To many, fashion is one of the most glamorous and influential industries in the world, but it’s also one of the most environmentally damaging. To maintain a balanced clothing ecosystem and uphold the principles of sustainability, there is a growing urgency to shift towards the use of sustainable fabrics. This isn’t a new concept, of course, from upcycling old jeans into shorts and using the excess for patches to dyeing clothes with fruit. The impact of trying to be eco-friendly by creating clothing through existing pieces is definitely a great start. When you create clothing with environmentally conscious fabrics on top of that, it’s a huge help to the planet. Traditional fabrics tend to use damaging chemicals and massive amounts of water.
Traditional textiles like cotton and polyester often require 93 billion cubic meters of water. Common Objective reports that energy, and chemicals in textile production can lead to water pollution, habitat destruction, and excessive carbon emissions. Sustainable fabrics, such as organic cotton, hemp, Tencel, and recycled materials offer a way to reduce those destructive results. Imagine a world where all consumers, designers, and major brands prioritize what fabrics have the least environmental impact, there would be a plethora of changes in the way we’d see overall on the planet.
It’s important to note where the fabrics are coming from in the clothing you wear. Consumers and designers alike are both contributors to the detriment of the planet. Together, we can take the necessary steps to reduce our overall carbon footprint by educating ourselves on materials that are innovative, comfortable, and significantly better for the well-being of our planet and the shape we live it in for future generations. Brands like Mara Hoffman, Collina Strada, Everlane, and more are household names that are gladly embracing sustainability as a part of their businesses. We’re hopeful others will soon follow suit.
Below you’ll find innovative fabrics that are changing the way clothes and accessories are made.
Mushroom leather, or mycelium-based leather, offers numerous benefits: it’s sustainable, biodegradable, and cruelty-free which means it reduces environmental impact. This innovative material is eco-friendly, reducing the fashion industry’s environmental footprint. Since fungi reportedly grow well in dark, mild climates in two weeks, it is directly different from cowhide which is only created with human labor, water consumption, chemicals, and wastage over a few years, reports British Vogue. It is known for its versatile capabilities which allow for unique, customizable, and stylish designs, while its biodegradability ensures a more sustainable future. By embracing mushroom leather, designers can lead the way in eco-conscious fashion.
The global market for synthetic leathers is expected to reach $67 billion by 2030, according to a source for data and analytics, Research and Markets, mushroom leather is an alternative designers should catch onto early. For example, biotechnology company MycoWorks’ mushroom leather is a material that rivals exotic hides. The New York Times reports that MycoWorks has collaborated with brands like Hermès. “If you think of the triple-helix collagen structure of an animal hide, mycelium has a three-dimensional network structure that we’re also working with that gives it its strength,” said Sophia Wang of MycoWorks.
Hemp is known for its durability, and natural resistance to mold and UV rays, making it ideal for clothing. This sustainable and biodegradable textile made from the Cannabis sativa plant requires minimal water and pesticides for cultivation. It also produces 220% more fibers than traditional cotton, according to The Guardian. Designers can incorporate hemp fabric into their creations by blending it with other materials, such as organic cotton or recycled polyester, to enhance its texture and strength. Hemp can be used to create casual apparel to high-end fashion like brands Mara Hoffman and Pangaia.
Conscious consumers and designers alike can look to hemp fiber if they’d like to lean into being environmentally responsible. This material is notably carbon negative and it can be produced with half the amount of water and land in comparison to cotton. Previously in the ‘80s hemp fibers had a coarse texture and weren’t used in clothing–but now it is porous and quite similar to linen. Hemp has been used by labels like Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren and Armani.
Econyl fabric, by Aquafil, a global leader in the synthetic fibers industry is a sustainable and innovative material made from regenerated nylon waste like discarded fishing nets, fabric scraps, and industrial plastic waste. According to Vogue Business, this material can be “broken down” and “recreated repeatedly” while offering significant reductions in CO2-equivalent emissions. It can be incorporated into swim and activewear as well as high fashion pieces if designers would like to incorporate it. Designers can also use Econyl as the main fabric or combine it with other sustainable materials to create stylish and eco-friendly collections, making a positive impact on the environment while delivering high-quality, fashionable products.
Some designers like Richard Malone are already using Econyl to create collections. Other brands who are also embracing it as well are Gucci and Prada.
Tencel, also known as lyocell, is a fully biodegradable fabric made from wood pulp, typically sourced from eucalyptus, beech, or spruce trees which are solvents. This fabric recycles 99.8% of solvents, per Two Thirds, the production process is environmentally friendly, using a closed-loop system that recycles the solvent and minimizes waste. Tencel fabric is known for its softness, breathability, and moisture-wicking properties, making it comfortable to wear and the perfect candidate for designers to start using.
Mara Hoffman is a brand that’s been known to prioritize sustainability so, it’s no surprise she’s already been using Tencel. As the fabric is breathable and lightweight, Hoffman’s use of this material is a testament to it being an excellent choice for designers.