24 Sep

Here Are The Six Most Sustainable Vegan Fabrics

Veganism is reportedly one of the fastest growing movements in the world. While most people think of it as a diet, it is actually a lifestyle that seeks to exclude the use of animals and their byproducts where practicable and possible. This means vegans don’t wear animals, either! In an industry riddled with leather jackets, fur coats, cashmere sweaters and woolen scarves, animal-free fashion may seem like a far off dream. But it’s not as far fetched as all that.

In fact, as animal agriculture is one of the leading causes of greenhouse gas emissions, water usage, and deforestation worldwide, innovative alternatives to traditional materials are being released all the time in a market that is striving to keep up with shifting trends. Gone too are the days when going vegan meant going out head to toe in plastic. As more conscious consumers are realising that they can no longer justify the myriad negative impacts that animal use has across the board, the demand for sustainable vegan fabrics is at an all time high.

From organic cotton to pineapple leather, next time you go shopping instead consider one of these sustainable vegan fabrics to do right by people, the planet, and of course our animal friends.

Natural Fibres

Organic Cotton

Conventional cotton is one of the thirstiest and most chemical-intensive crops to grow, with devastating effects on not only the environment but the workers, too. Thankfully the fashion industry has cottoned on to the benefits of GOTS cotton, which minimises environmental impact by removing the use of cancer-causing pesticides and other chemicals in the production process, and instead focuses on a holistic process that puts sustainability first. Cotton is also better for your body – being a natural fibre, it is very breathable, so we recommend it as the perfect fabric for your skin skimming basics, from t-shirts to underwear.

NOTE: When buying products made of cotton, look out for certified organic labelling, and make sure it isn’t a blend fabric.

Vege Threads

Rated: Great

Organic Classic Tee in White – Shipping internationally from Australia

Vege Threads is ECA certified and makes all of its clothing in Australia. Its range is sustainable and eco-friendly, and includes men's and women's basics, as well as women's activewear and swimwear.

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Shop Vege Threads @ We-Love.

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Linen

When most people think of linen, they probably picture bedsheets and tea towels, but linen is an ancient sustainable fabric made from the stem of the flax plant that is fantastic for fashion products, too. It is hardier than cotton (and requires way less water to grow!), naturally moth resistant, and gets stronger with every wash. Being an organic fabric, it is breathable and when untreated, entirely biodegradable!

It is a fantastic option all year around as it warms you in winter and cools you in the warmer months.

NOTE: Avoid pure white linen as it has to go through intense bleaching to end up like that – look out instead for its natural colours of ivory, ecru, tan and grey.

Conscious Clothing

Rated: Good

Flora Wrap Dress in Clay – Shipping internationally from the US

Conscious Clothing is 100% handmade and hand dyed natural fibre clothing. It uses environmentally friendly materials, including hemp, organic cotton, organic linen and recycled materials.

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Hemp

Despite being one of the oldest fibres in the world, hemp fabric has only recently broken free of its giggle-inducing association with cannabis and hippies since, despite coming from the same plant, it contains negligible THC. It is certainly worth looking past the guilt by association, as hemp is one of the most sustainable fabric options out there.

Similar to linen in a few ways, it also comes from the stem of the plant, keeps you warm in winter and cool in summer, and has a similar texture in its pure form. It is also a highly UV-resistant fabric, so it makes great beachwear!
A fantastic option environmentally, naturally pest-resistant hemp requires no pesticides, herbicides or fungicides, little water (they don’t call it “weed” for nothing), and a relatively small amount of land to cultivate. It even returns the majority of the nutrients it uses to grow right back into the soil!

While it is entirely possible to turn hemp into fabric organically, some companies use chemicals in order to speed up the process and create a higher yield, so make sure they are legitimate and not just greenwashing before purchasing.

NOTE: Make sure natural dyes are used when purchasing hemp clothing to negate the detrimental effects of harsh chemical dyes on people and planet.

Thought

Rated: Good

Painters Palette Hemp Shirt – Shipping Internationally

Thoughtfully-designed and easy to wear womenswear and menswear, designed with organic fabrics, bamboo and hemp.

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Shop Thought @Ecoture.

Tencel (Lyocell/Modal)

TENCEL® is the brand name for the popular lyocell or modal type fabric produced by Austrian company Lenzing AG. This light and versatile material is a cellulose fibre made by dissolving wood pulp, and it has exploded in popularity in recent years. As it is 50% more absorbent than cotton, its superior moisture-wicking and anti-bacterial properties make it ideal for use in activewear. Requiring less energy and water than cotton, Tencel is also biodegradable and according to Lenzing, sourced from sustainably managed eucalyptus plantations. Although it does require petrochemicals in the production process, they are used in a closed-loop system meaning the same solvent is recycled time and time again to minimise harmful waste.

NOTE: Another sustainable lyocell material is called Excel, made by company Birla.

Vyayama

Rated: Good

Haze Print Tank – Shipping internationally from the US

Taken from the Sanskrit word meaning ‘to tame the inner breath’, Vyayama (pronounced ‘vai-ah-mah’) is a luxury addition to even the most minimal workout wardrobe. The label uses innovative TENCEL® fabric - which is crafted in Europe from sustainably farmed eucalyptus - in much of its range.  This state of the art fibre keeps you cool, healthy and comfortable even in the most demanding asana. Vyayama's products are also certified Oeko-Tex Standard 100 - an independent certification that tests for harmful substances in textiles through the supply chain.

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Innovative Newcomers

Piñatex (Pineapple Leather)

This just in – pineapple isn’t just for eating. Well, maybe the fruit is, but the leaves of the pineapple plant have recently become one of the most sustainable vegan leather alternatives on the market. Made from pineapple leaf fibre, this innovative fabric thought up by Ananas Anam is not only a natural, biodegradable product – it also reduces waste and provides additional income to farmers who were otherwise throwing pineapple leaves away! You would be hard-pressed to find a more eco-friendly material, and ethical fashion brands are lapping it up. Ideal for use in products traditionally made with leather like wallets and shoes, this quirky material is worth investing in.

Bourgeois Boheme

Rated: Good

London-based vegan footwear brand for men women featuring classics with a contemporary twist.

Cork

Another funky favourite ideal for use in shoes and bags is cork. Relatively new to the fashion world (though used in household products for many years), cork is a water-resistant, renewable and completely recyclable material. Made from cork oak trees that keep on regenerating after being harvested each decade (and live up to 300 years old!), purchasing cork actually helps to prevent the desertification of cork oak forests which numerous endangered species call home. This durable, lightweight, waterproof material is well worth looking into for a unique statement bag or pair of shoes!

Svala

Rated: Good

Tashi Crossbody – Natural Cork – Shipping Internationally from USA

Svala creates luxury designer vegan handbags, purses, bags and totes. Each bag is handcrafted sustainably and ethically in LA with high-quality, premium vegan leather PU, cork and Piñatex.

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Shop Svala @ Made Trade.

So there you have it, the top 6 most sustainable vegan fabrics readily available on the market for all your fashion needs. As the fashion industry moves towards more eco-friendly options in a world where detrimental fabrics like animal leather, polyester and nylon just aren’t cutting it, new materials are cropping up all the time. Still in development but definitely worth keeping an eye out for in future are these leather alternatives made from mushrooms, apples, and kombucha.

Editor's note: Feature image via VegeThreads. All other images via brands mentioned and Unsplash.

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