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16x Vegan & Sustainable Materials In Fashion

Polly Polly 05 May 2021 16x Vegan & Sustainable Materials In Fashion

In our online department store, you can find ethical, sustainable and vegan fashion, cosmetics and homeware products. But did you know that you can filter your search by materials?

To help you with making the best purchase based on what you value the most, we made a short, easy-to-read summary of vegan materials you might be interested in.

This article is a work in progress – and we are working very hard on constantly adding new vegan materials to the list. So, if you would love to learn more about vegan materials in fashion, this is your go-to article. Let's dive in!
 

Apple Leather

What is Apple Leather?

Apple leather is an innovative vegan and more sustainable alternative to animal leather (because the leather industry is extremely unethical and unsustainable). Apple peel leather is a fine, authentic leather-like grain – hardly distinguishable from animal leather products.

The cores and skins discarded from the food industry are used to make apple leather.1 The organic waste from apples is puréed, spread on a sheet and left to dehydrate to get rid of the moisture. This makes a flexible leathery sheet. Then, it is combined with water and natural glue to create apple leather.

Polluting emissions are significantly reduced because organic waste is not burnt. Instead, it is used to make apple peel leather.2 However, certain brands currently combine apple peel with plastic-based materials such as polyurethane (PU) or polyvinyl chloride (PVC). They serve as a binding agent in the synthetic blend.

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Ankle boots made with apple leather

Booths made with apple leather from Venus Is Vegan


So, apple leather might not be as sustainable as we might believe. But it is absolutely better than animal leather or leather made just out of synthetic materials.

The good news is: the apple leather industry has the potential to become even more sustainable by increasing the apple portion in the product. So, definitely keep an eye on it.

You can find our apple leather collection in our department store by simply using the materials filter option. It mostly consists of wonderfully-looking shoes, sneakers, bags and watch straps. If apple leather doesn't do it for you, don't worry – there are 6+ vegan leather alternatives out there.

Bamboo

What is Bamboo?

Bamboo is a durable, stretchy and soft fabric made out of bamboo fibres.3 Thanks to these properties, it is usually used to make bathrobes, towels and underwear.

Bamboo has the potential to be a sustainable crop because it is a fast-growing grass with the ability to self-regenerate.4 It also doesn't require any fertilisers in the process. But it really depends on the conditions under which bamboo is grown.

There is more than one way to make bamboo fabric. The first one is to combine the bamboo fibres and spin these into thread, resulting in bamboo linen, a fabric that is not really suitable for soft clothing.

The second way, which is also more common, is to produce bamboo rayon, a silky and soft fabric. This process, however, involves intensive use of chemicals.

In short, bamboo has the potential to become a more sustainable fabric in the future. For now, it is better to buy clothes made out of bamboo from credible and transparent brands to know about the true origin of this fabric.

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Underwear made from bamboo

Underwear made with bamboo from Thought

Cork

What is Cork?

Cork is a water-resistant, recyclable, flexible and durable fabric made from cork oak trees.5

What makes cork such a sustainable fabric is the fact that the trees aren't cut down after the cork is harvested.6 Instead, their bark is carefully stripped away by hand and grows back in a few months. Then, it can be harvested again. As the barks grow back, the trees can take in up to five times more carbon from the atmosphere.

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Crossbody Bag made out of cork

Crossbody bag made out of cork from Murmali

Cotton

What is Cotton?

Cotton is the most frequently used fibre on the planet – either in clothes, makeup remover pads or bed sheets.Unfortunately, the popular use of cotton makes it a very problematic and unsustainable material to wear or use.

The production of regular cotton consumes about 1/4 of all insecticides in the world and 3% of all drinking water. This doesn't only have a negative effect on the environment but on our fellow humans too.

Between 25 to 77 million agriculture workers worldwide suffer from acute pesticide poisoning each year.8 They experience various symptoms from headaches, vomiting to seizures and even death.

Our freshwater resources are threatened too. Rivers in the USA, India, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Brazil, Australia, Greece and West Africa are known to be contaminated by cotton pesticides.

So, whenever possible, try your best to stay away from regular cotton. Opt for organic cotton and recycled cotton or other more sustainable materials. You will definitely not know the difference – but our planet will.

Econyl

What is Econyl?

Econyl, also called recycled or waste nylon, is a strong and elastic fabric that is chemically identical to nylon but made out of synthetic waste.9,10 For instance, it can be made out of industrial plastic and fishing nets found in our oceans.

The aim behind Econyl is to create a closed-loop system: using less water and producing less waste than traditional nylon production.

Despite this, Econyl is still a man-made, synthetic and non-biodegradable fibre. This also means that it releases microfibres when washed. Microfibres then pollute our oceans which also harms sea life.11

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Swimwear made with Econyl

Bikini made with Econyl from WONDA swim


So, even though Econyl is not a perfect material, it is still better than regular nylon. Try to keep that in mind, when searching for new swimwear for this summer!

EcoVero / Lenzing

What is EcoVero/Lenzing?

EcoVero viscose is a very soft, comfortable and breathable fabric that is derived from sustainable wood and pulp. Almost all the chemicals used in the process are recovered and reused. Because of this, EcoVero viscose has up to 50% lower emissions and water use than regular viscose.12

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Blue shirt made from EcoVero/Lenzing

Shirt made with EcoVero from Arber Studio

Hemp

What is Hemp?

Hemp is a fabric made from the long strands of fibre that make up the hemp plant's stalk. Next to bamboo, it is one of the fastest-growing plants on the planet.

Hemp is also considered to be one of the most sustainable fabrics on Earth because it doesn't require any harsh chemicals or pesticides during its production.13

Hemp has the ability to draw water and nutrients from deeper soil layers because of its deep-growing type of root. This means that hemp can grow in most regions without being watered or fertilized.

When hemp is harvested, the roots are left in the soil which returns up to 60% of the nutrients back to the soil. This makes the soil more healthy and fertile instead of depleting it.14

To make sure that no damaging fertilizers were used during the production of hemp, check if the clothes you have your eyes on are made of hemp that is certified as organic.

If this sparked your curiosity and you'd like to read more about this magical fabric, we invite you to check out our blog The High Qualities of Hemp: meet MÁ Hemp Wear.

Linen

What is Linen?

Linen is a durable, breathable and recyclable fabric made from flax plant fibres.15 If linen is not dyed, it retains its biodegradable property.

The difference between linen and organic linen (GOTS-certified) is that organic linen guarantees that no harmful pesticide and toxic dyes were used in the process of making your clothes.

Linen is considered to be one of the most sustainable fabrics. And it also looks amazing. Just have a look at our linen collection by using the materials filter option.

Lyocell / Tencel

What is Lyocell/Tencel?

Tencel is a sustainable, naturally antibacterial and compostable material entirely made from wood.16 Its strong threads are spun from the wood pulp of eucalyptus trees through an environmentally responsible closed-loop factory process. This process recycles processed water and reuses the solvent – at a recovery rate of more than 99%.

Amazing, right? Maybe it's time to hang a Live, Laugh, Lyocell poster in your home!

The terms Tencel and lyocell are often used interchangeably. So, what is the difference? Tencel is actually the patented brand name of the lyocell fabric.

And of course, you can find Tencel/lyocell in our department store too. But if you need some Tencel-outfit inspiration first, have a look at our blog on this miraculous fabric that Tencel is.

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Cherry Dress made from Tencel

Dress made from Tencel from Kings of Indigo

Modal

What is Modal?

Modal is a silky-smooth, soft, breathable and flexible fabric that was developed as an alternative to silk, a fabric that is not that ethical nor sustainable as you might think. Modal doesn't crease or shrink and it also drapes well.17

The sustainability of modal depends on its manufacturer and sourcing practices. Lenzing Modal, also called Tencel Modal, uses more sustainable wood sources. It also promises carbon neutral production that requires less land and water than other fabrics.

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Yellow Top made from Modal

Yellow top made from Modal from Jyoti Fair Works

Organic Cotton

What is Organic Cotton?

Organic cotton is cotton that is grown in line with organic standards including crop rotation, no use of toxic chemicals or GMOs and less water and energy use.

Organic cotton is a better alternative to regular cotton in both environmental and societal impacts. However, when comparing regular cotton, organic cotton and recycled cotton, recycled cotton definitely wins.

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Pink cardigan made from organic cotton

Cardigan made from organic cotton from Sabinna


When buying clothes made out of organic cotton, make sure it is certified with a reliable certification program. The fashion industry is not regulated as much as we all would hope for. Basically, a brand can label a product as 'organic' even though it is not (or contains only a minimum amount of organic material).

So, keep an eye on Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), Organic Content Standard (OCS) or Recycled Claim Standard (RCS) certifications.

And definitely check out our organic cotton collection by using the materials filter option. You can truly find wonderful pieces there.

Organic Hemp

What is Organic Hemp?

Organic hemp is a fabric made from the long strands of fibre that make up the hemp plant's stalk and is certified as organic with a reliable certification.

Next to bamboo, it is one of the fastest-growing plants on the planet. Organic hemp is also considered to be one of the most sustainable fabrics on Earth because it doesn't require any harsh chemicals or pesticides during its production.13

Hemp has the ability to draw water and nutrients from deeper soil layers because of its deep-growing type of root. This means that hemp can grow in most regions without being watered or fertilized.

When hemp is harvested, the roots are left in the soil which returns up to 60% of the nutrients back to the soil. This makes the soil more healthy and fertile instead of depleting it.14

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Dark Yellow Jacket made with organic hemp

Jacket made with organic hemp from L'Envers


If this sparked your curiosity and you'd like to read more about this magical fabric, we invite you to check out our blog The High Qualities of Hemp: meet MÁ Hemp Wear.

Organic Linen

What is Organic Linen?

Organic linen is a durable, breathable and recyclable fabric made from flax plant fibres.15 If linen is not dyed, it retains its biodegradable property.

Luckily, the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) also certifies linen, so you can be sure that GOTS-certified linen is actually organic. This means that no harmful pesticides and toxic dyes were used in the process of making your linen clothes.

Organic linen is considered to be one of the most sustainable fabrics. So, it is definitely worth the investment. And have we mentioned how beautiful this fabric is? Just have a look at our organic linen collection by using the materials filter option.

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Timeless Top made with organic linen

Timeless top made with organic linen from J LABEL

Piñatex (Pineapple Leather)

What is Piñatex (Pineapple Leather)?

Piñatex is a biodegradable, non-woven textile made from waste – a byproduct from an existing harvest. More specifically, it is made from a pineapple leaf fibre which is traditionally discarded or burned. So, instead of this material being wasted, it is given a second life. This means that no additional environmental resources are required for raw materials!18

So, how exactly is this pineapple leather made? After the harvest, the fibres are washed, dried and purified. The fibre is then combined with corn-based polylactic acid which creates the base for Piñatex. Then, this vegan leather is coloured using GOTS-certified pigments.

Once the fibre has been stripped from the leaf, the leftovers can be used as a natural fertiliser or bio-fuel, offering a further environmental prospect.

Piñatex is also a more sustainable and ethical alternative to leather (because the leather industry is extremely unethical and unsustainable).

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Sneakers made with Piñatex/Pineapple leather

Sneakers made with Piñatex from All My Eco


It isn't just the environmental aspect that is worth mentioning. Piñatex production creates more possibilities of earning an income in farming communities. So, seeing 'waste' as a material that can be reused is not only great for our Mama Earth – but also for our fellow humans.

Currently, Piñatex creates an additional stream of income in the Philippines. As Piñatex grows in popularity, more opportunities for pineapple farmers in other parts of the world will be created. How awesome!

In our department store, you can find our Piñatex collection by simply using the materials filter option. If pineapple leather doesn't do it for you, don't worry – there are 6+ vegan leather alternatives out there.

Recycled Cotton

What is Recycled Cotton?

Recycled cotton is cotton made out of post-industrial and post-consumer cotton waste. Recycled cotton is definitely more sustainable than regular or organic cotton. It doesn't require as much water and energy consumption and it saves textile from ending up in landfills or being burned.

The process of shredding into a spun fibre is far more difficult. So, recycled cotton often needs to be combined with other fibres to improve the fabric's strength and uniformity.

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Vintage red jumper made with recycled cotton

Jumper made with recycled cotton from Hafendieb

Recycled Plastic

What is Recycled Plastic?

Recycled plastic is a non-biodegradable synthetic material that is made out of already existing plastic. For instance, it can be made from fishing nets or plastic water bottles found in our oceans.

Recycled plastic can be considered as a sustainable material because it uses waste to create a valuable product. So, it can actually prevent waste. However, it is still a man-made, non-biodegradable material that releases microfibres every time it gets washed.19 Microfibres then pollute our oceans which also harms sea life.11

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Pine green dress made with recycled plastic

Dress made with recycled plastic from Common and Sense


In short, recycled synthetic materials are better and more sustainable than non-recycled synthetic materials. Still, washing clothes made of (recycled) synthetic materials too often can still cause some damage to our environment. Honestly, doing laundry less often never killed nobody. Does this proverb already exist?

If you are curious about beautiful clothes made from fishing nets and plastic water bottles, have a look at our recycled plastic collection by using the materialsfilter option.

Have you found your favourite vegan and sustainable material?

We hope this blog on vegan fashion materials was useful. As this article is a work in progress, we will be continuously adding more vegan materials to the list.