The Insyze Guide To Sustainable Fabrics

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Slow fashion, where items are made to order or in small batches rather than mass-produced, is becoming more and more popular as we all try to be more eco-friendly. 

Featured Image Day Won.

Ethical and sustainable factors also come into play here, like reducing the fashion miles by have the clothes made in house rather than in a factory hundreds and hundreds of miles away. As well as making sure that all workers are paid a fair living wage. Plus using sustainable methods when actually making the clothes, like reducing the amount of water used when washing denim 

A key part of the eco-friendly fashion movement is also using sustainable fabrics. 

What does sustainable mean?

At Insyze, we’ve talked about sustainability a few times before, yet when looking for an actual definition of ‘sustainable’ it can mean different things to different people. For us, it means fabrics that are not harmful to the environment, people, animals, or the economy at any point of its life cycle. That includes everything, from the creation of the fabric, right through to cutting, sewing, wear, and the final disposal of the clothing item. 

What about wool?

For some,  this means excluding all animal products, including wool. At Insyze, we do see wool as being sustainable as this is an animal byproduct. Sheep literally need to be shorn each year to stop them from overheating in the summer, and for most sheep this is an entirely painless process. 

However for wool to be considered sustainable it should be organic, mulesing-free (there’s a technical term for you) and dyed with natural dyes.

Are natural fibers sustainable?

Many of the more sustainable fabrics are made with natural fibers like modal or linen. 

They are not only breathable but also biodegradable too, so won’t be clogging up landfill for hundreds of years.

But not all natural fibers are sustainable. Harmful chemicals are used in a lot of processes, which is, you guessed it, not sustainable.

The Cotton Conundrum

Cotton is one of the most used natural fibers when it comes to making clothes. Its super soft and can be woven in so many ways to give us loads of different textures from jersey to voile and denim to corduroy. 

But sustainable, not so much. There are tons of pesticides, insecticides, and other chemicals used in the mass production of cotton.

Organic cotton is sustainable though, as none of those chemical nasties are used. So always double-check the fabric info before buying. 

Can synthetic fabrics be sustainable?

Yes and no.

The problem with synthetic fabrics is that they are, mostly, not bio-degradeable, and can take hundreds of years to break down.

However, a growing number of synthetics like polyester and polyamide (including nylon) are being recycled to create new clothes!

Examples of sustainable fabrics 

Find out a bit more about some of the most popular sustainable fabrics plus some of our top picks.

Organic Linen

Natural fibers? Check

No pesticides? Check (Chinese linen may use chemicals so make sure to check the details)

Linen is both durable and breathable, but because it has a long manufacturing process, it can be expensive.

Crepe Stretch Box Top

We love the organic linen collection from Eileen Fisher, including this crepe stretch box top.

Organic Cotton 

We’ve already shown how the pesticides used in mass production of cotton mean that it's unsustainable, but did you know that cotton production also uses up masses of water? So make sure you check that your organic cotton garms use the closed-loop water systems.

Crop Top

Pansy has a great selection of organic underwear and wardrobe staples, and we love this crop top.

Denim

Denim is made from cotton, which means it also uses up a whole lot of water. So look out for denim brands that reduce water usage - use the closed-loop method as well as denim made with recycled fabrics.

Double Button Ankle Skinny Jeans

We recommend 1822 Denim’s re:denim double button ankle skinny jeans. Jeans from the re: denim collection are made with around 30% recycled plastic bottles.

Hemp

Yes really.

Fabrics that are made from hemp have a similar feel to linen and, like linen too, it comes a robust plant that needs little to no treatment.  But pure hemp can be quite coarse so it's often mixed with organic cotton to make it softer. 

Striped and Plain Hemp Cotton Dress

The Poetry collection, available up to UK size 22 ( US 18), includes a variety of pieces that are made with hemp, including this long-sleeved day dress; perfect for running errands.

Tree-based fibers

A lot of sustainable fabrics, like modal, tencel and lyocell, can be made from tree pulp. They are then chemically treated until it is much softer. Some of these chemicals are harsher than other and it’s not clear whether these chemicals end up polluting the water systems. 

Some of our favorite tree-based fabrics include:

Modal 

You may have seen this one around before and at Insyze we just can’t get enough of it’s gorgeously soft texture 

Woodland Printed Joggers

We are obsessed with the Hope and Harvest printed joggers.

Bamboo

The super-soft hand feel of bamboo viscose comes from bamboo’s rounded fibers. What’s better is that bamboo is also super absorbent, breathable and is 100% naturally grown.

Screen Playsuit

Diane Kennedy’s capri length Screen Playsuit with zip front was made for Netflix and chill after a busy week. Or dress it up with cute heels for drinks with the girls.

Lyocell and Tencel 

Dissolved wood pulp is mixed with solvents, dried, and then chemically treated to make lyocell cloth. It’s biodegradable, super breathable, and made with the closed-loop production which means that the solvents and water are recycled. 

Lyocell, and the branded Tencel is actually 50% more absorbent than cotton which make it ideal for activewear.

Sunrise Sweatshirt

Check out the recycled polyester and lyocell blend sweater from PrAna.

Recycled Fabric

The final group of sustainable fabrics that we want to shine a light on are fabrics that are made from recycled products. Including fabrics from recycled plastic bottles plus synthetics fibers that are blended to give them a second lease of life.

Recycled Polyester

Double Scoop Bra

We love the Day/Won and Megababe collab including this star print double scoop bra.

Recycled Plastic Bottles 

Single-use plastic is a huge problem in the world right now which is why we are totally in love with the initiative of using recycled plastic bottles in fashion.

Shift and Snap Tank 

The Wayre side slit crop top is a travel essential. It’s got a 4-way stretch and is UV resistant up to SPF 30.

Do you make a conscious effort to buy clothes that are made from sustainable fabrics?

If yes, we want to know which fabrics you like best.

Find our complete guide to fabrics here.

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