Although there are plenty of materials used in fashion that are bad for the planet: like cotton, leather or polyester, there are also some hugely innovative materials that are treating the planet better. In case you haven’t heard of them, here’s a list below:
This is one of the many very cool alternatives to leather. 100% vegan, the bio-based leather is created by using the apple cores and apple skins from the industrial food industry, these cores and skins are reduced into powder and combined with polyurethane. It’s then coated onto a polyester and cotton canvas, and the durable, breathable and waterproof fabric is created. It’s much better for the environment than cow leather (obviously), and is much better than faux leather. This is because although faux leather is vegan, it still requires large amounts of fossil fuels to be produced.
Apple leather is an innovative, conscious material but unfortunately, does require a small amount of plastic for the materials’ longevity and durability. It’s a small price to pay in order to produce bio-based leathers, and as technology progresses, hopefully apple leather can be far less reliant on plastic.
If you’re not convinced by using apples to make your clothes, don’t worry. Check out these What on Earth brands, who are loving apple leather:
Econyl is a regenerated nylon product that is created entirely through landfill or ocean waste, including (but not limited to) old carpets, plastic bottles, fabric scraps and plastic fishing nets. This plastic waste often ends up killing huge amounts of marine life. Econyl reduces its environmental impact compared to regular nylon by 80%. You don’t have to compromise on quality either — ECONYL® is exactly the same as brand new nylon and it can be broken down and recycled over and over again without any impact on the quality of the finished product. The production process of regular nylon has several negative impacts on the environment because it’s an energy-hungry material which also requires copious amounts of water to produce and once it’s produced, nylon continues to harm the environment by shedding tiny micro-plastic fibres each time it is washed, which end up directly in local waterways. ECONYL® is a much better alternative since you can create new products without having to use new resources!
ECONYL® fabric is water resistant, crush resistant, strong and stretchy. That is why it is used mainly for sportswear/swimwear clothing. A few big brands such as Stella McCartney and Adidas have begun using ECONYL® too.
Two brands in the What on Earth family that are producing all kinds of fashion using ECONYL®:
3. Dead stock.
Dead stock materials are the “leftover” materials from the fashion industry. Materials can become obsolete because the companies or brands discover that, after cutting all their fabrics, they have more than they need for their collections, or these unwanted materials/garments may have slight damage/imperfections. Normally, these leftover fabrics would be chucked into landfill and left there, but some brands rescue them and turn them into new clothing. The combination of avoiding more materials going to landfill and no new materials being manufactured means that reusing deadstock is a great way to create new clothes while being kind to our planet Earth!
It’s definitely great that brands are finding ways of reusing materials to avoid them from going to landfill. However, it is crucial that brands increase their efforts into finding ways to minimise, if not completely eliminate, their fabric waste at their production process. Increasingly, we see brands using innovative ways to optimize their use of fabric, such as using pattern designs that minimise leftover fabrics as well as cutting their fabric using laser cutters that minimise cutting errors and as a consequence fabric waste. Of course, producing only what will be sold, is an even more important step towards minimising waste in the fashion industry. More and more brands are now producing their collections with a “made-to-order” concept which means that they will only produce the products that have been already bought.
Some of our brands that are reusing dead stock include:
4. Organic cotton.
Cotton is one of the most used fabrics in the world and sits high on the list for unsustainable materials. To put it simply, to grow enough cotton for one of your tshirts (one!!) it requires about 2,700 litres of water. Clean, fresh water is a luxury for many people in this world, and the sheer waste of water just for one cotton t-shirt is not sustainable. The production of cotton uses high numbers of pesticides, insecticides and other toxins, the heavy use of these raise health concerns for farm workers.
Instead, organic cotton is grown in rain-fed areas rather than extracting water from the ground and pesticides are banned in organic farming, creating a much more sustainable copy of cotton. The benefits of organic cotton include using 91% less water to produce and it is much softer than regular cotton since it hasn’t been treated with any chemicals, because it is a product of nature, and doesn’t use any artificial input like regular cotton does. If you need more convincing, click here to find out just how bad regular cotton is.
Take a look at what three brands with What on Earth are doing with organic cotton:
- Tucca designer towels are made from 100% organic cotton, which is of the highest quality and has been produced in a family factory in Portugal. Vogue, Vanitatis, Elle and Condè Nast Traveler, have also celebrated this organic, plastic-free local business.
- The Finet vision to creating fashion that is kind to the planet is to create collections made exclusively from organic materials, and designs that promote a more inclusive fashion.
- Hupit uses organic organic cotton, linen and vegan silk to produce locally in Barcelona their stylish sustainable collections.
5. Recycled polyester.
Yet another great idea for creating a sustainable fashion industry is recycled polyester. Unfortunately, regular polyester is really bad for the environment but is one of the most popular fabrics in fashion with approximately 52 million metric tonnes of polyester being produced annually worldwide. The production of polyester requires excessive water usage for the dyeing and cooling stages and for every kilogram of polyester created, 1.1kg of oil is used, which makes polyester one of the highest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. It relies on the use of chemicals and unsustainable dyes which pollute clean water supplies and isn’t biodegradable. It can take between 20 years and 200 years for polyester to break down.
For recycled polyester, no new materials are extracted for its creation, and instead uses recycled plastic bottles. It’s a great way to prevent further plastic waste ending up in our landfills, and allows the material to be recycled indefinitely without compromising the quality of the fabric. Recycled polyester is definitely a material to love, and you can see which products can be created with it below:
- Nael Swimwear have created a collection of swimwear sets that use deadstock fabrics and have the OEKO-TEX 100 certificates, certifying them free from harmful toxins or chemicals.
- Act And Be combine the use of recycled polyester as well as natural fibres such as organic cotton and bamboo fibres to ensure that their products are not made at the expense of the planet.