Up to 2/3 of the environmental impact of fashion happens at the raw materials stage: before the clothes have actually been made! Fiber selection also affects how you’ll wash the garment, and potentially recycle it one day - both important factors to consider when it comes to the environmental impact. Here is an overview of the materials we love and don't love so much:

Materials we love


The fashion and textile industry is dominated by fabric and clothing created from cotton and polyester materials, which when combined account for over 85% of world fibre production. Conventional cotton often requires masses of water and pesticides to be grown. However, organic cotton seeks to improve this through regenerative farming and through approval by a recognised organisation so that it does not harm the environment. Regenerative farming means that the soil is nutrient-dense therefore requiring less water, usually relying on rainwater alone for irrigation! GOTS is the leading standard for cotton, guaranteeing that approved products contain a minimum of 70% organic natural fibres, features no heavy metals, toxic dyes, pesticides or PVC and has been made to a stringent list of human rights criteria. In pure form, cotton fabric is biodegradable however can also be recycled into new material.

Properties: Natural, Breathable, Easy to Wash, Affordable

Certifications: Fair Trade Cotton, OEKO-TEX, Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) and Better Cotton Initiative (BCI)

Why We Love It: Has the potential to reduce global warming by 46% when compared to conventional cotton.


The woody material of the flax plant is used to produce linen and is the oldest fiber known to have been used by humans. Linen is perfect for apparel as it is strong, naturally moth resistant, and can be fully biodegradable when left not dyed. Its natural colours include ivory, ecru, tan, and grey. Flax is resilient and can grow in poor soil. It requires no irrigation, no fertilisers and no pesticides and even retains 3.7 tons of CO2 per hectare per year. Some linen is certified organic, like cotton. Commonly used certifications are OEKO-TEX, European Flax, and Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS). 

Properties: Natural, Strong, Antiallergenic, Readily Available, Affordable

Certifications: European Flax, GOTS, OEKO-TEX

Why We Love It: Flax is a renewable resource that is fast growing and has many positive effects on eco-system diversity


AppleSkin is the name of a bio-based leather alternative. It is an innovative new material that is made with waste recovered from the fruit juice industry such as fruit pulp and consists of approximately 20-30% apple. The process is patented by FRUMAT, who developed AppleSkin. AppleSkin is produced in Italy and is vegan and cruelty-free.

Properties: Natural, Supple, Breathable, Luxurious

Certifications: PETA-Approved Vegan, Certified Vegan

Why We Love It: Vegan leather production can be up to a third lower than the production of real leather.


Pinatex is a natural plant fibre created from the byproducts of pineapple harvests. For a square metre of Pinatex, 400m of leaves are required, which is the equivalent to 20 pineapple plants. Pinatex is breathable, supple, flexible and can be easily dyed, printed upon and laser cut. Pinatex is biodegradable and waste reducing, as it relies solely on leftover waste and therefore requires no extra land, water or pesticides beyond what is already used for pineapple harvests. Waste from pineapple harvests are typically left to rot in the ground or can even be burnt, therefore enabling Pinatex to be part of the cradle to cradle philosophy as it upcycles a waste material. 

Properties: Natural, Strong, Breathable, Supple, Light, Affordable

Certifications: PETA-Approved Vegan, Certified Vegan, GOTS (dyeing process), B CORP

Why We Love It: Vegan leather production can be up to a third lower than the production of real leather.


Using leftover and over-ordered fabric from other designers and fabric warehouses means reusing and diverting these materials from the landfill and into your closet. It looks better than it sounds. 

Remanufactured clothing can save more than 13,000 pounds of CO2 emissions per person, per year.


Peace silk (also known as Ahimsa silk) still uses the cocoons of silkworms, however the worms are left to complete their full life cycle, emerging from the cocoons before they are processed. The look and feel of the finished fabric is different from regular silk in that it is not as smooth and glossy. Some organisations such as PETA have commented that peace silk standards could improve in regards to the treatment of silkworms. 

Properties: Soft, Strong, Lightweight, Antiallergenic, Luxurious

Certifications: OEKO-TEX, GOTS, OneCert, India Organic

Why We Love It: The process is better for silkworms


Lyocell, more commonly known by its brand name Tencel, is a fabric made from eucalyptus wood pulp and is very similar to viscose. However, unlike most viscose, Tencel uses trees from sustainably managed plantations under a closed-loop method where solvents used during processing are recovered and reused so that as little as 1% is wasted. A majority of the world’s lyocell comes from Austrian company Lenzing. Eucalyptus trees grow rapidly on marginal land without the need for artificial irrigation or pesticides. Lenzing state that the trees grown as feedstock for Tencel are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), meaning that they are sustainably managed and do not contribute towards deforestation. Alongside this, factories producing Tencel are designed in order to achieve low levels of emissions . 

Properties: Natural, Breathable, Antibacterial, Soft, Strong

Certifications: EU Ecolabel, OEKO-TEX, GOTS (dyeing process)

Why We Love It: Tencel has an environmentally responsible production process and is certified as compostable and biodegradable, and thus can be fully reverted back to nature.


Hemp is often used as an alternative to cotton. In an environmental sense, hemp has many advantages over cotton. It grows rapidly, meaning that it can grow up to 4 meters high in just 3 months and yield around six tonnes per hectare, giving it the highest yield per acre of any natural fibre. For example, hemp turnover is more than 3 times the amount of cotton per acre. In terms of water use, they are typically reliant on rainwater, and require only about one fifth of the water necessary to grow cotton. All byproduct produced from hemp crops can be used, resulting in no waste and the plants are carbon-negative, removing up to five times more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than trees.

Properties: Durable, Absorbent, Quick Drying, 

Certifications: ECOCERT

Why We Love It: Hemp naturally smothers weeds and pests, making the need for pesticides redundant. This also improves the soil structure.

Materials we don't love


Conventional cotton is one of agriculture's dirtiest crops, it uses 20% of all pesticides globally despite being grown on less than 3% of the world’s farmlands. Growing just 1 kg of conventional cotton requires on average 10,000 litres of water, which means...only a T-shirt requires 2,700 litres of water! Once cultivated, conventional cotton has further effects on the environment, as it must be heavily treated with hazardous chemicals, whilst demanding large quantities of energy for cotton-spinning. However, conventional cotton can be easily recycled without the use of further chemicals, meaning that it can easily be incorporated as part of a closed-loop cycle.

Properties: Natural, Breathable, Easy to Wash, Affordable, Non-Allergenic

Certifications: Most cotton certifications are for organic cotton only

Why We Don’t Love It: Global consumption of conventional cotton releases around 220 million tonnes of CO2 emissions.


Polyester is a common plastic derived from petroleum that dominates the clothing industry, with annual production exceeding 52 million metric tonnes worldwide. Due to the rise of fast fashion, polyester has generated a 65% market share, meaning it is now used in garment production more than cotton is. For every kilogram of polyester created, 1.1kg of oil is used, highlighting the production of polyester as one the of the key contributors to emission of greenhouse gases. Polyester is also created through an energy-intensive heating process and requires vast amounts of water for dyeing and cooling, which impacts clean water supplies. Like nylon, some retailers have introduced the use of recycled polyester. 

Properties: Durable, Strong, Dyes Easily, Affordable

Certifications: Global Recycle Standard (GRS)

Why We Don’t Love It: 4,500 micro-plastic fibres can be released per gram of polyester clothing per wash.


Essentially, nylon is a type of plastic derived from crude oil. This plastic is then put through an intensive chemical process, resulting in nylon fabric. There are many environmental issues associated with the creation of nylon. Firstly, through emitting masses of nitrous oxide, which is 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Secondly, large amounts of water are needed during manufacturing, this water then becomes contaminated. Finally nylon production is an energy hungry process which again does not help towards global warming. The only upside to nylon is that it is easily recycled meaning that it can be used again. 

Properties: Strong, Stretchy, Lightweight, Durable 

Certifications: Global Recycle Standard (GRS)

Why We Don’t Love It: Alongside the damaging production process, nylon sheds micro-plastic fibres that end up in waterways and oceans every time it is washed


From James Dean to Prada, punk to professional, leather has earned staple status in many wardrobes. But despite their longevity and versatility, leather garments and accessories are unlikely to be an ethical investment.

Leather is the skin of animals, the most common being livestock, but it can also be sourced from pigs, goats, sheep, crocodiles, snakes, sting rays, seals, emus, deer, fish, kangaroos, horses, cats, and dogs. Aside from the obvious issues with animal welfare, leather production has negative impacts on the environment and workers, too. It requires more water and land than almost any other material, and the tanning process involves extremely harmful chemicals like chromium 6 that end up in waterways and labourers’ bodies.

Vegetable tanning, which has long been considered the sustainable option for tanning, is under scrutiny about how sustainable it really is. It’s a bit better, but likely not as good as previously thought.

There are many innovative materials emerging designed to mimic the qualities of leather, from pineapple leather to cork to upcycled rubber.


The word “velvet” refers to the structure of the fabric, not the actual fiber or material used. You can recognize velvet thanks to its short pile, raised loops, tufts of yarn that cover its surface.

Unlike other fabrics, velvet is not flat-woven (or knitted, in this case it is called velour). It requires more yarn and steps to produce. First, yarn from different materials is woven together on a loom between two layers of backing. Then, the fabric is split down the middle, which creates two identical pieces, each with the upraised pile that gives it its soft texture.

Velvet can be woven from any type of yarn. While in the past it is traditionally woven from silk, today cheaper materials are commonly used alone or in combination, such as cotton, linen, wool or synthetic fibers. The fashion industry, and especially fast fashion retailers, mostly replace silk or other natural materials with polyester.

Properties: luminous, soft, luxurious

Why We Don’t Love It: if it is made from polyester, it is derived from petroleum, which is essentially plastic. Polyester is not biodegradable and is also extremely water-thirsty. Velvet is also often treated with stain repellents.


Silk is spun from the long threads which make up the inner cocoon of a silkworm. The fibres are in fact saliva, produced by the worm to insulate itself until it is time to transform. The raw silk threads are harvested and then reeled together for commercial use. The silkworms are killed during the process of extracting the silk. There have also been reports of the abuse of child slaves in India in silk production, so checking sources is important.

In addition to this, silk has a relatively high emissions intensity, particularly in the yarn and fabric production stages. In fact, its supply chain is one of the most intensive per kg according to the Sustainable Apparel Coalition.

It is possible to find less lethal alternatives to the silk-making process. Ahimsa silk, also known as ‘peace silk’, allows the moth to evacuate the cocoon before it is boiled. Some silks that fall under the Ahimsa umbrella include ‘Eri silk’ and ‘Tussar silk’.


Viscose is sourced from the cellulose in trees and bamboo and is said to be the third most commonly used textile fibre in the world after polyester and cotton. As a plant-based fibre, viscose is not overly unsustainable, however, viscose is often manufactured cheaply using energy, water, and chemically-intensive processes that have devastating impacts on local communities and the environment. Alongside this, many natural habitats are destroyed due to deforestation, which further impacts CO2 emissions. Organisations are currently researching how to create viscose fibre regenerated from textile waste.

Properties: Affordable, Soft, Lightweight, Breathable, Silky 

Certifications: FSC certified

Why We Don’t Love It: Often viscose does not remain 100% natural, as once it is chemically altered to be used for production, it becomes partially synthetic.


Around 2 billion pairs of jeans are produced globally each year, often having negative effects on the environment due to the fact that a large majority of denim jeans are created using conventional cotton. Therefore, alongside the issues listed with conventional cotton such as water and pesticide use, denim has further environmental issues such as dyeing. Harmful chemicals are often used extensively in denim’s dyeing process, polluting local ecosystems and impacting on human health. To overcome this, some brands are adopting the use of denim created from certified organic cotton only and banning the use of toxic dyes.  

Properties: Affordable, Durable, Holds its Shape, Easy to Wear

Certifications: Organic cotton certifications (GOTS), Fair trade cotton, Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), C2C CertifiedTM Jeans

Why We Don’t Love It: Nearly 70% of Asia's rivers and lakes are contaminated by 2.5 billion gallons of wastewater from denim production.