A guide to sustainable fabrics – which are best?

Sustainable fashion is a hugely important trend that we at Wearth are 100% behind. Fashion, and specifically fast fashion, is hurting our planet in horrendous ways from pollution to animal abuse via slavery and waste. It’s a backdrop to our daily lives that many of us want to escape. That’s why we’re turning to sustainable fashion brands.

Central to a fashion item being sustainable is whether it’s made from sustainable fabrics. Our choice of material determines how sustainable an item truly is. The production of different fabrics has different ethical and environmental impacts.

The first crucial step is to actively avoid animal-derived materials. Vegan fashion is an enormous step towards choosing sustainable fabrics. There are a range of different fabrics in the UK which we can now consider to be sustainable. However, it’s important to remember that all production impacts the planet. That’s why it’s always better to buy fewer higher quality items that will last for longer, than approach your wardrobe with a disposable attitude.

Organic cotton

Organic cotton is one of the most well-known sustainable fabrics. It’s often used as an alternative for animal fibres. Additionally, the organic farming process is better for the environment than conventional cotton as it uses less water and fewer pesticides.

Organic cotton is versatile and can be used in a range of products from reusable face wipes to your classic white tee.

Organic linen

Linen is a natural fibre which, when farmed organically, is sustainable. It comes from the flax plant and is considered one of the best sustainable fabrics in the UK. One of the factors which makes linen so sustainable is that it is so hard-wearing. It will last for a long time, yet is ultimately biodegradable. From produce bags to classic dungarees, linen is a wonderfully robust and attractive sustainable fabric.

Organic hemp

Hemp is generally considered to be a reasonably good fabric in terms of sustainability, especially if it is recycled. Hemp is a remarkable plant and can be used in a huge range of things from building materials to cosmetics, and yes, fabric for clothes.

Hemp grows incredibly easily without huge amounts of water and no pesticides are needed. Even better, growing hemp actually serves to fertilise the soil it is in. This classic fabric becomes gorgeously soft over time and we love it in dresses, shirts and trousers. We adore this Hemp Shirt Dress by Zola Amour.

Bamboo fabric

We are often asked if bamboo fabric is sustainable. The answer isn’t straightforward and depends on a number of different factors. In essence, bamboo can be a highly sustainable material. It grows easily, self-roots and doesn’t need loads of pesticides. However, it is largely produced in areas of the world where the production process is harmful to the environment.

Lyocell or Tencel is a type of bamboo fabric which is more sustainable than conventionally farmed and processed bamboo fabric. They are often favoured in luxury sustainable fashion items, such as this gorgeous Stidston Studio wrap top.

Tencel is made by taking the wood-pulp cellulose from the bamboo and uses closed loop technology – effectively recycling. This means that there’s minimal waste during production. Tencel is definitely high-achieving in the sustainable fabrics stakes, using less water and chemicals than organic cotton.

Bamboo silk is also a better option compared to traditional animal-derived silk and you see it in nightwear and pillows. Sustainable tulle fabric is currently hard to replicate, but bamboo silk goes some way towards this.

ECONYL

ECONYL is gaining a reputation as the sustainable stretch fabric of choice and, as such, can be used in things like activewear and swimwear. It’s a synthetic fabric, but it’s created by taking plastic waste and fishing nets and transforming them into a yarn. Fabric waste is a huge environmental problem so being able to take waste and make it useful in this way is recycling at its best.

Cupro

Cupro is fast becoming a favourite of the sustainable fabrics for fashion brands in the UK and with good reason. It’s a breathable and lightweight fabric which originates from cotton linter – part of the cotton plant which is usually discarded.

Cupro, like Tencel, uses a closed-loop process so that there’s no waste. It’s also completely biodegradable. Cupro is becoming hugely popular, not only because of its sustainability, but also because it hangs fabulously. This quality makes it really popular for dresses, such as in this Blonde Gone Rogue Asymmetry Sustainable Dress.

Deadstock fabrics

As we explained at the beginning, any newly made fabric will have some impact on the environment. This is impossible to avoid. Therefore it is important that we don’t waste fabric that is already made. Brands which use deadstock fabric create items using fabric that would otherwise go to waste. They are therefore making a more ethically sound decision.

When you choose deadstock items, you get very unique pieces as there won’t be vast production runs. It’s down to talented designers to create wonderful pieces from the deadstock fabrics they source, such as this beautiful Embroidered Midi Skirt by Rosana Exposito.

Recycled cotton

Similarly, recycling fabrics is an important choice when choosing sustainable fabrics. Cotton is hard-wearing and common. When farmed conventionally, it’s not great for the environment because it uses lots of water and chemicals. However, it’s therefore really important that we don’t waste the cotton that’s already in existence. Recycled cotton, according to the Higg Materials Sustainability Index, is actually more sustainable than organic cotton.

Just because it’s recycled doesn’t mean you shouldn’t expect high quality! See for yourself with this lovely Tabitha Eve Recycled Cotton Backpack or the striking Sakana Cushion Cover by Tikauo.

Piñatex

It’s not just soft fabrics for clothes and furnishings that we need. Accessories such as watches and bags often need tough and durable fabrics. This is where vegan leathers like piñatex come in.This is a leather-like fabric made using the leaf fibre from pineapples. It’s a food by-product and so reduces waste, and contributes to the pineapple farming communities.

Votch use piñatex in many of their watch straps, including their Black & Gold Classic Watch.

Choosing sustainable fabrics in items you buy

It is a complex decision trying to determine how sustainable a fabric is. All of the fabrics used in products at Wearth meet our highest standards of sustainability. By choosing any of our products, you can be sure you’re choosing items and brands which meet your desire to make better choices for the planet.

Check out our range of sustainable fashion for style that doesn’t cost the planet.