Studio Bruin

Industrial Design Studio & Photographer

Sustainable Fabrics: what and how

On my blog here I have talked quite a lot about how ‘bad’ the fashion industry could be and that you have to take care of your garments. On top of that I suggest people to shop more sustainable. But where do you have to look for? What are sustainable materials? And is this actually important or not?

Today I want to clarify some things about sustainable materials. I want to share some really nice materials worth looking for, together with some other tips to look after. I do not share information on all the materials existing, but just some that are really interesting these days.

.Virgin materials.

Virgin materials are in essence not sustainable materials. Simply because they are cultivated and harvested. Unfortunately, there are still a lot of companies using virgin materials. And this is a pity, because there are already a lot of amazing ways to recycle all kinds of fabrics. Unfortunately the only way to know if a material is recycled, is when it is mentioned on the label or the brand is known for this.

Why not all fabrics are recycled already is something I will come back to later on in this article!


Hemp is a material long used by humanity. We have used hemp already for garments during the Medieval ages. Hemp has also been used for ropes and even life stock. To be able to use hemp for fabric, fibers are made from the stems of the hemp plan (cannabis sativa). You can grow hemp almost everywhere, which is not the case with cotton. Hemp is a very soft material to wear and therefore very comfortable.

During growth hemp doesn’t need irrigation and there is no need for using pesticides. Together with hemp being biodegradable, it is one of the most sustainable materials.

.Organic Cotton.

A difference between organic cotton and non-organic cotton is already the carbon emission difference. Organic cotton emits half of it. On top of that, no chemicals will be used during the growth of organic cotton. This is better for nature and animal. And by stop using chemicals, farmers will have to pay less since chemicals are very expensive to use.

Cotton is also known for the usage of a lot of water during production. Although this is also the case with organic cotton. Yet, regular cotton uses 8.000 L/kg blue water (this is artificially derived water). Organic cotton uses 2.500 L/kg blue water and 12.500 L/kg green water (rainfall that is available to plants).

For more information about cotton: posted an interesting blog!


Tencel is the market name of Lyocell. So, that confusion is already out of the way now. Tencel is a natural synthetic fiber and is made from wood pulp of eucalyptus trees. The eucalyptus trees grow in South-Africa, where agriculture is not possible. However, these trees grow there very well! Most importantly, these forest have an FSC certificate. Fabric made from wood sounds very unpleasant. However, tencel is super soft as a fabric and lovely to wear.

Creating tencel costs water, but the water used is being re-used with a percentage of 99%! Meanwhile, for whitening of the fibers they don’t have to use chloride.

sustainable materials tencel
All these samples are tencel fabric!

.Recycled Polyester.

Recycled polyester is a lot of times made from pre-used plastic bottles. At first this sounds amazing, since waste is turned into material. Reducing the plastic soup as well as reducing the production of new (virgin) materials. Usually polyester is made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET). This is the most common type of plastic used in the world. And the bad thing about plastic is that it is made from crude oil.

Recycling is very sustainable, but recycled polyester still has some downsides in production and during washing of the clothes. Firstly regarding production, sometimes it is less expensive for factories to purchase new plastic bottles instead of actually used bottles. secondly regarding washing, washing polyester materials will cause micro plastics to release into your water. But there is a solution for that!

.Single fiber materials.

This is the reason why not a lot of fabrics can be recycled well already: they are not single fiber materials. If the fabric is made out of an allegation of materials it is harder to recycle. This is quite logic. The fibers of each individual material are hooked together and strongly intertwined. Therefore, a lot of these fabrics therefore end up as being trash.

There are already machines that can separate items based on their material. These do not work the best on combined fibers. But one of the hardest parts is actually decomposing those fibers and use them for recycling.

To conclude, looking at the materials used for your garments can have a great effect on your participation regarding climate change. On top of that, sustainable materials like these are not necessarily expensive. Shopping sustainable therefore can be done more easily!

So, are you going to look at the labels more often?

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