What New Sustainable Fabrics & Materials Are Designers Using?

Giada Nizzoli

What New Sustainable Fabrics & Materials Are Designers Using?

Pick up a fast fashion garment, and we bet the label will either read ‘cotton’ (the cheap kind that’s loaded with pesticides) or ‘polyester’! 

Ethical companies, on the contrary, have been using some of the most eco-friendly fabrics for years. At the same time, more and more designers have been getting creative with new sustainable fabrics.

Here are some of the ones that blew our minds when we first heard of them.

13 new sustainable fabrics and materials to make fashion more eco-friendly

From mushrooms to milk, it’s crazy that some of these resources and materials can be turned into wearable fabrics!

Textile waste behind a new sustainable fabricPhoto credit: Alexander Donka / Circulose

1. Fabrics made from textile waste

New sustainable fabrics like Circulose and NuCycl are created from pre- or post-consumer textile waste (like production scraps and worn-out jeans), cotton in particular.

This obviously helps reduce waste and results in lower carbon emissions than creating new viscose fibres from scratch.

This textile waste is also purified with water-based chemical processes to get rid of dyes and contaminants.

2. Kintra

This resourceful company produces bio-synthetic yarns that perform like polyester and nylon but degrade like natural fibres.

Because they rely on corn- or wheat-derived sugar, they’re biodegradable, renewable, and circular. Nice one!

3. Clarus

This is a more sustainable alternative to polluting synthetic fabrics.

Clarus is a technology that turns natural fibres (like cotton or wool) into highly performing fabrics that are still biodegradable.

4. Econyl

What if, as well as removing plastic and fishing nets from the ocean, we could turn them into something useful?

Well, now we can actually wear them, too! 

This new sustainable fabric consists of recycled or regenerated nylon, perfect for swimwear.

5. Fruit-based vegan leather

Most vegan leather isn’t actually that eco-friendly because it’s made with fossil fuel-derived plastic.

Some more sustainable fruit-based alternatives are:

While these new sustainable fabrics are definitely a step forward, we hope their producers will find a way of removing their PU and plastic coating (at the moment, fruit-based leather is not entirely biodegradable).

Fruit leather shoes

6. Mylo - mushroom leather

You aren’t tripping! Made from mycelium, mushroom leather isn’t petroleum-derived and is infinitely renewable.

However, it still relies on some plastic coating that isn’t biodegradable

7. Scoby - kombucha leather

Short for ‘symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast’, this is yet another innovative leather alternative. Luckily, this time it’s 100% biodegradable, too.

8. Desserto - cactus leather

Relying on such a resilient and renewable plant, cactus leather can be grown without pesticides or irrigation systems. 

It’s just a shame that, like most vegan leathers, it’s not biodegradable just yet.

9. VitroLabs - lab-grown leather

Compostable and biodegradable, this cell-cultivated alternative is just like genuine leather… except that cows don’t need to die for it!

10. Woocoa - vegan wool

Winner of the PETA & Stella McCartney BioDesign Challenge, this more ethical ‘wool’ is created from coconut and hemp, using oyster mushroom enzymes.

Coconuts being used to make new sustainable fabrics

11. Qmilch

This new sustainable fabric is made from… yep, you’ve guessed it: milk!

Or, better, a milk protein that’s a by-product of the food industry.

While it obviously isn’t vegan, Qmilch is biodegradable and energy-efficient.

12. Mirum

Made with plant matter, this circular, climate-friendly, and plastic-free material is an interesting eco-friendly alternative for footwear in particular.

Its endless recyclability makes up for the fact that it’s not (currently) biodegradable.

13. Carbon-negative fabrics

New sustainable fabrics like AirCarbon and LanzaTech are created by replicating a natural process: organisms converting carbon emissions into molecules (= less CO2!).

The latter are then melted down and turned into yarn.

Isn’t it inspiring to see how creative some brands and researchers have been getting to help our planet?

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