The world is turning to sustainable options for all sorts of needs, & fashion is no exception to this rule! More & more fabrics are being praised for the sustainability & eco-friendliness that they provide, & there is decreasing focus on the actual appearance of the fabric. While it is fantastic that we are caring more about the planet, it is also important to find fabrics that fit our fashion needs as well.
Sometimes, more sustainable fabrics look less expensive or less valuable than unsustainable ones. This is a huge barrier that can make it even more challenging to commit to sustainable practices. As important as it is to make sustainable choices, it is definitely also important to find a fashion that works for you. I put together a list of 12 sustainable fabrics that also look expensive so you can find what works for you!
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I am starting out this list with organic linen because it is a true classic! Linen has been around for centuries, & it comes from a plant you have probably heard of either for fashion or diet reasons: the flax plant. Even better than some other plants that are used for fabric, you can actually use the entire flax plant when it is harvested so nothing goes to waste. Additionally, flax plants enrich the soil where they are planted.
As I mentioned before, linen has been around for quite some time. However, it is quite lucky that it is also currently in fashion. Stylish linen has become an expensive look, in part due to how well it keeps you cool in warm weather. Linen products can be worn all year round & last much longer than cotton so you can look great while supporting the planet during every season.
Econyl is an entirely different style of fabric from linen. It is synthetic & crafted by a firm called Aquafil. Because it is crafted instead of grown, the firm has a lot of opportunities to make choices that are healthy for the planet. Econyl looks identical to nylon but it is much more sustainable.
- Econyl uses less water.
- It creates less waste.
- It also is biodegradable.
Econyl is used for stylish swimwear & sportswear so you have a healthy alternative to nylon. Because nylon is used for so many things, there are actually a lot of expensive-looking products using this substitute. Especially now that leisure wear is fashionable, Econyl fabrics can create an expensive & elegant look.
Silk may not be the most sustainable fabric, but it has some perks that allow it to outshine more common materials like cotton. Of course, we know how elegant silk fabrics look on any occasion.
Silk is known for being strong but light. It is also biodegradable, due to its being created in nature or natural settings. It requires much less water than cotton, a huge plus for sustainability.
If I told you that you could buy a fabric made from spider silk that was manufactured by a company that neither harmed nor farmed spiders, you may think I was joking. Qmonos does just that, however.
Synthetic silk is produced by bioengineering bacteria, but it creates a product that works as a perfect substitute for petroleum-based fabrics.
Qmonos is stronger than steel, & the company that creates it, Spiber, has partnered with the North Face to use its material for extreme sports & outdoors wear. Spiber is also working to create more synthetic fibres that are:
- Vegan fibers
There will likely be partnerships in the future as well.
This is a timeless but controversial option, but I think it is important to include leather on the list. Although you would want anything you wear to look brand new, it is always an option to wear second-hand leather so you can benefit from its eco-friendly traits without contributing so heavily to the supply chain that is less eco-friendly.
- Leather is known for being sustainable.
- It is almost infamous for how hard it is to wear out.
- Worn leather is as stylish as fresh apparel if you find the right items, like work boots or a wallet.
Leather also gets sustainability points because many communities that wear leather to withstand extreme climates use it as part of an entire animal that they are not wasting.
While leather is made from animals, there is so much gently worn & preowned leather already on the market from previous decades. You can find second-hand leather without supporting the industry that kills animals for human clothing.
In fact, I tend to think reenergizing old leather instead of letting it sit gathering dust can honour the animals who gave their lives to create it.
It would not be fair to talk about leather without also offering a suggestion for a vegan alternative that looks as great & still provides the durability that makes leather so popular. Pinatex is made by Ananas Anam, a certified B Corp so you can rest easy if you choose their products for environmental reasons. Even cooler, Pinatex is made from pineapple leaf fibre that would otherwise go to waste.
Pinatex is made to look & feel like leather, & it even comes in many different colours so you can pick a style that works for you. It is soft & pliable which means it also provides great comfort. You can choose a custom finish similar to that of natural leather, or you can pick one that appears more metallic & smooth.
This option may be more fun than practical, but kombucha leather has also hit the fashion industry & been on the runway! You may have heard of kombucha as a beverage that is good for gut health. It is made by fermenting tea with the help of something called a SCOBY, a pancake of yeast & bacteria cultures.
Scientists did some experimenting with SCOBY & found that they could use it to create a vegan leather alternative. SCOBY is a natural byproduct of kombucha brewing so this use is highly sustainable. However, the life of a kombucha leather outfit does not last very long. You may wear your sweater through in just a couple of months!
Bamboo is another fabric that has some controversy behind it, but the things that make it questionable are generally related to how bamboo is being grown, not the fabric itself. Bamboo is stretchy & strong so it is frequently used for undergarments & also for sheets.
The fashion industry has been looking at bamboo a lot recently so if growing regulations are made & enforced, it can easily be a commonplace fabric of the future. For now, though, it is seen as an expensive luxury to have any bamboo textile items, in part because of their qualities of moisture-wicking, thermo-regulating, & hypoallergenic.
Because bamboo is a controversial fabric as well that definitely has its faults, I want you to have an alternative that is more clearly sustainable. Tencel is a great bamboo alternative because it has many of the same great properties as bamboo but cuts out the growing problems.
It is known for being soft & comfortable for wearers, & you can find it in anything from intimates to dress wear. It can definitely be described as a luxury fabric for looks & effect.
Cashmere is a classic fabric that is always seen as stylish. A winter cashmere sweater will keep you warm & cosy on snowy days, & it is soft & smooth so you are not going to feel itchy while wearing it.
The main downside to cashmere is that it is sourced from goats that are typically treated poorly. Although many people decide not to buy cashmere at all because of this, there are options for cashmere clothing where the animals are treated well & have fulfilling lives.
If you live somewhere cold, you may want to invest in an alpaca wool sweater. Alpaca wool is soft & warm. It does not scratch like traditional wool, & it is often compared to cashmere in its cosiness.
Most alpaca wool today comes from Peru, where farmers tend to respect their animals & raise them humanely. While some people may choose to stay away from all fabrics that are not vegan, it is more likely with alpaca wool than many other fabrics that the animals who donated the wool were treated well their whole lives.
Woocoa was designed to be a sustainable alternative to wool, & they decided to make it vegan as well. Woocoa has several key components:
It was engineered in a lab in Colombia by students & has won awards for its sustainability.
Woocoa was developed by a team that was inspired by how much waste was produced by the medical marijuana industry. They decided to use the waste to help the planet, & here we are!
Wrapping it All Up.
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