Where before you would be hard pressed to find even an organic option in your local clothing shop, at long last, fashion is going green. This presents a new dilemma: how to know which fabric is more sustainable than another? Should you buy linen or TENCEL™ LYOCELL? Is recycled polyester sustainable? To avoid an existential meltdown of oceanic proportions, TWOTHIRDS is here to soothe your sustainability stresses and give a simple overview of the best sustainable fabrics out there!
But first: these are the fabrics you’ll want to avoid.
- Polyester + synthetics
Which are unofficially the worst fabrics for the environment. Why? Cotton production is linked with land degradation, high emissions, and poor worker standards. Polyester + synthetics don’t biodegrade and are derived from planet-heating fossil fuels. Finally viscose is sourced from fast-growing trees that are not managed sustainably, resulting in rapid deforestation. Toxic chemicals are also used to dissolve the wood into pulp, which poses severe health risks to the unfortunate folks who have to handle said chemicals. To make matters worse, the production of viscose has also been linked with river and ocean pollution.
Don’t worry: each of the sustainable fabrics listed here provide a cleaner alternative to this toxic trio. Choose any of these sustainable materials and you can’t go wrong.
Cotton is lightweight, breathable and plant-based; 3 reasons it continues to be one of the most popular fibres in the world. However, recycled cotton offers all of those benefits - without the high environmental impact. Take Recover™ recycled cotton, which we started using at the beginning of 2022! Recover™ fibre is produced using the bits and pieces that are leftover from garment production, as well as some post-consumer clothing. These base materials are shredded and machine recycled. Machine recycling is fairly harmless to the environment as it requires minimal energy, zero chemicals, and no extra water.
Wondering if organic cotton is better? Though far more widespread - and certainly a good sustainable fabric alternative to regular cotton - organic cotton loses out to recycled cotton on several fronts. For starters: it’s always more sustainable to make use of what exists rather than making something else from scratch. That eliminates the need to use up more resources, and reduces the fashion system’s unhealthy reliance on landfill. Sustainable fabrics don’t get much better than that!
On the other hand, machine recycled cotton does tend to be of poorer quality than organic cotton, meaning it can end up being combined with other recycled fibres.
One of the most recognisable and celebrated sustainable fibres on the market, TENCEL™ lyocell is leading the eco revolution! Made in a closed-loop system that recycles both water and 99% of solvents (chemicals used to dissolve wood into pulp), TENCEL™ has won an award for its eco-friendly processes. This sustainable material is almost exclusively sourced from certified sustainably managed forests, and involves no ancient or endangered tree species. As if this wasn’t enough, this botanic fibre also feels incredibly soft and smooth - unlike anything else we had worn before.
A must for anybody serious about reducing the environmental impact of their fashion choices, it even biodegrades.
TENCEL™ X REFIBRA™
Didn’t think TENCEL™ lyocell could get any better? Well, it just did. Made by the same Austrian company, TENCEL™ X REFIBRA™ fibres are a blend of virgin TENCEL™ and (at least) 20% cotton waste scraps. Its eco credentials are therefore twofold: not only saving waste but upcycling it into an even better textile. This one would have a fair claim to topping our list of the most sustainable materials on the market.
LENZING™ ECOVERO™ Viscose
Remember the pollution and health impacts of viscose production? This fibre is the answer. Viscose is loved for its soft and silky feeling that blends natural properties with synthetic durability. With ECOVERO™, the CO₂ impact is reduced by 50%, it is sourced from sustainably managed forests and the social effects of the solvents are avoided through chemical recovery. That makes this form of viscose safer for people, plants, and planet.
Little wonder that LENZING™ ECOVERO™ Viscose is certified with the EU EcoLabel for textiles that involve “limited use of substances harmful to health and environment, reduction in water and air pollution (and) colour resistance to perspiration, washing, wet and dry rubbing and light exposure.” An excellent addition to our list of sustainable fabrics and sustainable materials.
Click here for more insight into the three botanic fibres mentioned above.
TENCEL™, LENZING™, ECOVERO™ and REFIBRA™ are trademarks of Lenzing AG.
We love recycled wool. It’s more savvy with existing materials, reduces emissions impacts, and feels great to wear! Most of our recycled wool comes from French and Italian mills that specialise in the production of low impact fibres. They are often blended with other used materials to create higher quality textiles that last longer. Wool itself requires little maintenance and washing, making it more environmentally friendly than fibres that get dirtier faster. The perfect sustainable fabric for winter clothing.
ECONYLⓇ Regenerated Nylon
Worried that your swimwear is bad for the environment? If it’s made from 100% virgin synthetics, sadly it is. ECONYLⓇ Regenerated Nylon provides the answer. An exemplary case of eco innovation, ECONYLⓇ source their synthetic fibres from industrial waste, fabric scraps, and even ghost nets which are found drifting in the sea.
The result is sustainable fabrics that wick moisture, dry fast, and can withstand ocean conditions. As it is effectively recycled (ECONYLⓇ prefer the term “regenerated”, because it is chemically recovered), this means lower emissions, no fossil fuel distillation and extra points for reducing the need for polyester and polyamide in fashion. Wohoo!
Arguably the most sustainable fabric available to us, deadstock is a broad term for rolls of fabric that have either been pre-ordered by other brands only to go unused, or are left-over after a production run has finished. What others would see as waste, we see as an opportunity for greater sustainability. That’s because the immediate impact of deadstock fabrics is technically zero - as the fabric already exists so no further damage can be done, no water wasted, and no energy burned. Naturally, there are emissions involved in the making of the clothing, but these are few compared to those normally produced at the material stage. Adopting a waste-not-want-not approach helps us craft beautiful garments in limited quantities for an extra special feeling. It also avoids landfill and fashion waste. Deadstock materials are some of our favourite sustainable fabrics.You can read more about our Limited Edition deadstock garments here.