FRIENDLY FIBERS & MAGIC MATerIALs

[A 'SUSTAINABLE' MATERIAL INDEX FOR A MORE RESPONSIBLE SUPPLY CHAIN ]

Sustainability is a diluted term in the fashion industry. It has become an easy search and marketing keyword to communicate to a consumer that the brand may be conscious of their impact and/or may try to choose better fibers for the planet. However, there is no perfect material for the environment, each has a mix of pros and cons. The push from designers and consumers to brands to manufacturers will ultimately push the industry to a more circular supply chain. 

Sustainability refers to:

  • Use of the biosphere by present generations while maintaining its potential yield (benefit) for future generations; 

  • Economic growth and development that might be impaired by natural resource depletion and environmental degradation.

Second Hand clothing > Local production > Internationally produced certified Sustainable Fibers 

 

Below is a fashion designer material list to help guide through making the decision of more sustainable options. 

 

Download ' The Friendly Fiber & Magic Materials' List below! And check back in for more updates as the list will keep growing with advancements in the field. 

FIBER MENu

Alpaca

Angora

Byssus

Camel

Cashmere

Catgut

Chiengora

Guanaco

Llama

Merino

Mohair

Pashmina

Qiviut

Silk

Spider Silk

Tendon

Vicuña

Wool

Yak

Abaca

Bagasse

Bamboo

Coir

Cotton

Fique

Hemp

Jute

Kapok

Kenaf

Piña

Raffia

Ramie

Rattan

Sisal

Wood

Mycelium

Asbestos

Acetate

Diacetate

Lyocell

Modal

Rayon

Triacetate

Acrylic

Aramid

Microfiber

Modacrylic

Nylon

Olefin

Polyester

Polethylene

Spandex

Vectran

Vinylon

Vinyon

Zylon

OTHER

NATURAL FIBERS

ANIMAL/PROTEIN 
Fibers made from protein molecules from animal sources. Keratin (hair or fur) and secreted (insect) fibers.  
+ ALPACA
A natural protein fiber that comes from alpacas, a branch of the camel family. 
+ CHARACTERISTICS: There are two types of alpaca with distinct fiber types. Huacaya alpacas have crimped fleece like wool from sheep and look fluffier (thus are sometimes referred to as “teddy bear” alpacas). Suri alpacas, on the other hand, have smooth fleece that hangs down in long locks and is more silk-like in texture.
+ APPLICATIONS: Sweaters, blankets, sweaters, hats, gloves, scarves.
+ PRODUCED: Peru, Western Bolivia, Ecuador, Chile.
+ PROS
  • Helps bring jobs to indigenous populations
  • Alpacas have less impact than goats and hooves. they have padded feet, when they graze they do not damage or destroy root systems, require less water and food.
  • The fibers do not contain lanolin or grease; therefore it is easy to wash without intensive detergents or chemicals. Chemical baths are not required to remove it.
  • Alpaca waste can be used as fertilizer.
  • Alpaca is naturally odor resistant and somewhat stain resistant, it does not require frequent washing. It is also resistant to wrinkling and recovers from wrinkles well, so very little ironing is required.
  • Untreated alpaca fiber is completely biodegradable. Things like dye, toxic chemicals, blended fibers and trims can hinder biodegradability.
- CONS
  • P
+ CERTIFICATIONS & STANDARDS:
IWTO Specifications for Wool Sheep Welfare
Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)
+ ORGANIZATIONS:
Pacomarca
Threadsofperu
+ ANGORA
A fiber derived from one of four breeds of angora rabbits. 
 
+ CHARACTERISTICS: Silky soft and fluffy, thin fibers, around 12-16 micrometers. Comes in various colors white, black, and various shades of brown, easy to dye. Much warner than sheep's wool.
+ APPLICATIONS: Knits, Sweaters, Toys, Felt.
+ PRODUCED: Mostly in China, Europe, Chili, United States.
+ PROS:
  • If done properly, it is unethical to not sheer rabbits, as they overheat and start licking it off.
  • Angoras have a very low footprint. 
- CONS:
  • If plucked, it distresses the animal and they can bleed and scream.
  • Some farms keep them in cages to not dirty the fur and slaughter older ones that produce less fur. 
+ CERTIFICATION: Caregora
+ CAMEL
Hair derived from a camel with two components guard hair and undercoat.
 
+ CHARACTERISTICS: Guard hair is the outer protective fur, which is coarse and inflexible and woven into haircloth
+ APPLICATIONS: Traditionally cloaks, tents, carpet. No used for coats and knitwear
+ PRODUCED: China, Mongolia, Iran, Afghanistan, Russia, New Zealand, Tibet and Australia
+ PROS:
  • Long lasting piece with no pillage or loss of shape because of the length of the fibers, double the warmth of other wool textiles, moisture managing properties, and even becomes softer with use.
- CONS
  • P
+ CERTIFICATION: T
+ CASHMERE
 
+ CHARACTERISTICS: S
+ APPLICATIONS: T
+ PRODUCED: T
+ PROS:
- CONS:
  • P
+ CERTIFICATION: T
+ CHINCHILLA
+ GUANACO
+ HuACAYA ALPACA
Huacaya alpacas have crimped fleece like wool from sheep and look fluffier (thus are sometimes referred to as “teddy bear” alpacas).   Huacaya makes up roughly 95% of the alpaca population.
+ LLAMA
+ MERINO
+ MOHAIR
+ QIVIUT
+ SILK
+ SURI ALPACA
Suri alpacas, on the other hand, have smooth fleece that hangs down in long locks and is more silk-like in texture.
+ VICUña
+ WOOL
+ YAK
PLANT/CELLULOSE FIBERS
Fibers which are not from petroleum-based, categorized into cellulose/plant fiber, protein, or animal fiber. 
+ ABACA "MANILLA HEMP"
A natural leaf fiber, relative of the banana tree Abaca.
 
+ CHARACTERISTICS: Stiff and hard fiber, very long fiber length, one of the strongest fibers, flexible, durable, and highly resistant to saltwater damage.
+ APPLICATIONS: Textiles, rope, cording, tea bags, specialty papers, currency notes, meat casing.
+ PRODUCED: Tropical regions, Philippines(native to), Equador, Costa Rica.
+ PROS:
  • Considered to be sustainable.
  • Can benefit the land, increases biodiversity by intercropping abaca in former monoculture plantations.
  • Can minimize erosion and sedimentation problems in coastal areas. The roots increase the water holding capacity of the soil.

  • Waste materials are used as organic fertilizer.

  • Abaca harvesting is labor intensive and is mostly done by hand. Production happens mainly on small farms and provides livelihoods to many communities, including indigenous ones.

- CONS:
  • Pest and diseases outbreak.
  • Partly unsustainable production in sensitive ecosystems.
+ CERTIFICATION: The Rainforest Alliance 
+ BCI
+ BAMBOO
A natural fiber, which can be processed either as a bast fiber(bamboo linen) or a regenerated manufactured fiber (bamboo rayon/viscose or lyocell).
 
+ CHARACTERISTICS: 
+ APPLICATIONS: 
+ PRODUCED: 
+ PROS:
  • Fast-growing, Renewable-grass.  in a variety of climates.
  • Generally does not require chemical pesticides or fertilizers and smothers weeds. 
  • Beneficial impacts on soil and air.
  • Can be processed using the Lyocell processing, which uses less toxic chemicals and a closed-loop manufacturing process.
  • Improves soil quality and prevents erosion. 
  • Requires little water, depending on rainfall.
  • Absorbs five times more carbon and produces 35 percent more oxygen than a similar sized trees. 
- CONS:
  • Processing of bamboo into a textile fiber can be chemically intensive, harmful impacts. 
  • Bamboo linen is labor intensive and costly.
  • Used to make conventional rayon, which can use harmful amounts of chemicals and energy.
  • Concerns include depleting natural bamboo
+ CERTIFICATIONFederal Trade Commission (FTC) requires companies to list: "rayon made from bamboo;"
FSC certified bamboo
+ BANANA
+ BEECHWOOD
+ COTTON
Cotton is one of the most widely grown and chemical-intensive crops in the world. Cotton uses approximately 25% of the world's insecticides and more than 10% of the world's pesticides.
+ COCONUT HUSKS
 
+ CORN
+ FLAX
+ HEMP
+ JUTE
+ ORGANIC COTTON
+ PINEaPPLe
+ RAMIE
+ SOY
"LEATHER"
+ KOMBUCHA LEATHER (CELLULOSE)
 
A flexible bio-material alternative to leather, made from cellulose nanofibrils spun by bacteria and yeast. This material grows thicker over time and can become paper thin or leather like. It can be treated like a traditional textile and dried into sheet form, or can be molded around a form during the drying process.
 
 
 
 
ELASTANE ALTERNATIVES
+ ECO LYCRA®

Bio-derived elastane with same properties as LYCRA® T162L fiber: approximately 70% by weight comes from a renewable source made from dextrose derived from corn. ​Designed for use with cotton/viscose staple yarns. LYCRA® T400® fibre also comes with EcoMade technology.

 

+ ROICA ECOSMART EF ELASTANE

The world's first stretch yarn made from recycled polyester.

+ ROICA V550

Eco friendly elastane suitable for producing underwear, lace, and narrow fabrics.

+ NILLIT ECOCAR
+ SINTEX
+ ECO STRETCH
+ ECONYL VITA
+ VITA
+ RENEW PRIME
+ REVOLUTIONAL ECO
+ RECYCLED STRETCH NYLON
RECYCLED NYLON
+ FULGAR Q-NOVA®
Environmentally-sustainable recycled Nylon 6.6 fibre obtained from regenerated raw materials, made from waste materials coming from the company's main production cycle. Uses MCS process - a locally-based mechanical regeneration system which does not involve using chemical materials which would detract from the sustainability of the end product. Certified and traced by the Global Recycle Standard system, the European ECOLABEL EU system and by the OEKO-TEX STD 100 CLASS I system. All these certifications vouch for the integrity of the fibre.
+
NATURAL POLYMER
Fibers 
"LEATHER"
+ KOMBUCHA LEATHER (CELLUOSE)
 
A flexible bio-material alternative to leather, made from cellulose nanofibrils spun by bacteria and yeast. This material grows thicker over time and can become paper thin or leather like. It can be treated like a traditional textile and dried into sheet form, or can be molded around a form during the drying process.
+ SEACELL™
+ WASHING
+ RECYCLED
+ ELASTANE
BIBLIOGRAPHY:
  • CFDA Material Index

  • Fashion Fibers: Designing for Sustainability by Annie Gullingsrud.

  • Textiles textbook by Sara Kadolph

  • Higg Material Sustainability Index (Higg MSI)

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