The most sustainable fabrics in fashion
First of all, you may be asking what actually defines a sustainable fashion material. The core idea is that sustainable fabrics in fashion are derived from natural or eco-friendly sources, such as sustainably-grown crops.
However, you cannot define a sustainable fashion material only by the raw material it’s collected from; there are other considerations which must be accounted for. This includes how it’s produced into clothing: the dying, printing and finishing process. Also important is the item’s end of life – whether it is biodegradable or can be recycled. Want to know more? We offer the most ubiquitous examples of sustainable fabrics on the market, so you know what to look for the next time you want to buy a fair fashion item.
Recycled and dead stock fabric
One of the reasons recycled and dead stock material makes such great sustainable clothing fabric, is because neither has to be produced in the first place. Slow fashion pieces made from recycled material represent fabric which has had another chance at life, rather than being thrown into landfill. As for deadstock material, this is unused existing fabric that’s laying around in factories waiting to be thrown away. Thankfully, more and more sustainable fashion designers like Daniela Salazar are creating unique pieces with deadstock material, ensuring it will not go to waste.
Top tip: Slow fashion pieces made from recycled and dead stock fabric will most likely have a label indicating that this is what they’re made from.
As a sustainable fashion material, linen, has two major benefits. Firstly, it’s incredibly breathable. This means that it keeps you warm in winter and cool in summer. Secondly, it’s one of the most biodegradable fabrics because it is made from the stem of the flax plant. When compared to cotton, it’s a lot tougher and requires far less water to grow.
Top tip: When shopping for a linen slow fashion piece, be sure to avoid white linen, as it has to go through intense chemical bleaching. Instead, look for its natural tones of tan, ivory and grey.
Hemp is a fantastic example of a sustainable fabric because it’s so strong that it can also be made into bags and shoes. While it’s easy to giggle at the fact that hemp is made from cannabis, it’s time to look past the association with weed, because the material is one of the most sustainable fabric options available. Hemp grows incredibly fast, it doesn’t exhaust soil and it doesn’t require pesticides. It also produces more fibre than flax or cotton. Hemp is also similar to linen, meaning that it’s great to use in winter and, because it’s UV-resistant, it’s particularly great for the summer months as well.
Top tip: it’s important to search for muted tones because bright colours will certainly mean harsh dye chemicals have been used.
Honorable mentions: two sustainable fashion fabrics
Although recycled materials, deadstock fabric, linen and hemp are incredible examples of sustainable fabrics, there are two other sustainable fashion materials worth mentioning:
Tencel, also known as lyocell, is made from eucalyptus trees. The technology used to make it means no existing forests are wasted, no pesticides are used and little water is required as eucalyptus does not require much of the resource.
Cork is slowly becoming more available and for very good reason; not only is it a substitute for leather but it’s also a water resistant and totally recyclable material.
Header image: Getty Images
Image of rolls of deadstock fabric: Stocksy
Image of a woman wearing a linen suit: Getty Images
Image of pretty rolls of hemp: Shutterstock