Here is our Eco Fabric Guide!
Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a newbie to the world of sustainable fashion, knowing your eco fabrics make a huge difference when you’re adding new purchases to your closet. Our eco fabric guide will help you navigate your way through the increasing volume of eco fabrics you can choose from. Scroll through to discover our list of the most common eco-friendly fabrics.
Natural Eco Fabrics
Conventional cotton – or cotton laden with chemicals – has long been one of the most environmentally damaging crops in the fashion industry. However, organic and Fair Trade cotton provide an eco fabric alternative that doesn’t require the use of insecticides and pesticides. Being an incredibly labor intensive crop, choose the Fair Trade option as it ensures workers are payed fair wages and work in non-exploitative positions.
If you’re looking for a durable and strong fabric that is also incredibly soft, Hemp is the eco fabric for you. It is a high-yield crop that doesn’t require the use of pesticides and also helps promote overall soil quality in areas that it is grown. Hemp is considered one of the most eco friendly fabrics currently on the market.
Known as the strongest natural fiber, linen offers some amazing benefits such a moisture wicking and antibacterial properties. It is also thought to have some healing properties for those with dermatitis or arthritis. By purchasing organic linen you ensure a healthy on-going growing environment and the prevention of water pollution from the use of herbicides, pesticides, and insecticides.
ORGANIC / PIECE SILK
Traditional silk offers a biodegradable luxurious eco fabric option however, it is not vegan friendly. It is used in a variety of fashions from underwear to shirts providing the buyer a long term investment piece as it is known for its natural durability. Choosing a natural color – white, beige – helps to ensure the silk is not chemically dyed with synthetics. Alternatively, natural dyes can be used. A rise in Peace Silk now offers vegans the ability to safely purchase and wear silk but has yet to become mainstream.
Tip: Natural fabrics are bio-degradable but when laden with chemicals can cause havoc and the environment both during production, during its life and also after being discarded. Organic natural fabrics are the most eco-friendly and paired with Fair Trade initiatives ensure workers are provided a safe and fair wage paying jobs.
Synthetic Eco Fabrics
LYOCELL/TENCEL® (Closed Loop)
While lyocell comes from a natural product to obtain the fiber chemical processes must be used. It is therefore both natural and synthetic at the same time. Made from wood pulp, lyocell must be chemically broken down to obtain the fiber. If produced in a closed-loop system it can be an incredibly sustainable fiber. Additionally, after the garments lifecycle lyocell is both biodegradable and can be upcycled. (TENCEL® is a trademark name by Lencing for the lyocell fiber).
BAMBOO RAYON (Closed Loop)
Bamboo rayon – the soft fabric we have come to see in clothing and household goods – has been steadily growing in popularity based on its sustainable qualities and comfort for the wearer. Bamboo requires less water than traditional cotton, produces high yields and has no natural pests which means chemical use is minimal or non-existent. However, bamboo needs to go through what is known as the viscose process (which is the use of chemicals to transform the wood chips or bamboo into a substance which can then be spun into fibers). This process is what makes bamboo both a natural fiber but also a synthetic fabric at the same time. If produced in a closed loop system, bamboo fibers can be considered sustainable however, as approximately only 50% of the hazardous waste used to produce it can be recaptured the rest goes back into the environment.
MODAL (Closed Loop)
Like Lyocell, Lenzing Modal® is made from wood pulp but more specifically from beech wood. Lenzing Modal® also requires the use of chemicals to create the fiber necessary for weaving. It is often blended with cotton or other fibers but it is also not uncommon to find 100% modal in athletic wear. Due to its natural wicking abilities and insulating properties modal has been increasingly used within the fashion industry.
A popular choice among many eco fashion designers is the use of upcycled materials. Whether from natural fibers or rPET (recycled polyester) upcycling helps to eliminate the amount of waste after a garments first life-cycle. Additionally, many designers have now turned to transforming plastic bottles or other non-biodegradable materials into clothing and accessories. Using recycled materials also helps to lessen the natural resource output needed to grow virgin crops such as cotton or linen.
Tip: When choosing a garment made of lyocell or modal look for one that has been naturally dyed as it helps prevent further contamination of waterways from conventional chemical dyes.