The Top 8 Sustainable Fashion Materials for Clothing Brands

As you and your team plan the next season, consider some of the most sustainable fashion materials reshaping the industry and choose the best option for your brand.


1. Recycled and Organic Cotton

Cotton is one of the most used fabrics because it is lightweight and breathable, the perfect combo for fashion staples. However, producing and dying conventional cotton can be a chemical-intensive process. It often requires a lot of pesticides that can damage the soil and affect the farmers who grow it.

Both organic and recycled cotton are sustainable alternatives that have become much more common in recent years. Organic cotton does not require synthetic substances and all farming techniques are natural. Recycled cotton is made from post-consumer or post-industrial cotton waste, helping to keep clothing fabric out of landfills and remove harmful chemicals. Collectively, both cotton varieties aim to minimize the environmental impact of routine cotton production while reducing water and energy consumption.

2. Organic Hemp

Hemp is one of the oldest fibers around, and it is incredibly versatile in food, cosmetics, building materials, and fabrics. Hemp requires minimal water and no pesticides, which is why it is popularly grown and cultivated all over the world. Hemp also fertilizes naturally in the soil it grows in, making it much more sustainable than other crops.

When it comes to hemp-made fabrics, they keep you cool during the sweltering summer months and warm during the frigid winter season. And unlike polyester or other synthetic fibers, hemp gets softer with every wash.

3. Organic Linen

Similar to hemp, linen is another natural fiber that has been around for generations. Linen derives from the flax plant, which can be grown without fertilizer and requires very little water. Linen can grow in poor-quality soil, and the entire plant is used (seeds, oil, crop), so nothing goes to waste. Linen is typically made for bedding materials because it is strong, moth-resistant, biodegradable, and made without any dyes. Additionally, organic linen repels moisture and withstands high temperatures to combat sweat, bacteria, or airborne pathogens.

4. Recycled Polyester

We previously mentioned polyester as a harmful fabric, but recycled polyester is made from plastic bottles that are compacted and broken down into small fibers. This fabric helps divert plastic from our landfills and can continually be recycled. Recycled polyester production requires far fewer resources than new clothing fibers and generates far less CO2 emissions. Recycled polyester is a great alternative for underwear and athleticwear that can’t be made entirely from natural fibers. Plastic bottles are easy to throw away, but even better to throw on  — just ask Girlfriend Collective.

5. Tencel

For those looking for something a little more futuristic, Tencel is a lightweight fabric derived from cellulose fibers that come from dissolving wood pulp. Tencel is a branded version of lyocell produced by the Austrian company Lenzing, said to be nearly 50 times more absorbent than cotton. Lenzing uses eucalyptus wood, sustainable practices, and responsible sourcing to create its fabrics with far less water and energy than traditional fashion production. Plus, the chemicals used to make the fiber go through what’s called a closed-loop system, meaning the solvents are recycled to reduce harmful waste.

6. Piñatex

The debate continues on whether fashion brands should continue producing animal leather or switch to vegan leather. Thankfully, Piñatex is a stylish and sustainable alternative to animal byproducts and waste-producing textiles. It was first developed in 2017 using fibers from pineapple leaves. Because it is made from whole foods, it is a natural, cruelty-free replacement for leather that reduces waste and helps revitalize the communities that grow pineapple.

7. Econyl 

Another up-and-coming recycled fabric is Econyl. Introduced by Aquafil as an alternative to nylon, this sustainable fashion material uses industrial plastic, waste fabric, and fishing nets from the ocean and regenerates them into a new form of nylon yarn that matches the exact quality of regular nylon. This regeneration process also forms a closed-loop system, using less water and creating far less waste than traditional nylon production. The waste collected is first cleaned and shredded to extract the nylon, then it is polymerized, transformed into yarn, and re-commercialized into textiles.

8. Qmonos 

Did you know spider silk could be used to create sustainable fashion materials? Spiders are more than scary eight-legged arachnids; they are a key contributor to the world of sustainable fashion trends. Qmonos is a biodegradable material made from silk genes and microbes without actually using any spiders. Proteins like spider silk are part of the next-generation of sustainable fashion materials pushing the industry forward. Qmonos is said to be stronger than steel while retaining a lightweight, flexible feel. And once again, spiders are not farmed during the manufacturing process, making Qmonos an ethical alternative to ordinary silk.

Bonus Sustainable Fabrics

If you still haven’t scratched your sustainability itch, there are plenty more fashion materials to choose from that are always sustainably sourced, including:

  • Cork
  • Organic bamboo
  • Modal
  • SCOBY leather
  • Apple leather
  • Woocoa
  • QMilk
  • S.Cafe
  • EcoVero
  • Reclaimed deadstock

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