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Fabric Guide to Sustainable Fashion

Updated on September 10, 2012

Gone are the days when clothes had classic cuts and styles and were meant to last a lifetime, you can even preserve it for the next generation (as families often do). These days almost everything is disposable and that includes clothes. Almost every month there is a new fad and everything you bought a month ago would be outdated and for teenagers that is a big no-no. Even fabrics nowadays are not meant to last so some clothes made from them are not as durable as what our grandparents had during their time. And this is not helping our economy or our environment.  Finding the right things to wear without breaking the bank is difficult especially for those who have sworn off animal products or are looking for eco-friendly solutions. It is important to look for garment manufacturers and online stores who are offering a whole line of products professionally done, meaning durable, comfortable and fashionable enough but able to give you value for your penny. And of course, it is important to check for its eco-friendliness.

The eco-friendly fashion is now on the rise with people becoming more environmentally aware and is seeking other ways of practicing this. But having an eco-friendly clothes line is not that simple. It takes more than just having an eco-friendly tag on your clothes whether these are corporate uniforms, workwear and uniforms or an everyday tees and casuals. There are three things to consider when we say environmentally-friendly fabrics or materials.

  1. The renewability of the product.(does it take much time to plant or are they renewable grass)
  2. Ecological footprint of the resources – i.e. how much land is used to bring the plant to full growth and other natural resources required to sustain itself, land management practices, sustainable farming practices.
  3. How many chemicals it requires to make it ready for market. ( the toxic and harmful chemicals and the amount of each)

Organic Cotton
DT-DT200ORG Junior Ladies 100% Organic Cotton Perfect Weight Tee
DT-DT200ORG Junior Ladies 100% Organic Cotton Perfect Weight Tee

Let’s take a look at some of the eco-friendly fibers out in the market today and see. When out shopping take this information at heart because with the environmental issues we are facing today, time might come when we will have a hard time sustaining our fashion sense.

Organic Cotton: Organic cotton is grown using methods and materials that have a low impact on the environment. Organic cotton is grown without the use of toxic and persistent pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. Organic fabric breathes, making it comfortable and healthy in hot weather. It protects from UV rays. It can be finished to different quality of softness and it is pleasant to the skin especially as it does not have any chemicals. Most importantly, organic cotton is safe for the skin, your body largest organ. Holistic practitioners embrace organic cotton as having positive "chi" or energy, which can benefit people - especially those suffering or recovering from illness. Growing organic cotton is more difficult, more time consuming and takes more from you but on the whole is worth every effort because not only is it not environmentally damaging but you can be sure that what you put next to your skin is free from pesticides and toxic dyes.


Bamboo: Bamboo has been used for many years on other products but bamboo clothing is relatively new. It is easy to grow bamboo without pesticides and easily replenishes itself. The bamboo fiber is a type of viscose as it is a regenerated cellulose fiber. It interests many designers it moves freely and thus enhancing the style of the garment. The bamboo clothing is very soft and smooth with anti-static properties so it doesn’t cling to the body and drapes well. Bamboo clothing is very suitable for sensitive skin, since there are no harsh chemical treatments. It is also very comfortable and best of all 100% biodegradable.

Recycled Polyester: Unlike the regular polyester which is a by-product of processing oil, the polyester that is eco-friendly is made from recycled plastic bottles and even recycled polyester garments and fabric.


Organic Linen: Linen fabric is made from the flax plant. Linen is absorbent, and it conducts heat away from the body, making it an ideal fabric for warm weather. Producing organic linen is more labor intensive and time consuming than conventional linen but definitely worth the effort as the process is not environmentally damaging. The retting process to produce the conventional linen is not only environmentally damaging but also uses herbicides to control weeds.

Jute: Jute is a type of vegetable fiber used for thousands of years, with outstanding potential for the future. It is one of the most affordable natural fibres and is second to cotton for production, availability and usage. Jute fiber is 100% bio-degradable and recyclable and thus environmentally friendly. It blends well with other fibers including cotton and wool. Sometimes called Hessian Cloth which is coarse woven fabric made from jute or hemp.



Hemp: It is the name of the soft, durable fiber that is cultivated from plants of the Cannabis genus, cultivated for commercial use. It is an amazing natural fiber that has so many uses including water and soil purification and weed control. Although the use of hemp for fiber production has declined over the years still a modest hemp fabric industry still exists especially since processing developments have made it possible to soften coarse fibers to a wearable level. Hemp provides enormous benefit to the natural environment. This is true when used in products and when growing the hemp plant which can be done on the same field year after year with no negative impact.


Lyocell: This is a fabric better known for the brand name Tencel®, made from wood pulp or cellulose (vegetable matter) so it’s both recyclable and biodegradable. It’s noted for its strength and durability so aside from fabrics for clothing it has also been used for conveyor belts. Lyocell is used in quite a number of styles and finishes and since different companies make lyocell there are different looks in the material. Some lyocell clothing looks like denim while some approximate the look of suede. It can also be made to look like wool, rayon, cotton or poly/silk blends.

Soy Fabrics: The fabric from soy is made from the byproducts of soy oil processing. Its long fibers make it ideal for underwear as it makes it soft and silky, it is actually even softer than cotton.The only problem with this is making sure it is not blended with polyester and inorganic cotton and thus making it less eco-friendly fabric.

Calico: More often referred to as muslin, it is a fabric made from unbleached cotton.

These eco-friendly fibers are known to be healthy, breathable and easy to care for. Fabrics from these fibers are good alternatives as they are good materials for your clothes. Bamboo and soy fabrics add not only a comfortable feel to your clothes but also a flattering and pleasing touch to your skin. It also drapes well on your body without clinging or pulling. It also has natural antibacterial properties and the fabric "breathes". Hemp, bamboo and 100% organic cotton clothing are also very durable and last very long. Also, sustainable organic fibers allow your skin breathe which deters bacteria and body odor. Clothes made from these fabrics are good enough for the office, for a party and for activewear. They are cool in the summer and pleasantly warm in the winter making it suitable anytime, anywhere.


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      Aimee 2 years ago

      Oh there it is, scrolled past it.

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      Aimee 2 years ago

      Great list but where's the hemp?