Co.. As a lightweight and easy-to-wear fabric, it's ideal for the warmer months.

Caring for viscose: Select a delicate setting (cool temperature and low spin) on your washing machine, turn the item inside out and place it inside a mesh bag to avoid any snags or tears. Let it airdry and steam out any wrinkles.

MAX&Co. Densita Long Sleeve Shirt Dress, £170

Tencel

Tencel (also known as Lyocell) is a manmade fabric that comes from dissolving bleached wood pulp. It was developed in the 1970s and became popular in clothing thanks to its soft, strong fibres that are resistant to wrinkling and the way it hangs. Tencel fibres also boast botanic origin and sustainable production methods, making this Saturdays New York City Xavier Natics Print Short Sleeve Shirt as good for your wardrobe as it is for the environment.

Caring for Tencel: Tencel has the tendency to shrink on the first wash (approximately 3%) but won’t shrink further after that. Unless the label states that it is dry-clean only, the garment can be machine-washed on a gentle cycle with mild detergent. Line-drying is preferable to a tumble dryer, and if you need to ease out any wrinkles, use a very gentle steam setting on your iron.

Saturdays New York City Xavier Nautics Print Short Sleeve Shirt, £175

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_Image via Saturdays New York City. Please note: a__lways read the care label in your garments for directions on how to best care for them._