More than 50 million animals suffer and die to clothe us every year. Finally, we are starting to realize that this is not okay, resulting in the rise in the popularity of vegan clothing.
The vegan fashion market was valued at 396 billion in 2019 and, at the current annual growth rate of 13.5%, is projected to reach 1,095 billion by 2027.
Many vegan clothing brands have replaced all animal-based materials with synthetic materials like polyamide, polyurethane and PVC.
Although less harmful to the environment than leather, these materials are not entirely biodegradable and can pollute our waterways and landfills with chemicals. In addition to that, the manufacture of synthetic materials also releases toxins into the surrounding environment.
Natural vegan fabrics are entirely biodegradable and will not contribute to toxic waste at the end of their lifespan. We are delighted to share with you our picks for eco-friendly textiles, chosen for their aesthetics, comfort, and environmental impact.
All our favorite vegan fabrics are biodegradable and recyclable.
Tencel™ is made from the wood pulp of trees. Most trees used are eucalyptus trees, in addition to birch and beech.
Eucalyptus trees require ten times less water than cotton to grow. They are hardy trees that don’t need pesticides or insecticides and can grow in dry, rocky soil that is unsuitable for agriculture.
When harvesting, trees are cut, not uprooted. As a result, they recover quickly and continue to grow.
In addition, Tencel™ is manufactured in a closed-loop system which means 99% of water and solvents are reused to make the next batch of product, minimizing waste and drastically reducing its carbon footprint.
The solvent used is amine oxide, which is considered non-toxic for air and water. This protects local communities from toxins and pollutants produced in the manufacturing process.
Tencel™ is so soft that it is hard to imagine it came from a sturdy tree. It can imitate cotton, suede, silk and leather. It is hypoallergenic, antibacterial, and breathable, in addition to being durable and highly absorbent.
2. Organic Cotton
Everyone has cotton in their wardrobes, and it is the world’s most popular textile. But did you know cotton is one of the most environmentally damaging industries?
It takes 10,000 to 20,000 gallons of water to make a pair of jeans and 3,000 gallons to make a t-shirt. Cotton farms also use high levels of pesticides and toxic chemicals that pollute soil and waterways.
On the other hand, organic cotton uses 88% less water, 62% less energy, and is grown without chemical fertilizers, pesticides or insecticides. This results in reduced exposure of farmers and their families to toxic chemicals in the fields and supply of food and water.
Soy fabric is slowly growing in popularity as a textile using by-products from the food industry. This soft, elastic textile is produced using soy protein from the hulls of soybeans.
This plush fabric has the drape and durability of cotton and is as warm and comfortable as cashmere, leading to its nickname “the vegetable cashmere”. It is UV-resistant and antimicrobial, with slightly reflective properties that cause it to look like silk.
As a result of its elasticity, soy is commonly used to make snug clothes like tank tops, dresses and skirts. The softness and comfort make it one of the best choices for infant clothing, t-shirts, bedding and upholstery.
This incredibly durable fabric comes from the stalk of the hemp plant. Hemp plants grow quickly, don’t require much water nor take up too much space. On the same amount of land, 250% more hemp can be produced than cotton.
Hemp is about eight times stronger than cotton, is more absorbent, and is a breathable fabric that will keep you cool on hot days. Like bamboo, hemp is cooler in warmer weather and warmer in cooler weather.
It is a hardy plant that is less vulnerable to insects, minimizing or eliminating the need for pesticides and fertilizers.
Hemp is a deep-rooting plant whose roots can grow to twelve inches in a month and reach three feet or longer. Their roots anchor them into the soil and help prevent erosion of the topsoil, keeping them healthy for years. Hemp can be grown consecutively in the same soil for over twenty years without depleting the soil of nutrients.
One of the fastest-growing plants in the world, bamboo has been in use for thousands of years.
A type of grass, a new bamboo cane will reach its full height in only eight to ten weeks. After being cut, it regenerates so quickly that studies have shown that regular harvesting actually benefits the plants and increases their size and mass the following year.
Previously used for paper production, bamboo pulp is now used to create bamboo fiber that is spun into yarn.
The bamboo fibers are about three times stronger than cotton, does not require any chemicals or pesticides, and is entirely biodegradable.
Bamboo feels amazing and has many superior qualities. It is highly absorbent, insulating, naturally UV-protecting and hypoallergenic.
It contains an antimicrobial bio-agent called “bamboo kun” which allows it to grow without the need for pesticides or fertilizers. Bamboo kun is what gives the fabric its antibacterial and anti-fungal properties.
One of the most durable fabrics, linen comes from the fibers of the flax plant. Flax plants are resilient, can grow in poor soil quality and require little water.
Durable, hypoallergenic and temperature regulating, linen cools in warm weather and warms in cool weather.
Widely used in bedding, tablecloths, towels and upholstery, its use has significantly expanded across apparel products over the last few decades.
There are many more natural vegan fabric choices. However, keep in mind that vegan does not necessarily mean organic.
In addition to a vegan certification, look for other certifications that will indicate the product contains minimal chemicals and is made following fair trade practices. Two such certifications are Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) and OEKO-TEX.