As fashion week kicks off in NYC, actually know what you’re talking about. Most people don’t consider all the resources that goes into making clothes. Oil, land, water, pesticides, chemical agents and dyes are all used to make fabrics. Becoming informed on what your clothes, shoes and accessories are made of is the first step to becoming an ethical and conscious consumer. And since this can be overwhelming, we’ve put together a list of the most common fibers to help you on your journey.
Soft, breathable and lightweight cotton is the most common fiber in clothing. It’s entirely biodegradable but uses 25% of the world’s pesticides. In fact, the chemicals used for treating, dyeing, printing and finishing the fiber is exhaustive and is often associated with child slavery. Organic cotton, on the other hand, is grown without the pesticides, but from seeds that haven’t been modified. If you’re going to buy cotton products, opt for organic cotton instead.
A synthetic insulated fabric made from other synthetic fibers. Fleece, usually seen in outdoor gear and activewear, is known for its lightweight and anti-perspiration properties.
Made from cotton, denim is the single most water wasting fiber out there. It uses 20,000 liters of water to make a single pair. When shopping denim, opt for sustainable denim brands instead.
Polyester is plastic from oil. They are non-biodegradable and can take up to 200 years to decompose.
The cool thing about velvet is it can be woven from any type of yarn.
Plant-based material, bamboo is easy to grow, meaning there is very little water and no pesticides used to create this fiber. Most bamboo clothing is grown and processed in China using the viscose process.
Linen is biodegradable, strong, and made from flax plant fibers. It’s great for absorbing moisture and all temperatures.
Leather, although great, is literally the skin of animals – more commonly of pigs, goats, crocodiles, snakes, fish, horses and dogs. It requires a lot of water and resources.
Wool is great breathable fiber derived from sheep. We recommend recycled wool.
TENCEL™ is a cellulose fiber from wood pulp off sustainable managed plantations. Made by Lenzing AG. Tencel, it is a great closed loop system and an excellent alternative to cotton and silk.
Viscose is made from wood pulp off regenerative trees like pine or eucalyptus. Once the cellulose is extracted from the trees, it’s spun into fibers that become threads. Some experts don’t suggest viscose because it is causing a lot of deforestation in places like Indonesia, Canada and the Amazon.
One of the most luxurious fibers out there, it is from the silk worm and known for its durability.
Nylon, created during WWII, is the world’s first synthetic fiber. Made from coal and crude oil, this plastic goes through an intense chemical process from start to finish to create durable, stretchy items.
PVC is heavily processed and made of plastic. It is weather-resistant and often seen in outdoor garments. It requires oil and lots of energy to come together.
The best fibers in our opinion are: recycled cotton, recycled wool, organic hemp, organic linen.
Photo via Liz Ciokajlo