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What Is Fleece And Is It Sustainable?

4 min read

What Is Fleece And Is It Sustainable?

What is fleece? 

Fleece is a type of fabric made with synthetic fibres designed to keep you cosy and cold-proofed through winter. There’s little chance you have never worn fleece or garments with fleece in them, as they’re a part of the everyday texture of fashion. Fleece is very comfortable and lightweight, and has insulating properties. Because it is composed of synthetic materials it is completely vegan, which is a major plus if trying to avoid wool.

Fast Fleece Facts

Modern synthetic fleece was invented in 1981 by an American textile maker, Malden Mills. It was a light fabric intended to imitate the warmth and texture of wool. As the textile maker elected not to patent fleece, it spread out into the wider world and grew in popularity. In 1981 polar fleece broke into the sportswear industry. By the 1990s, it hijacked American pop culture and fast fashion production lines. According to this bemused writer, fleece became synonymous with “total laziness”. By the early 2010s, they say, fleece was “primed for a comeback.” It arrived in the  form of reprised performance outerwear and designer collaborations.  

Cut to the 2020s and you’ve got a warm, unassuming fabric that can keep you warm inside and outside and requires little effort to style. Nothing says lockdown chic like a fluffy fleece

What is fleece made from? 

Fleeces are usually made from polyester, which is a plastic polymer derived from petroleum. Despite taking its name from the fur of animals like sheep, fleece is not usually made from wool. It’s a man-made material. 

However, there are various types of fleeces. These include: polar fleece, defined by its air pockets which help trap and insulate heat; french terry fleece, which is lightweight and much less fluffy; and sherpa fleece, which is a thickly woven, closer imitation of wool. At TWOTHIRDS, we mainly use sherpa fleece, although we also have some velvet fleece and terry fleece styles. Check out our Santa Luzia hoodie for an example of velvet fleece, which is actually made from 100% organic cotton. 

Is fleece sustainable? 

The short answer is no. Conventional fleece, while vegan, is not sustainable. But recycled fleece? Well that’s another topic entirely! The sustainability of fashion materials refers to the wise use of resources, the handling of waste, and the reduction of atmospheric impact. Conventional fleece fails on all three of those fronts because it’s made from virgin polyester, which comes from PET plastic. We all know that the world has a plastic problem - contributing to ocean and land pollution - and that’s no different for fashion. Cheap to produce, polyester is derived from fossil fuels, which means it has a large carbon footprint and contributes to global warming. In clothing, when washed, polyester sheds microfibres (microscopic plastic fibres) which then seep into waterways and eventually contaminate the ocean. Finally, polyester and plastic do not biodegrade, leading us to conclude that fleece doesn’t have an “end-of-life” plan. So, if you’ve ever seen a brand advertise polyester fleece as “ethical” on the grounds that it doesn’t harm sheep, you know they’re not telling you the whole truth. 

Eco Alternative - Recycled Fleece

Do you like fleece but are less keen on its pollutive properties? Then we think you’ll LOVE recycled fleece. It’s not the perfect solution, but it does bring several key benefits to the table. 

1. Recycled fleece is made from single-use plastics. This helps to find a second-use for plastic waste and reduce landfill.
2. Recycled fleece reduces fashion’s reliance on fossil fuels. You don’t need to distill any more crude oil to create recycled polyester fleece.


Sadly, it does still produce microfibres, which is why we try to use it in styles that don’t need to be washed regularly. These include sherpa fleece vests and jacket linings. We figure that if we want to make a coat feel nice and cosy but don’t want to rely on fossil-fuel based materials, recycled polyester is a good alternative. If washing a recycled polyester style, try to use a specially designed bag which will keep microfibres out of the waste water. Ideally, you’ll avoid machine washing it and spot clean instead.  

Finally, you should also remember that recycled polyester fleece is no more biodegradable than conventional fleece. This means it’s best to recycle it or give it away should you want to dispose of it at the end of the garment’s life.  

Recycled Sherpa Fleece - In Action! 

Recycled fleece is a feel-good fabric that we’re happy to use in our outerwear styles. We’ve handpicked three key fleece styles from our latest collection to give you an idea of how we like to put it to good use. See the Ikema for women for a comfortable fluffy jacket in a gorgeous green colour. Try the stylish Deer vest for men if what you’re looking for is to make use of this material’s insulating characteristics. Finally, consult the Navity jacket to enjoy double recycled sherpa fleece - in the interior lining and on the collar.