If you're looking to reduce your fashion consumption or purchase more sustainably, it can help to know your fabrics. The most sustainable option is to wear the clothing you already own or buy secondhand. However, we know that may not always be an option. So we have put together this guide listing some of the pros & cons of some popular sustainable fabrics to help you when choosing to purchase a new item of clothing.
PROS - The fabric is made from synthetic waste such as industrial plastic, waste fabric & fishing nets from the ocean. Using radical regeneration systems it recycles the waste back to its original nylon purity. The process forms a closed-loop - meaning no new raw materials are used & the waste can be infinitely recycled into new products. You can shop our new collection of swimwear made from ECONYL here
CONS - Washing ECONYL fabric can still release microplastics that may end up in the ocean. This can be avoided by washing your clothing in a guppy bag.
PROS - The cotton has been grown without synthetic chemicals & pesticides that can be very harmful to farmers & often end up polluting the waterways and land. Organic cotton is naturally biodegradable & maintains soil through crop rotation.
CONS - Organic cotton is a thirsty crop to grow. Whether or not organic cotton uses less water than non-organic cotton is still largely up for debate. It is estimated that all cotton requires 2,500 liters of water to make just one t-shirt.
PROS - Tencel is a cellulose fabric which is made by dissolving wood pulp. It is about 50% more absorbent than cotton and requires less energy and water to produce. The chemical solvent used in the process is also recycled in a circular system,
CONS - The fabric has a strong sensitivity to temperature so is not ideal for hot or humid environments.
HEMP & LINEN
PROS - Both natural fabrics (when organic) are biodegradable and use very little water, no pesticides, and natural fertilizers for the soil to grow in. Both fabrics are strong & versatile and come from renewable resources. They are considered some of the most sustainable fabrics available.
CONS - Hemp & Linen remains expensive and can be difficult to dye so the options for color are limited - but other than that it is difficult to find many cons.
PROS - Deadstock is a fabric that has been leftover from past season collections and textile mills. It's not uncommon for brands to incinerate this fabric or send it to landfills. Burberry caused outrage in 2017 when they incinerated £26.6 million worth of stock) When using deadstock gives it a second life and saves on greenhouse emissions.
CONS - It has a lack of traceability - with no labels meaning it can be difficult to tell what the fabric is made from and may have come from unethical sources.
FABRICS TO AVOID
Often referred to as sustainable, this fabric is a popular culprit of greenwashing. The fabric is made by dissolving cellulose - the fabric is biodegradable but the process involves highly toxic chemicals that are damaging to workers and the environment. Fast fashion brands often use it because it's cheap.
One of the most widely used fabrics. Polyester is non-biodegradable and can take up 200 years to break down in landfills. It is made from fossil fuels (plastic) and uses a large amount of water and chemicals in the process.
Mainly used for warmer items in winter, Acrylic production involves toxic chemicals that are dangerous to factory workers. The key ingredients (Acrylonitrile) is a highly toxic chemical and can be absorbed into your skin while wearing the fabric.