Every piece of clothing has an impact on the environment. Nowadays, more conscious consumers are realising that they can no longer justify the myriad of negative impacts that textile industries have on our earth. For this reason, the demand for more vegan and sustainable fabrics is increasing. Some brands have already adopted more sustainable textile innovations, such as organic cotton, pineapple leather or eco-friendly plant-derived options.
A genuinely cruelty-free wardrobe is one that avoids adverse impacts on animals, people and the environment. There is a wonderful array of vegan textiles that are genuinely sustainable. This is my list of vegan fabrics to build your sustainable vegan wardrobe with.
What Fabrics are Vegan and Sustainable?
Sustainable Vegan Fabrics
Linen is one of the most biodegradable and stylish fabrics in fashion history. It is strong, naturally moth resistant, and made from flax plant fibres, so it is fully biodegradable. It’s natural colours include ivory, ecru, tan and grey. Linen can withstand high temperatures, making the fabric generally perfect for raiding the jungle or lounging on a tropical island. It absorbs moisture without holding bacteria. In fact, it is actually stronger when wet than dry and becomes softer and more pliable the more it is washed. It just gets better and better!
Soysilk is an emerging new fibre that is increasing in popularity in sustainable fashion circles. Also know as vegetable cashmere, soysilk is a relatively new fibre that has been created from soybean waste left over from the production of soy food industry. The manufacturing process takes waste soy residue from the processing of soybeans for food products such as tofu, therefore making use of a resource that would otherwise go to waste. It is completely biodegradable, making the impact on the environment minimal.
Pineapple Leather and Other Sustainable Vegan Leathers
Conventional vegan leather is extremely toxic textile that leaches harmful chemicals as it degrades. It can never be considered sustainable, but unfortunately, many vegan brands portray it this way.
Luckily, several sustainable designers and manufacturers are experimenting with using renewable and biodegradable resources such as pineapple leather, kombucha and cork leather. We already talked about the pineapple leather. In order to create this sustainable fabric, the farmers who work in the Philippines plantations extract the fibres from pineapple leaves. It is completely biodegradable. It has been adopted by quite a few vegan shoe brands already and is worth seeking out. Kombucha leather is a new development and may increase in availability, so it is worth looking out for. Cork leather is relatively new to the fashion world. Cork is a water-resistant, renewable and completely recyclable material. Made from cork oak trees that keep on regenerating after being harvested each decade.
Hemp fiber is naturally one of the most environmentally friendly fibers and also the oldest. It is naturally pest-resistant, and it grows so densely that no other plants can grow around it. It requires little or no fertiliser and returns 60-70% of the nutrients it takes from the soil . Hemp is beautifully soft and is growing in popularity. Similar to linen in a few ways, it also comes from the stem of the plant, keeps you warm in winter and cool in summer, and has a similar texture in its pure form. It is also a highly UV-resistant fabric, so it makes great beachwear. Naturally pest-resistant hemp requires no pesticides, herbicides or fungicides, little water and a relatively small amount of land to cultivate.
We have already discussed the benefits of organic cotton clothing. Organic cotton is cotton that is produced and certified to organic agricultural standards. Its production sustains the health of soils, ecosystems and people by using natural processes rather than artificial inputs. Importantly organic cotton farming does not allow the use of toxic chemicals or GMOs (genetically modified organisms). Instead, it combines tradition, innovation and science to benefit the shared environment and promote a good quality of life for all involved. . More advantages to using organic cotton include: It is Hypoallergenic. It does not cause any allergy or irritation when it touches human skin. Next, it helps lock CO2 into the soil, helping mitigate climate change. Last but not least, It avoids potentially toxic pesticides, preventing the associated health problems and deaths common in non-organic cotton production.
TENCEL (Lyocell and Modal)
TENCEL® is the brand name for the popular lyocell or modal type fabric produced by Austrian company Lenzing AG. This light and versatile material is a cellulose fibre made by dissolving wood pulp, and it has exploded in popularity in recent years. As it is 50% more absorbent than cotton, its superior moisture-wicking and anti-bacterial properties make it ideal for use in activewear. Requiring less energy and water than cotton, Tencel is also biodegradable and according to Lenzing, sourced from sustainably managed eucalyptus plantations.
These are just some of the most vegan and sustainable fabrics that already exist. However, the fashion industry is moving towards more eco-friendly options and new materials are cropping up all the time.
From today onwards, next time you go shopping consider one of these vegan and sustainable fabrics to do right by people, the planet, and of course our animal friends.
Written by Sabrina Licata