Interview about an absolute favorite material
Linen is not only a classic material with a great feel, it is also an all-round talent when it comes to sustainability. Similar to hemp, it can be grown without pesticides, requires little to no fertilizer in cultivation and, thanks to its particular fibers, has both a cooling effect in summer and a drying and warming effect in winter. Reason enough, then, for the material to accompany us step by step with our latest models.
Cosima Meyer, material developer at Wildling Shoes, tells us why we like working with it so much and what we always wanted to know about linen.
Cosima, what exactly is linen?
Linen is a bast fiber obtained from the stems of the flax plant. The basic building block of the fiber is 70 percent cellulose, and it also contains plant glue and waxes, among other things. All in all, the material has been with us for a very long time: people have been using linen for thousands of years and, along with wool, it was the most important raw material for textiles until the 19th century.
What are the most important characteristics of the fiber?
Well, there are actually quite a few. Linen has a cooling effect, is breathable, permeable to air and regulates moisture - due to its molecular structure, for example, linen can absorb up to 20 % of its own weight in moisture before it feels damp. Additionally, it is long-fibred, smooth, firm and has a natural sheen. And it is a particularly suitable material for lovers of the great outdoors: as a natural "germ killer", it is antistatic and therefore dirt-repellent - ideal for all kinds of weather.
Linen is considered to be especially sustainable - can you explain why?
Since flax plants require little water and fertilizer, linen can boast of being eco-friendly. The manufacturing processes are also much more environmentally friendly nowadays than in the past. As a pure natural product, linen is also much easier to recycle and reuse than a blend of materials.
What's more, the biodegradable material is a domestic natural fiber that can be grown regionally in Europe and processed directly - unlike cotton, for example. And the fiber has another advantage over classic cotton: it consumes significantly less water.
In ecological agriculture in particular, cultivation is very successful thanks to the natural sequence of nutrient removal and nutrient recycling.
Why is linen a suitable material for making shoes?
Because it is very well-equipped for the demands of daily wear and tear: it is cooling, breathable, moisture-regulating, and at the same time dirt-repellent and air-permeable - in other words, a real all-rounder for use in minimal shoes.
In the new models like Lanka, or Eden from the Refoxed collection, you have mixed linen with cotton - what is the advantage of mixing materials?
Because, as always in life, there are two sides to the coin. Among its many advantages, linen has the disadvantage that it is not as resistant to abrasion. The ideal solution for this is a mix with robust cotton - the best of both worlds, so to speak.
Why is the fiber especially suitable for spring/summer?
All of our feet start to sweat in the summer. The inside of the linen fiber has the ideal property of absorbing a lot of moisture (up to 35% humidity!) and then slowly releasing it to the outside. As a result, the fabric feels dry for a long time, even during heavy perspiration. On top of that, the material has a pleasantly cooling effect due to its smooth surface.
Where does the linen fiber we work with come from?
We only work with linen of European origin.
How do you care for linen so that it stays beautiful for a long time?
We recommend thoroughly applying a protective spray on the shoes before wearing them for the first time and treating them regularly. Dirty shoes are best beaten out and, if necessary, carefully brushed dry or gently cleaned with a damp cloth. But be aware: shoes with linen content are not machine washable.
What did you look for during product development of the new linen models?
The linen models are as different as tastes are different. Our Beaver and Eden have returned as Refoxed models, so they are old and welcome acquaintances. In the Lanka model, we have paid attention to a proven, reduced design with good summer properties, dispensed with padded edges and significantly reduced the use of microfiber.
What is your personal favorite linen model at Wildling Shoes?
Our Lanka – because it's simply the way nature intended it to be.
Cover image: Flax fibers in various shades of color, Nora Tabel | Wildling Shoes